On May 17, 2023, the Summit Area YMCA (SAY) hosted its Annual Celebration in the welcoming space of the Summit YMCA gymnasium. This special event served as a joyful gathering of the vibrant community that has been at the heart of many remarkable achievements throughout the year. The air buzzed with warmth and camaraderie as the spotlight was shone on outstanding volunteers, devoted staff leaders, and community partners who help foster a resilient, inclusive community.
As the evening unfolded, attendees were treated to a delightful dinner catered by BarBacoa. This scrumptious meal provided a moment of shared enjoyment and fellowship before the main event - a joyous recognition of the contributions and accomplishments within the Summit Area YMCA community.
Paul Kieltyka, President and CEO of the Summit Area YMCA, opened the evening with a heartfelt welcome. His words brimmed with gratitude for the unwavering support from everyone present. Emphasizing the pivotal role played by local partners, staff, and volunteers, Paul highlighted their collective impact on the community. Particularly during times of challenge, their dedication and cooperative spirit have enabled the YMCA to broaden its reach, providing essential services that range from addressing food insecurity and social isolation to offering academic support and direct financial assistance. The excitement was palpable, and the room was abuzz with the inspiring stories of those being recognized, further igniting the shared commitment to the Y's mission.
Met with enthusiastic applause, Paul introduced Trevor Cromwell to the stage, Director of Youth, Teens, and DIG at the Summit Area YMCA. Trevor's passionate speech underscored the crucial significance of Diversity, Inclusion, and Global (DIG) initiatives within the YMCA, and its efforts to do more than check off a box. His words served as a prelude to the introduction of two new scholarships, named the H. Leon Cross Scholarship and the Frederick J. Watts Scholarship, honoring individuals within the Summit community whose lives were devoted to the principles of the YMCA mission and who advocate for equal opportunity.
A touching tribute to H. Leon Cross was presented by Achievers Program students, highlighting his legacy and history as the President of the Lincoln YMCA, Summit’s African American YMCA that merged with the Summit YMCA in 1953. This merger was of great importance for "Summit citizens of tomorrow" through the promise of Y programs and services being made available to all. Cross was the first black member of the Summit YMCA Board of Trustees, among 5 peers. The Cross family graced the stage to accept the honor on his behalf and shared heartfelt words, reflecting the deep impact he had on their lives and the wider community. Trevor spoke about the hope and promise that this scholarship represents before introducing the recipient of the 2023 H. Leon Cross Scholarship, Judith “Kimia” Baombwa, who will be attending Drew University. With Milton Berle's words in mind - “If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door”.
The celebration then moved to honor the late Fred Watts. A captivating overview of Watts's background was displayed, painting a vivid portrait of his significant contributions to civic service. Among his many notable accomplishments, Watts was a longtime Summit resident, YMCA member, former Summit Area YMCA Board Member, advocate for social justice reform, and underserved youth champion. After a successful legal and administration career Fred retired from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to serve as the Executive Director of the Police Athletic League - NYC, one of New York City’s oldest and largest independent not-for-profit youth development agencies. His wife Celia, warmly welcomed to the stage, accepted the honor on Watts's behalf, sharing sincere words of gratitude, her remembrance of Fred, and his love for the Y.
Following Celia, Trevor introduced the Frederick J. Watts Scholarship recipient, Samantha Salazar, who plans to attend Union County College. Samantha was chosen for embodying the values that Fred Watts treasured: a love for the YMCA, an interest in civic service, and a commitment to giving back to her community.
Trevor went on to present 5 Dwight Giles Achievers Scholarships to Summit YMCA Achievers Program graduates for their high school academic achievements to assist towards their next adventure in higher education. Among the recipients were Laura Barber attending the University of New Haven, Marco Flores-Gonzalez attending Rochester Institute of Technology, Kobie Lewis attending Union County College, Luna Popoca also attending Union County College, and Keva Torres attending Ramapo College.
The energy in the room heightened as Summit Area YMCA’s Volunteer Coordinator Patty Facchinei and Business Manager Deb Graisser presented the Frank Cavallo "Unsung Hero" Award. This special honor is dedicated to those who mirror the tireless dedication and selflessness embodied by the late staff member Frank Cavallo. It is an award reserved for individuals whose daily actions and unwavering support for the Y mission turn the YMCA experience into something truly special.
With great joy, they introduced Ujwal Annigeri whose relentless dedication and invaluable contributions have not only touched many lives within the Summit Area YMCA but have significantly enhanced its spirit of community service. Ujwal's commitment to the Food Distribution program, where she's volunteered for over five years, is exemplary. Always brimming with innovative ideas for improvement and never without her contagious smile, she is an invaluable asset to the team. Her consistent participation in senior programs and the Summit Community Garden are further testaments to her generous spirit.
Paul Kieltyka returned to present the coveted Community Partnership Award. This award is bestowed upon organizations that display an extraordinary commitment to collaboration and contribute to the Y’s mission to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.
This year, the honor was proudly conferred upon the Berkeley Heights Public Schools. Their fruitful partnership and unparalleled dedication have led to the blossoming of numerous programs and initiatives, creating profound positive impacts throughout the community. Dr. Melissa Varley, the respected Superintendent of Berkeley Heights Public Schools, graciously accepted the award. Her speech was a glowing testament to the power of partnership, as she conveyed her deep appreciation of the Y. "We, at Berkeley Heights Public Schools, are deeply honored to receive the Community Partnership Award," she began. "Our collaboration with the Summit Area YMCA has been immeasurably beneficial. We look forward to many more years of working together to uplift our community."
Paul then shared a heartwarming story that truly demonstrated the strength and depth of their partnership. When the Summit Area YMCA's school buses were rendered inoperable due to the theft of their catalytic converters, Berkeley Heights Public Schools responded immediately. Under Dr. Varley's guidance, they lent their own school buses to the YMCA, ensuring the continuation of crucial services while the YMCA buses were being repaired.
Paul's recounting of this act of solidarity drew heartfelt applause from the audience. "The swift and selfless response from Berkeley Heights Public Schools was a testament to the true spirit of community partnership," he emphasized, adding, "This episode not only reinforced our mutual commitment to serving our community but also underscored the strength of our bond." The audience echoed with applause, resonating with the sentiments of unity and mutual support highlighted by both the award and the poignant story behind it. The night served as a memorable reminder of how collaboration and community solidarity can help overcome even the most unexpected challenges.
The night then moved on to the presentation of the Going the Distance Membership Awards, an accolade that celebrates the unwavering loyalty of YMCA members who have been with the organization for 40 or more years. Larrie Graham, Summit Area YMCA, Membership Director introduced this special segment of the evening. As the names were called, the room filled with an air of admiration and appreciation. Richard and Ellen Harrison, Lawrence Lockhart, and Philip Shyposh were the esteemed recipients of the award this year.
Each of them has shown an extraordinary commitment to the Summit Area YMCA community, their presence consistently enriching the fabric of the organization for over four decades. Their names were greeted with warm applause as they were acknowledged for their enduring support for the Summit Area YMCA.
In a special segment of the evening, the 100th Anniversary of the Summit YMCA Swim Team was recognized by Head Coach Patrick Collins and the Director of Competitive Swimming. Pat lauded the collective efforts that helped navigate the challenging times of the pandemic, especially emphasizing the spirit of teamwork. "Our team is all about fostering character, dedication, and above all, unity," he affirmed. "Through constant practice and preparation, we've integrated the YMCA's core values into our program, emphasizing long-term development."
Pat went on to discuss the team's philosophy, "Our swim team believes in molding good teammates and good individuals; it's not merely about swimming fast." This statement reflected the YMCA's ethos of holistic development. "On September 19th, 1923, nine YMCA teams took part in the first-ever YMCA National Championship in Brooklyn, New York. Among them was a group of determined athletes from our own YMCA," Pat reminisced, his voice filled with pride. "We're here to celebrate that journey - a century-long journey shared by numerous children, coaches, and families. It's truly a remarkable milestone. But don't take my word for it," Pat added, prompting a video.
The attendees then watched a heartfelt video message from Lizzy Washburn, a ten-plus-year swim team member. Lizzy and her family were given a warm shout-out as the video echoed her experiences and the invaluable lessons she learned as a part of the team. Her testament further emphasized the influence of the YMCA Swim Team on its members, rounding off a momentous segment of the night.
Kaitlin Casey, Summit Area YMCA VP of Advancement then took the stage to present a special lifetime giving recognition from the YMCA of the USA to honor those extraordinary YMCA advocates and changemakers who have generously donated over $100,000 to support the YMCA's mission. 2023 honorees included Maria and Jordan Brugg, and Ed and Jeanne Kingsley whose significant contributions have made a remarkable difference in the lives of many through their benevolent support of the Y. As they ascended the stage to a round of applause, it was a moment of heartfelt appreciation for their immense generosity and unwavering commitment to the cause.
The evening reached a moment of deep gratitude and recognition as Angela Gamble stepped forward to present the revered Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is held in high regard, honoring Summit Area YMCA retirees who have dedicated more than 20 years of service to the organization. This year, the honor was graciously presented to Ms. Michelle Williams, a cherished educator at The Learning Circle YMCA. Her unwavering commitment to early childhood education spanning over two decades has touched innumerable lives—children, families, and colleagues alike, leaving a lasting impact.
Michelle, a stalwart of early childhood development, has been a beacon at The Learning Circle YMCA for the past 22 years. Renowned for her creativity, she has beautifully used her artistic talents to enrich the program's curriculum, instilling wonder, and joy in themed activities for toddlers. Known for her quiet, kind, and considerate demeanor, Michelle has always prioritized the happiness and well-being of the children she cares for. This dedication has won her the trust and respect of countless parents who have specifically requested her care for their young ones.
In a touching surprise, the students crafted a beautiful piece of artwork for Michelle. This vibrant token, adorned with their names, was an ode to her dedicated service. The surprise unveiling of the art piece drew a collective gasp of admiration from the audience, mirroring the love and respect Michelle has earned over her commendable years of service.
With a keen sense of purpose, Robert Radest, Board of Trustee and Summit YMCA Capital Campaign Chair took the stage for a crucial part of the evening, to discuss the Summit YMCA renovation. As attendees watched an illustrative walkthrough of how the new Berkeley Heights YMCA came to life, Robert vividly spoke about the bright future of the Summit YMCA. The atmosphere was filled with palpable anticipation and excitement.
During his talk, the screen transitioned to present naming opportunities, a significant part of the capital campaign. In an inspiring gesture, Rob extended heartfelt recognition to all the donors in the room who had contributed to making the renovation possible. A round of applause echoed as they rose to their feet, signifying a communal effort and shared vision. Paul joined Rob to announce a very recent donation to the project in honor of Fred Watts, which infused the air with gratitude and enthusiasm.
As the celebration neared its end, the stage was set for Maria Brugg, the Board Chair of the Summit Area YMCA. Maria's speech was a genuine reflection of her heartfelt gratitude toward the staff, volunteers, members, and contributors. Their collective efforts have shaped the organization into an inclusive and vibrant community hub. She especially thanked Robert Radest for his tireless dedication and commitment to the Capital Campaign.
The Summit Area YMCA's Annual Celebration was indeed a testament to the community's shared vision and collective effort, propelling the Y's mission of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility forward. The event not only spotlighted the significant impact achieved in 2022 but also set a promising stage for even more remarkable accomplishments in 2023.
To learn more about the Summit YMCA renovation and get involved, please visit www.sayfuture.org or contact Kaitlin Casey, Summit Area YMCA VP of Advancement at email@example.com.
In 1886, we were founded as the Young Men's Christian Association, but today, we are The Y. An association that values and is made stronger by, its diverse people. We stand for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility — For a better us. We are committed to creating equal opportunity for all regardless of gender, age, disability, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive culture in which our four core values — responsibility, honesty, caring, and respect — are integral to everyday operations.
Each year, as one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, the Summit Area YMCA serves more than 17,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the New Jersey communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling, and Summit. Our history is rooted in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure everyone can learn, grow and thrive. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those in need.