SOUTHINGTON - Not so long ago, in a town not so far away, local heroes were honored by the Southington Community YMCA.
Guests at the YMCA’s “Star Wars”-themed 89th annual meeting, “May The Y Be With You,” entered the Aqua Turf Club’s banquet hall under lightsabers raised by Y staff in costume as Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and Princess Leia.
Community leaders, Y members and supporters then took their seats for a night of camaraderie and celebration Tuesday as the Y recognized the recipients of its Community Awards.
“It’s always great to get the community together in celebration and recognition and for some good old-fashioned live fun,” said Executive Director John Myers.
Dan Daigle, president of the YMCA’s Board of Directors, said that in 2017 the local Y “reached more people than ever” of all ages and backgrounds.
He also paid tribute to Myers, reminding the guests that Myers has announced his retirement, effective at the end of this year.
Myers has been with the YMCA for 33 years, including 19 at the local Y.
“When he first arrived, we had a budget just shy of $1 million,” said Daigle. “Today our budget is just short of $11 million. We have grown tremendously and the number of people who he has helped along the way is countless.”
Mike DeFeo was honored as the YMCA’s Person of the Year. He was recognized for his work with the Parks and Recreation Department and for spearheading fundraising efforts to keep middle school sports alive.
The sports programs had been cut from the budget due to state aid shortfalls.
Southington High School seniors Naomi Cipriano and Julia Brilla shared the Youth Leadership Award. The two were praised not only for their grades, but also for their involvement in school clubs and volunteering at community events.
Cipriano also sang the national anthem at the start of the evening’s program.
She said she joined the Y in fourth grade and that she has grown under the guidance of Myers and the Y staff, volunteering at events including the Apple Harvest Festival Road Race.
She now referees middle school basketball and is a teen staff member at Camp Sloper.
“Once the Y is with you, it stays with you,” she said. “Thank you, John, for your years of dedication to the Y and everyone that stepped through its doors.”
The Youth Development Award was presented to the Southington Cyberknights robotics team, who provided a demonstration of a robot they built between competitions.
People could try on a special belt and, as long as they faced the robot, it would follow them at a distance, explained team captain Jake Hayes.
“This was a way for us to work on our vision system,” he said.
The Healthy Living Award was given to the Southington Chamber Health and Wellness Committee for posting online tips for staying healthy and starting a weekly walking initiative.
The Social Responsibility Award went to the DePaolo Family Foundation for its charitable donations in the community.
Hartford HealthCare was the premier sponsor of the event.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.