By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
“Our excitement pales in comparison to the excitement of the 300 children who press their noses against the glass every time they pass the building,” Thomas Mladenetz, executive director of the Mercer County CYO, said Aug. 1 during the open house for the Monsignor Toomey Annex. “They cannot wait to get in here.”
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CYO board members, friends and benefactors gathered to celebrate the opening of the indoor facility at the Yardville Day Camp location, named after the founder of the CYO in Mercer County, the late Msgr. Leonard R. Toomey.
Since its establishment in 1952, the CYO and the children it serves were always near and dear to Msgr. Toomey, who even demonstrated his affection by having personalized license plates that read “CYO 110.”
“He was a kind and gentle man and a great priest, with amazing foresight,” Mladenetz spoke as he shared how Msgr. Toomey encouraged then Bishop George W. Ahr to invest in the 23-acre property in Yardville, as well as the former RKO Theater in Trenton.
The day camp in Yardville began in 1958, and the present CYO headquarters in Trenton opened in 1964.
In addition to Yardville and Trenton branches, the Mercer County CYO owns and operates branches on East State Street, also in Trenton, and in Ewing.
The Monsignor Toomey Annex is a state of the art facility that will provide recreational areas and reprieve for children on warm and rainy days and also provides a meeting space for parents and teacher workshops. A ground-breaking ceremony was held this past September with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of the CYO board of trustees, presiding. Local dignitaries and CYO pre-school students were in attendance for the groundbreaking.
CYO board of trustees secretary, Father Dennis Apoldite, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, offered that, “Msgr. Toomey would be pleased with those who gathered in friendship and companionship to remember the children,” and would offer “prayers and thanks for those who carry out his vision.”
This vision of an indoor recreational space at the Yardville Campus could not have come to fruition without the kindness and generosity of donors whose contributions to the project made the construction possible.
Tom Griffith, also a member of the board of trustees, began working at the CYO as a lifeguard in the 1980s. Remembering the “great experiences” he had those summers at the CYO camp, he offered his services when he was in a position to give back to the organization.
“The CYO has never strayed from their mission of putting children first,” affirmed Griffith, who, with his wife Danielle, another former camp counselor, have three children and are members of St. Mary Parish, Bordentown.
Representing the Trenton Council, Knights of Columbus, Michael Santilla, past Grand Knight and parishoner of St. Vincent de Paul, adjacent to the CYO Camp, did not hesitate to profess his admiration for the organization and the work it does for the children and their families.
“We have always supported the CYO,” Santilla continued. “They are an anchor for the children and the communities in which they serve.”
Mladenetz acknowledged the groups and individuals who supported the project both financially and through their prayers.
In his comments he thanked especially Bishop O’Connell for his dedication to the project and Diocesan Building Manager, Scott Pirozzi.
Following a luncheon, those present were treated to a rendition of the popular song “Happy” by members of the CYO Camp Dance Club who were especially happy to perform for their guests in the new facility.
Patrick Hardiman, the Director of the Yardville Branch, expressed the excitement of his campers and the staff at the prospect of using the new space for the remainder of the summer camp season.
“They are very excited to have an indoor and air conditioned play space,” he acknowledged.
Dance club member Madison Heath, who will be a fourth grade student in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, in the fall, is also excited to “to have somewhere to go where it’s cool,” and is enjoying her summer at the CYO.
“We have a lot of activities- we get to run, and play, and just be with our friends,” she beamed.
Anthony Mingarino, diocesan chancellor, also confirmed the universal feeling of excitement and enthusiasm for the new building and the new memories that will be made there in the years to come.
“The diocese supported this project and we are very pleased with the results,” Mingarino said.
While the construction of the annex is complete, the fundraising campaign to defray the cost of the construction is still active. For more information on how to donate to the capital campaign should visit www.cyomercer.org.