Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD The YMCA's 120th birthday party was a "formal" affair in the main lobby last Wednesday.
Partygoers of all ages were dressed in their finest sweat clothes in preparation for the day's workout. Bikers and runners looked on through an adjacent window as partygoers gathered around the birthday cake.
Seven-year-old Kenny Guertin and Tricia Haluch, nine years old, blew out the candles to kick off the celebration.
"The YMCA has been a huge part of this community for 120 years," Harry Rock, director of YMCA relations for YMCA USA, and previous executive director of the YMCA of Greater Westfield, said. "Our commitment to this community exemplifies our mission and what we stand for to make a difference in the lives of those in the community."
Rock noted the importance of venues such as the YMCA, which provide children with safe play that many neighborhoods lack in today's society. "In today's world, free play access doesn't exist. It is important for families to know that this facility provides a safe, structured environment [for children]," he said.
Pat Pasko, mother of a five-year-old girl, said she and her daughter Natalie travel from their home in West Springfield to participate in YMCA events and activities. She explained that her husband grew up attending this YMCA and it was important for them to provide their daughter with the same opportunities to make friends, learn and have fun.
"This is a rockin' party," Natalie said with a smile, adding that she enjoys coming to the YMCA to meet friends and take swim lessons.
Pat noted the importance of having a "safe" environment for her only child to play with others her age.
Carol Palmer, fitness and active older adult director, noted that the YMCA is not just for children but for senior citizens as well. She teaches low-impact aerobics classes to those in their 60s through 90s. Palmer noted the importance of providing seniors with an outlet for their physical, mental and social well-being.
Ninety-two year old Adeline Miller said she loves being in the front row of Palmer's aerobics classes and never tires of visiting the YMCA.
YMCA Board President Francis Horrigan said celebrating 120 years of service to the community is "a great accomplishment." He noted the transition of early YMCA's as centers for men's fitness to venues of recreation for all members of the community.
Rock said that currently over 50 percent of YMCA members are women.
"The YMCA has really evolved," he added, noting the site's structural transformation as well as its membership since 1888. Rock explained that the YMCA of Greater Westfield's first location was housed adjacent to the green and later moved to Elm Street in 1901, before securing the Court Street location in 1949.
For more information about the YMCA of Greater Westfield go to www.westfieldymca.org.