by Kim Gaudin de Gonzalez
It’s people like Christine and Ed Napoleon–who understand the importance of making exercise, daycare, theater and swimming accessible and inviting for a community that is diverse in its culture, socioeconomics, transportation availability and age—that have made the YMCA the thriving community resource it is today.
The Napoleons will be honored with the Laurance Rockefeller award for their devoted support of the Family YMCA at the Y’s annual Masquerade Ball, September 30, at LIFE, The Place to Be, in Ardsley.
For almost 20 years the Napoleons have been committed to improving and expanding the building facilities at the Tarrytown YMCA. Both have served on the board at various times, and Christine, an accountant, still remains active on the marketing committee.
During a difficult time in her life, Christine found herself exercising as a way to relieve stress and tension in her personal life. “At that time, mentally, exercise saved my life,” she said. Realizing the benefits of exercise to both the body and the brain, and being conscious of the fact that many people don’t have access to exercise facilities and classes, she was thrilled with the idea of supporting fundraising efforts that Ed had already begun at the Y.
“The Y offers this diverse community an affordable place to come together socially, for exercise, for swimming, for daycare; of all the organizations we could be supporting right now, I can’t think of one that’s more important,” said Christine.
And support it they have. Ed, owner of the construction management company Abbott & Price, has been a natural at fundraising from the beginning. After overseeing a renovation of the Y’s lobby and fitness rooms in 1999, Ed saw the organization’s upcoming 100th anniversary as a way to increase the Y’s reach and expand its fundraising abilities. Up until then, the Y had been relying on its Strong Kids annual support campaign and an annual golf outing. The 100th year anniversary, which was held at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill, raised about four times more than previous Y fundraisers.
“In looking back over the history of the Y, I found that Tarrytown’s Y was one of the very first in this country and was originally committed to keeping young boys from getting in trouble on the street,” Ed said. “They taught them how to play chess, play pool, and swim. Funded by the Rockefellers but supported by the local community and churches, it was a beautiful facility and a community venture. I saw the 100-year anniversary as a way for this community to recommit to what the Y has to offer now.”
“Working with then CEO Ravenell Williams and Vice President of Marketing and Development Barbara Turk, we collected photos and combed through newspaper articles from the turn of the century, and decided to create a journal that would be a keepsake for everyone involved with the Y. I still have the book. The support from the community for the event exceeded our expectations. We really helped breathe new life into the fund raising efforts at the Y with that event.”
As the Y has continued to change and grow in service to the rivertown communities, the Napoleons have been ever generous with their time, talents and resources.
Involved in several charities, including the Special Olympics and St. Augustine’s Parish in Ossining, they believe that supporting their communities is a significant calling in their lives.
People who don’t think organizations such as the Y are important in the community aren’t reading health articles, she said. Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association are recommending older adults have 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity for three days a week, plus two days of muscle building. Senior citizens are just one population the Y offers affordable and fun exercise opportunities.
“But it’s not just that—it’s families who find affordable and educational nursery school here, and all the kids—so many kids—who learned to swim here, and the theatre programs the Y runs in summer and at the school district–all offered in town, on Main Street and near the train station. And pretty much available to everyone,” said Christine. “If you are looking for a place that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives, well you’ve got that at the Tarrytown Y.”
Further information on the Ball can be found on the Y’s website, http://www.ymcatarrytown.org/y-masquerade-ball-tickets.