Russ and Keitha: Geneva Park Philanthropy
“MyY helps people work with people for their mutual growth and development.”
My Dad took me to the Orillia Y when I was only 9 years old. It was during the depression, and Dad could not afford the $2 membership, but the General Secretary let me earn my membership by setting up bowling pins at a cent per game. From that moment on, my life and career was shaped by the YMCA. My 40 year Y career began as Assistant City Camp Director at West End Y in Toronto in 1951 followed by many positions in the Y across the country till in 1977 when I became Executive Director of Geneva Park.
My connections at Geneva Park had begun at the age 12 when a buddy and I canoed across Lake Couchiching from my home in Orillia, and years later when my high school basketball team went out to play a team of GP summer staff. Then, all through my career, I attended Y staff training events, conferences and annual meetings at GP.
In 1977, I became the CEO of Geneva Park. This was a poignant moment in my career and gave me the opportunity to further build GP’s leadership training capabilities. I was, and still am, very passionate about the concept of residential learning, where people live together in a learning environment, a learning and growing experience like no other.
The summer Cottage program is an extension of that concept. I fondly remember walking into one of the cottages one warm summer day and being greeted by four generations of one family sharing space and time in that special YMCA, learning and growing environment. It is “Strong Kids, Strong Families, and Strong Community in a crucible!
In 1991, I retired after 14 years as CEO there, and the YMCA and Geneva Park will always be part of my life. Today, Keitha and I continue to support the Y and its ethic of providing opportunity for “people to work with people for their mutual growth and development” because we see it as a very effective way to help make the world a better place, not just for our family, but everyone.