Mission Moment: Mary Jo Cappuccillo | West Suburban YMCA

Youth Development at the Y: Mission in Action

Sep 29, 2021

Healthy youth development is a critical component of the West Suburban YMCA’s mission. Children and teens experience this in different ways — through our preschool, out-of-school time program, summer camps, instructional and team sports and aquatics, and simply hanging out in the gym after school. But running through all of these programs is our staff’s deliberate focus on our core values and nurturing relationships. Mary Jo Cappuccilli shared with us how this has come to life for her grandson as he’s grown up at the Y:

I became involved with the Y when my grandson was 8; now he’s 14. He’s played on every basketball league at the Y since then, and was one of the first flag football players. That’s how we got to know Chris Ellison, the Director of Sports & Recreation. He also attended Camp Pikati for 5 years. It was clear that every one of the Y’s core mission values — caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility — are front and center in every single one of those programs. Chris related to my grandson like he really mattered, and my grandson really felt that.

During the summer of 2020 my grandson was at Pikati. I wanted to hug every counselor for the obvious reasons! The kids had been in remote school and when camp opened up it was a dream come true. One day a counselor had to speak to my grandson about an interaction with another camper. At the end of the day I heard that counselor speak to him again, reminding him, “this is how you treat other people.” It was just what he needed to hear. As he ages out of being a camper he now wants to be an LIT at Pikati; he’ll need these lessons as he becomes a leader himself.

My grandson is an only child and only grandson. Our family life is often focused on him and at the Y he learned it’s about everyone, not just him. The experience of being part of a group has taught him that the group is greater than the individual. He knows now that he is responsible for other kids and they’re responsible for him.

My grandson is in middle school now. At the Y, there has been a sense of belong and continuity over time, and he has grown to understand the importance of community. I hope the Y can be a model for youth development for other organizations. Our family has seen firsthand how the Y nurtures the whole child, and every child.

The Y is committed to ensuring that all kids can build leaderships skills and healthy relationships, just like Mary Jo's grandson. Do you have your own "mission moment" to share? Please reach out to Sara Pollock DeMedeiros at sarapd@wsymca.org to share your story.