SOUTHINGTON -The Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA honored former longtime Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski as Person of the Year at their 91st Annual Celebration and Recognition.
The event at the Aqua Turf Club last Wednesday, sponsored by Hartford HealthCare, was as much a celebration of all the Y had achieved throughout the year as it was a chance to applaud others who had made a positive impact on the community.
Paul Bedard, YMCA board chair, pointed out some of the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA’s benchmark achievements. These included having 9,541 members, 3,324 campers who attended Camp Sloper in 2019, 1,052 children served in YMCA childcare programs and $486,895 in total income contributed by the community. There were 990 volunteers at the Y in 2019, 239 of whom were 80 or older and 36 of whom were 90 or older.
In addition to Goralski, police officer Chad Butler and police Sgt. Brian Leppard were presented with the Youth Development Award; Mount Southington Ski Area was given the Healthy Living Award; and the Aqua Turf Club received the Social Responsibility Award. Youth Leadership awards were presented to Southington High School students Gabe LeBlanc and Sarah Meade.
Goralski was honored for the two decades he spent on the Board of Education and for the 16 years as its chair.
“I’ve known him for 20 years personally and professionally and worked together with him on a number of things,” said Mark Pooler, executive director of the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA. “You don’t get a more Southington guy than Brian Goralski. He gave so many years of his life to the Board of Education. He always believed in doing what was best for the community.”
Goralski was also praised for his work with the Farm Heritage committee, the Apple Harvest Festival Road Race and for being the education team captain at the Sloper Plunge.
Goralski said that the recognition was “humbling” and something he never expected.
Pooler praised Butler and Leppard for working to prepare the school system’s crisis management protocols.
LeBlanc, a sophomore, and Meade, a senior, were praised for their involvement at their school and the community as well as the STEPS Coalition, a community organization dedicated to preventing youth substance abuse.
Meade is a youth leader in STEPS, a lifeguard at YMCA Camp Sloper and for the Southington High School swim team. LeBlanc is a representative on the STEPS advisory board and the STEPS Youth Council.
Meade said that the Y and the Southington community have both been stable building blocks in her life.
“As a lifelong member, it has helped me to build a healthy mind, body and spirit and helped me to be the best version of myself,” she said. “It instilled values in me that make me proud of the person I’m becoming.”
LeBlanc, who is also president of the Key Club, said it felt “incredible” to be honored.
“It is great to see that the impact we make on the community and the difference we can make,” he said.
The local YMCA also celebrated 25 years of the YMCA Outreach program.
“Our YMCA Outreach Program sends several staff out to local neighborhoods in Southington armed with kick balls, craft projects and of course snacks,” said Pooler. “For the last 25 years this program has been providing positive role models, teaching character values, organizing games that promote physical activity, building a sense of community and keeping a watchful eye on these kids while moms and dads are at work.”
Gary Havican, senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare, the sponsor of the event for the past 4 years, praised Pooler’s leadership and promised to put together a team for next year’s Sloper Plunge.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.