Why The Y
Well let me tell you…I was a 19 year old camp staffer at my local Y. I was in charge of the camp group called the Mohawk, they were 11 to 12 year old boys. One day Joey came up to me and said that it was his last day at camp. I know Joey was signed up for the entire summer so I asked why he was not coming back next week. Joey proceeded to tell me that his father lost his battle with cancer and his mom could not afford to send him anymore.
As you can guess I was a bit surprised and when I talked with his mom that afternoon she confirmed the story. She said to me that the camp helped Joey to keep his mind off of what was happening at home. But now that her husband was gone she would not be able to afford the camp. Being the brash 19 year old I let his mother know that Joey meant a lot to camp and that we would cover his cost to come to camp. Not really understanding budget and what that was about I seemed to have written a check that I now need to cash. The summer of 1995 I worked camp for Joey. My weekly salary covered his camp fees and I was happy to do it. The impact the camp made on Joey was tremendous…but the impact joey made on me is infinite.
A few years ago I received a wedding invitation in the mail from Joey. I was honored to go so I put on a suit and attended the wedding (but skipped the reception). After the service in the receiving line I congratulated all of the people in the wedding party. As I got to Joey’s wife I said hello and explained that I knew Joey a long time ago. Next was Joey…the boy who was 12 now was a man. He hugged me even picking me up off the ground. Once he let go I patted him on the face like I used to and went to go to my car. As I turned I felt a pull in my pocket. Joey and I spent a lot of time together as a child and when he needed to be focused we would say “hold my pocket Joey” and this would allow him to focus on where we were going and he did not get lost. Once his wife noticed Joey grab my pocket she realized who I was.
“Your Mr. Mike?” was shouted out. I turned to another embrace by the new couple and demanded to stand between them. Through the rest of the procession (standing between the bride and groom) I was introduced to family and friends as Mr. Mike the one who helped Joey. I was blessed to be a part of that day as much as I was blessed to help a boy who was having a bad summer. It was then that it realized that I can make a difference in a child’s life. This is my WHY THE Y story and I am so proud of all the kids in my care and I am honored that parents who give me the opportunity to be that other caring adult in their life.
Michael R. Garcia
Senior Director of Camp & SACD at the Farmington Valley YMCA