Squadron Capital donates $515,000 to YMCA to expand access to summer camp

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From left: Aina Hoskins, executive officer, Squadron Capital; David Pelizzon, president, Squadron Capital; Brian Liss, executive director, Farmington Valley YMCA; Tony Gronski, executive director, Camp Woodstock YMCA. Photo by Susan Joyse

Summer is almost here, and hundreds of kids are heading off to enjoy an incredible YMCA camping experience thanks to David Pelizzon, president of Squadron Capital in Granby. As a camper in his youth, Pelizzon deeply believes that a summer camp experience is important to letting kids be kids while developing life-long friends and personal skills that that are important in life.

Pelizzon feels the summer camp experience will be more important than ever this year. “With the COVID-19 pandemic creating traumatic stressors for kids, and families struggling from the resulting economic downturn, I wanted to help families, children and the community all at once.”

His answer was a record-setting gift over the next three years of $515,000 that Pelizzon and his company made to the YMCA of Greater Hartford targeted at providing financial assistance so that more children can attend summer camp. This gift is in addition to the $250,000 he committed over the previous two years. His generous gift includes capital improvements at Camp Chase to ensure campers have the best possible experience.

For many families, summer camp has always been a luxury, a fact that is amplified this year as Connecticut’s families are making hard decisions in light of today’s economic downturn. Now, because of Pelizzon’s donation, the luxury of summer camp will continue to be a reality for kids across northern Connecticut.

 “You’re only young for a short period, and today’s circumstances are hard on everyone, especially kids,” Pelizzon said. “I want to ensure that our youth have every chance to enjoy their childhood while creating a foundation for personal growth.”

The YMCA offered America’s first known summer camp starting in 1885, and since then the Y has been a leader in summer programming for children. A core tenant of YMCA camping is instilling the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Recently, Pelizzon met and spoke with Camp Woodstock YMCA’s camp counselors. Many are college students from the U.S. and around the world. Pelizzon addressed the importance of this: “Our world needs more leaders, and leaders with the right set of values and experience. Any chance you can get for more leadership opportunities and experiences is critical. The best thing you can do in college is to get a job at a place like summer camp or at a local organization where you can lead, inspire and motivate others.”

Then, addressing Pelizzon, the counselors shared personal stories about how camping has impacted their lives. Some of them live in underserved communities and explained how their Y camping experience was transformational in their outlook in life. Many are planning to serve their communities as teachers, social workers, emergency responders and healthcare professionals.

Pelizzon recognized the broad impact his gift will have, which he said was why he chose the Y: “The Y reaches across economic and social spectrums. It is also very well distributed, not just in urban areas, but in rural and suburban areas like Granby, where the Y has had a big impact in the community. If you want to impact a lot of people, the Y is a great place to make that mark.”

This summer the YMCA of Greater Hartford will operate 12-day camps, serving more than 4,000 youth across the region.

Pelizzon hopes that, with his donation, not only will more children gain access to camp this summer, but also others will be inspired to contribute to the YMCA and other local organizations.

“Part of me wanted to make an immediate and noticeable impact, but I also wanted to motivate others to give. We are going through a remarkable period in our nation’s history, and there are critical needs in our communities. I hope my gift inspires others to make an impact now. Organizations like the Y need to be supported, and their investment will have a positive impact on individuals, families and communities.”

If you are interested in summer camp at the YMCA, visit ghymca.org/camping or call your local branch. If you are interested in contributing to the YMCA, please visit ghymca.org/donate to learn more.