MERIDEN – The Mountain Mist Outdoor Center has been transformed for a night of the Meriden YMCA’s summer camp into a celebration of the opportunity to socialize freely – while helping the hundreds of children who will be attending camp this summer.
The Noche de Estrellas fundraiser brought music, Caribbean food and between 200 and 300 people to Mountain Mist on Friday night to raise funds for the YMCA’s annual support campaign, which offers scholarships to enable families in need of sending their children to camp.
Meriden YMCA CEO John Benigni said sponsors contributed around $ 20,000 even before the event started and he hopes to see at least as much money raised through ticket sales and participations. at the raffle. It is donor support that enables the YMCA to fulfill its mission of never turning down a family due to an inability to pay for services.
“We are seeing more and more people who need our support,” he said. “It’s even more necessary now.”
By having him at the camp where around 800 children will begin their summer experience on Monday, Benigni hopes donors in attendance can see the impact of their donations.
“That they realize the importance of the day camp experience, especially after this pandemic, is very, very important to me… I am very proud of our camp and the work we do here”, he said. he declares.
The YMCA has historically held a martini and massage fundraiser around this time of year, but uncertainty over the future of COVID restrictions has led to a change of plans. Welfare Director Carrie Marquardt said fundraising at Mountain Mist also allowed them to show off the facility where children benefiting from the money raised will spend their summer.
“I think having it in our outdoor facility is a dual purpose: we can showcase this beautiful facility, it’s over 60 acres of property and we can be outdoors. People feel comfortable being able to move around and not being on top of each other inside, ”she said.
Giving the fundraiser a Latin theme was meant to pay tribute to the rise of Miguel Cardona, a native of Meriden, to the post of National Secretary of Education, said Carmen Chaparro, director of membership and community engagement at the YMCA. She hopes the fundraiser can become an annual event recognizing a different ethnicity in the city each year.
“The reason we decided to go for a Latin theme is that our resident of Meriden and our own Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona are now in the White House and we were so proud to know he was coming. of Meriden that we were trying to pay tribute to him tonight., “she said.
While it was exciting to get together at events and reunite with residents, Mayor Kevin Scarpati said the importance of the evening was to help kids who couldn’t make it to camp without fundraising. .
“The cause this serves by providing the important programs and initiatives that the Y offers to children in our community is all the more important,” he said. “So I think more important than going out and being together is giving back to those who need it most.”
Reflecting the distress the pandemic has caused to many families and children in particular, he said the city has started offering its summer camp for free this year, increasing the services the YMCA has offered for decades.
“This year more than ever,” he said, “these programs are so important not only for the physical well-being, but also for the social and mental health of the children in our community.”
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