The Legacy of Fitzgerald Carries Spirit of Annual Giving Campaign Kick-off

By Celie Collins

The warm cast of golden hour glowed over the Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand lawn as friends and family settled into the spring grass; we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening to celebrate Bobby Fitzgerald Day.

The Annual Giving Campaign kick-off event is named in memory of Fitzgerald, a longtime STAUNTON-AUGUSTA FAMILY YMCA member who went missing while retrieving his cell phone on a hiking trail in 2012.

“This YMCA was a big part of Bobby’s life; it was probably a part of his daily routine,” said friend and Y member Joe McCue at the first annual Bobby Fitzgerald Day in 2021. “In fact, when Bobby disappeared and didn’t show up to work for two days, they called the YMCA.”

It was decided that the reward money raised throughout the search for Fitzgerald would be donated to a charity or organization in his name.

Naturally, the SAYMCA was chosen to receive the $30,000 donation on April 20 – Fitzgerald’s birthday – in 2021, establishing Bobby Fitzgerald Day at our YMCA.

Fitzgerald’s involvement in – and enthusiasm for – the Y is now emulated in campaign co-directors Heather Berry and Rhonda Shinaberry, setting the tone for the Annual Giving Campaign.

“The family gave such a significant donation because they knew what the Y meant to Bobby,” said Shinaberry. “He was dedicated to the Y and his workout routine.”

The Y means a great deal to many others in the community.

“The campaign is so important because it allows us to ‘never turn anyone away for the inability to pay,'” Shinaberry continued.

Our YMCA firmly believes that a healthy lifestyle should be accessible to all. An individual’s ability to access resources for themselves or their children, whether they be part of the physical facility or through our mission programs, can be life-changing.

“I am so passionate about this campaign because I get to tell people how their donation will directly impact someone in need,” said Berry. “On the topic of National Water Safety Month, for example, if someone wants to donate 50 dollars, I will ask if they’d like to donate 65 dollars – that can provide a child in the community with swim lessons. I’ve never had someone say no in this type of circumstance,” Berry continued.

When we come together in the spirit of giving, we are reminded of how good it feels to support causes we care about.

“My favorite part of this year’s Bobby Day event was the atmosphere,” said Shinaberry. “It was laid-back, fun, and we were blessed with perfect weather.”

The entire SAYMCA team would like to give special thanks to Nathan Moore and friends for excellent entertainment and Sooner BBQ for delicious food during this year’s event.