WALLINGFORD — After having to postpone twice due to COVID-19, the Wallingford YMCA held its 77th anniversary gala Tuesday night at the Oakdale Theater.
Guests danced to 1940s music, played by swing band Eight to the Bar, and enjoyed dinner, drinks and dessert.
“We’re really excited to bring everyone back together again, put COVID behind us and keep marching forward and celebrate everybody in this room,” said Sean Doherty, executive director of the Wallingford YMCA.
The gala had a 1940s theme because the Wallingford YMCA was born on Dec. 29, 1944. Ferdinand Valenti, George St. John, Langdon Fernald and Charlotte Crump were the founders of the Wallingford YMCA.
They “had a vision of an organization that aids in improving the spiritual, intellectual, social and physical condition of the young people and adults of Wallingford and its vicinity,” Doherty said.
The Wallingford YMCA now has 7,900 members and serves about 500 kids per day.
After hearing testimony from residents whose families have been members for eight deacdes, Doherty shared how the Wallingford YMCA has evolved over the past 77 years, talking about how the Y’s facilities have improved, how they have added teams, programs and classes over the years and how the Y has connected with various community organizations and businesses, including town offices and the Wallingford school district.
Along with that, Doherty emphasized that the Wallingford YMCA does not turn someone away due to their financial situation.
“No one is ever turned away from the YMCA with the inability to pay,” Doherty said at the podium.
Current and upcoming plans
J.P. Venoit, president and chief executive officer of Masonicare and the chair of the YMCA’s Healthy Communities Capital campaign, shared some of the current and upcoming projects that the Wallingford YMCA has planned.
On the east side, 81 South Elm St., there is a new playscape, the lap pool is being renovated, the parking lot is being repaved and more. The parking lot and pool project should be completed in February 2023. The pool project is estimated to cost $1.1 million.
On the west side, 8 North Turnpike Road, fundraising has started to build an aquatic center. Venoit said the project will be done in phases, with the first phase including a family pool, locker rooms, a water slide and water toys and an aquatic rehabilitation program. The second phase will include an eight lane competitive pool and bleacher seating. The first phase, contingent on fundraising, will start next year and is aimed to be completed in 2024.
The two phases of the west side project have a combined estimated cost of $12 million to $13 million total, Doherty told the Record-Journal for a previous article.
“Our vision will require the generous support of people like you who are committed to making a difference,” Venoit said.
Various government officials attended the gala including Mayor William Dickinson Jr., state Rep. Craig Fishbein and state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, as well as a member of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s staff.
Fishbein and Mushinsky spoke about a citation introduced by both of them, Rep. Liz Linehan, Sen. Paul Cicarella and Rep.Vincent Candelora congratulating the Wallingford YMCA on celebrating 77 years of service in the community. Mushinsky presented Doherty with the citation after she read it to the gala attendees.
“Your mission of strengthening the foundation of the community through programs and services prevails,” Mushinsky read. “You have changed lives and improved the health of families in Wallingford and the surrounding towns since December 29, 1944.”
The five politicians supported the Y’s current and upcoming capital projects such as the pool renovation at the east side facility.
“The Y is a tremendous community gift that we should treasure and keep it going,” Mushinsky said.
Mushinksy’s opponent in the Nov. 8 election, Republican Kerry Lentz also supports the projects.
“I'm so happy that the renovations for the lap pool are going to begin at our local YMCA,” Lentz told the Record-Journal for a previous article. “My family has utilized the lap pool on and off over the years including my daughter who was on the Wallingford Dolphins swim team for a few seasons. The pool has been enjoyed by so many in the community as well. I know we all look forward to continuing to enjoy it when the renovations are completed.”
Fishbein thanked the YMCA on behalf of him and his colleagues for its service for the past 77 years.
“I think without the YMCA, Wallingford would be a different town,” Fishbein said.
Rebecca Hyland, Fishbein’s opponent for state representative in the upcoming election, was also in attendance at the gala and said a reason why she moved to Wallingford was because of the YMCA.
“When I was growing up in Northford, I remember my mom used to actually bring us to the Wallingford Y for swimming lessons,” Hyland said. “And so knowing that we were going to be starting our family in Wallingford, we were looking for a place that offered all kinds of great opportunities.”