Westport-Weston Family Y celebrates expansion
WESTPORT — With the Westport-Weston YMCA set to celebrate its 96th anniversary several new additions will help to usher in a new era.
On Tuesday, the Y held a ceremony to celebrate a groundbreaking expansion that will modernize Camp Mahackeno, enlarge the Y’s Center for Wellness, and bring gymnastics home.
“This would not have happened without a great group of individuals who have led this process,” YMCA CEO Pat Riemersma said, adding in Sept. 2020 the building’s addition will be completed.
Riemersma was joined by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, state Sen. Will Haskell, Westport Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, local officials, and members of the community for the celebration.
Rosemary Halstead, president of the Y’s board of directors, said what started as a venue to get the boys off the street has become a time-honored part of the Westport and Weston community.
“Through good years and lean years we have been here, first downtown and now on this beautiful campus, to provide a place of fellowship, healthy living and goodwill for all of our members,” Halstead said.
Not more than 10 years ago the Y had faced a crossroad and nearly closed, she said. With a deteriorated facility the Y had two options — close or build a new facility.
“We were saved by the generosity of hundreds of people and the sweat equity of a multitude that rose to the occasion and said that can’t happen,” Halstead said.
With increased studio space, a renovated camp, leveled playing fields, new locker rooms and more, the Y is poised to make its extraordinary facility better, Halstead said.
“We all have a lot to be thankful for,” she said. “We have dedicated people who love this institution and will do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful.”
An endowment from the late Ruth Bedford will also ensure the Y remains an integral part of the community for the next 96 years, Halstead said.
For Tooker, the Y was a personal part of her family. All three of her children learned to swim at the Y and attended Camp Mahackeno, she said. In addition to this her and her husband attended the Y for its services as well.
“This is a very important organization to us as a Tooker family,” she said.
She added she looked forward to attending the enhanced facility with her family for years to come.
“It truly takes a village to get a project to a point like this and every village needs a fearless leader,” Tooker said. “I want to say an extra congratulation to our fearless leader Pat Riemersma.”
Robin Tauck, a former board of trustees member, said since 2000 this plan has been in the works. With nearly two decades of work soon to come to fruition, the Y’s community will be able to enjoy a new chapter for the facilities.
“I think we can agree that with upgrades to our beautiful natural camp surroundings on the river this will be the best chapter ever,” Tauck said.