(L to R) Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International and resident of Fair Haven; Joan Robertson, Atlantic Highlands, a Y member in LIVESTRONG at the YMCA; and Suzanne Berger-Tortorici, Tinton Falls, a Y volunteer for the Traumatic Loss Coalition, led by the Y, are welcomed to The Community YMCA’s Annual Campaign launch by Laurie Goganzer, president and CEO. Ryan, Robertson and Berger-Tortorici spoke about The Community YMCA’s positive impact on the local community.
Community Leaders Come Together to Invest in Kids & Neighbors
Red Bank, NJ – Local residents and community leaders were asked to be champions of change for vulnerable children and families in Monmouth County at The Community YMCA’s Annual Community Campaign launch on February 6 at the Red Bank Family YMCA.
“Our job at the YMCA is to strengthen and serve the community and all people in equal ways,” said President and CEO Laurie Goganzer. “Through this campaign, we can say “yes” to the people who need us most.”
For 145 years, The Community YMCA has inspired change among generations of local residents, “strengthening the very foundation of our community,” Goganzer said. “We’ve been able to deliver life-changing programs because of the support we receive from our community.”
More than 100 people attended the campaign kick-off for the nonprofit charity, which serves 20,000 people across Monmouth County and scores of children in need of therapeutic counseling services in Ocean County schools.
Keynote speaker and child advocate Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International, which serves nearly 89,000 youth and young families facing homelessness and human trafficking in six countries, spoke about the Y’s focus on nurturing the potential of young people. “For kids in the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression, the YMCA is ‘yes you can,’” he said.
Ryan, of Fair Haven, said the Y helps prevent young people from finding themselves alone, isolated and in despair and tethers them to community, hope, optimism and audacity, and “breathes into them the deep belief that they are worthy of the great promise of their lives."
Ryan served as the first public Child Advocate in New Jersey and the first commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, as well as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. A former member of the Y Board of Directors, Ryan and his family are active members of the Y.
Christian Buckman, a Y board member leading the community appeal, explained that donations to the campaign will enable the Y to give children in need safe places during out-of-school times, provide therapeutic counseling services to help heal children and adults, offer college-readiness programs to at-risk teens and save lives with suicide prevention and water safety programs.
With help from community volunteers, Buckman said, the Y aims to raise $85,000 over the next six weeks of the campaign toward an Annual Campaign goal of $287,000. The Y’s overall philanthropic goal for 2019 is $812,000, which includes foundation grants and proceeds from fund-raising events.
In 2018, the Y provided over $830,000 in financial assistance and program subsidies to strengthen 2,590 families in the greater Monmouth County area, noted Ted Nappi, chairperson of the Annual Campaign and member of the Y Board of Directors. “This would not have been possible without the Annual Campaign and the support from our community,” he said.
Suzanne Berger-Tortorici, a local parent, said the Y made a significant difference in helping her son’s school community recover from two teen deaths through its leadership of the Traumatic Loss Coalition of Monmouth County, known as “TLC.”
Berger-Tortorici shared that two of the main focuses of the TLC are suicide prevention and trauma response assistance to schools dealing with losses due to suicide, homicide, accidents and illness. She was so moved by the Y’s caring response at her son’s school, that she now volunteers her time with TLC as a lead responder.
"To the supporters of the YMCA, we thank you for allowing us to provide services to our community. We will continue our mission to bring hope through healing and to be a source of light in the darkness," Berger-Tortorici said.
Y member Joan Robertson shared her experience with another impactful Y program that supports local residents recovering from cancer. Robertson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins's Lymphoma in 2015 and noticed a flier about LIVESTRONG at the YMCA at her oncologist's office and immediately signed up. When the cancer returned in May, she was welcomed back to the program with "open arms."
"I have found the program and people involved to be a valuable tool in my road to recovery,” said Robertson. “The YMCA and its donors are doing their part in helping provide a valuable tool for cancer survivors to get back to the business of living."
The evening concluded with a special presentation of an $11,000 donation from the Y’s swim team, the Aquarockets. Every year, the team hosts a swim meet to benefit the Annual Campaign and has raised nearly $200,000 over the past 22 years that has gone right back into the community in the form of YCares scholarships, Buckman said. “They are champions in and out of the water,” she added.
Buckman appealed to the community to support the campaign. “Together we can develop the potential of vulnerable young people, strengthen families and give everyone the opportunity to live a healthier life. We are counting on you to help us be here for those who need us,” she said.
To make a donation to the Y’s Annual Campaign, visit www.TheCommunityYMCA.org/donate.