Building for the Future – Shown is the rendering of the annex to be constructed at the CYO facility in Yardville. Courtesy photos

Building for the Future Shown is the rendering of the annex to be constructed at the CYO facility in Yardville. Courtesy photos

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

A new chapter in the history and ministry of the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization will commence Sept. 20 when Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., breaks ground for the construction of a 4,600-square-foot annex to the childcare site and camp in Yardville.

The new multi-purpose room will be added to the facility that was built in 1958 and used as the main indoor structure for the site’s summer day camp. Named the Monsignor Toomey Annex, it will include a large open area with a divider to separate the space into two smaller rooms; retractable bleachers, portable basketball hoops, a storage area and restrooms. The space will be used for physical education classes, indoor play, performances, graduation ceremonies, staff development workshops and parent meetings. The naming of the annex honors the memory of Msgr. Leonard R. Toomey, who was named the CYO’s first director upon its founding in 1952.

Thomas G. Mladenetz, executive director, said the idea to build an annex has been “several years in the making” and that the groundbreaking ceremony marks “the official celebration of this vision finally becoming a reality.”

“We are delighted Bishop O’Connell could join us,” Mladenetz said. Also expected to attend are Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services, CYO board of trustees, members of the diocesan building commission and the team of builders, architects and engineers who are working on the new site.

To financially support the new $900,000 structure, the CYO launched a capital campaign last year and has since held several fundraisers. To date, Mladenetz said the CYO has secured nearly $700,000 in donations and additional fundraisers scheduled include the upcoming golf classic on Sept. 26 at the Mountain View Golf Club in Ewing. The CYO is also actively soliciting donations from individuals, parishes, organizations and local businesses. Donors should visit

Distinguished Ministry

The construction of the annex in Yardville, which is expected to be completed by the spring, in time for the opening of the 2014 summer camp, will mark the latest milestone for the CYO founded in 1952 by Bishop George W. Ahr. Mladenetz commended Bishop Ahr and Msgr. Toomey for their vision in wanting to have an agency that provided spiritual, athletic, cultural and social activities for grammar school and high school-aged youth. More importantly, Mladenetz said, both men wanted the CYO to be a ministry that taught young people about character building values and sportsmanship skills.

“The CYO, I am proud to say, has been very dynamic over the years,” said Mladenetz, reflecting on the organization which celebrated its sixth decade of service in 2012.

“While the CYO is very proud that its basketball league is still regarded as the premier youth basketball program in central New Jersey and beyond, what is more important is that the CYO recognized its responsibility to address the changing needs in the community. That is what has kept us alive and kept us strong,” said Mladenetz.

CYO’s Expanding Presence

From the time the CYO was established, the program experienced continuous growth in participation and over the years was compelled to make several changes in locations. The current facility, where the majority of basketball games have been played since 1964, is located in a multi-level brick building at 920 South Broad St., Trenton, which had previously housed a popular movie theater. Prior to 1964, the CYO’s headquarters was based in a building adjacent to Sacred Heart Church, where Msgr. Toomey was pastor.

While the South Broad Street site focused on indoor sports, the CYO expanded its offerings to include outdoor activities when it opened the day camp in Yardville on a 20-acre tract of land on Yardville-Allentown Rd., next to St. Vincent de Paul Parish. In addition to sporting activities such as swimming in the Olympic sized pool and other offerings such as arts and crafts, the site went on to further address the needs of the community in terms of education by partnering with the Hamilton Township Board of Education. CYO staff work on-site in four township public schools and facilitating before and after-school care for children.

To address the changing populations in the City of Trenton, the South Broad Street site updated its offerings to include free tutoring provided by the Supplemental Educational Services for children enrolled in the after-school program and the full-day, year-round educational program for three-to-fiveyear olds is made available through the Trenton Board of Education Abbott Program.

Two additional CYO sites are in Ewing in the Hollowbrook Community Center and, as of last summer, in 794 East State Street, Trenton, which was the former Martin House Learning Center.

A Popular Place

Nick Massari shared fond memories of playing basketball while he was a student in St. Joachim School.

He went on to become a counselor in the summer day camp as a teenager and as an adult he was referee. He was proud to have his referee service recognized when he was inducted into the CYO’s Hall of Fame.

“As kids, the CYO was the place we wanted to be,” said Massari, who is now a member of St. Raphael- Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton.

“We couldn’t wait until Saturday and Sunday because that’s when we played basketball. Even if we didn’t play basketball until 6 p.m., we were there at 11 a.m. I knew when I was growing up, that the CYO was a special place and it still is.”

Mladenetz said he feels like he has “come full circle” with his CYO affiliation. He played basketball as a youngster, was athletic director and head of the sports league following his college graduation, and is now proudly serving his 19th year as executive director.

“Over the years, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for how rich the tradition and history of the agency is,” he said. “I along with our staff and board members, recognize that it’s our task now to honor the past and keep the memories alive.”

Friends and supporters of the CYO are welcome to join Bishop O’Connell and the CYO board of directors for the Sept. 20 groundbreaking ceremony which begins at 11 a.m. at 453 Yardville-Allentown Rd.

Refreshments will follow. To make reservations, contact Mladenetz at 609-585-4280, ext. 107 or email:Tom@

To learn more about the CYO Golf Classic and sponsorship opportunities, go to or contact Patrick Hardiman at 609-585-4280, ext. 102 or email: