United Way has touched the lives of countless families and individuals throughout Oswego County. Whether working to stop hunger, improving a community’s health and well-being, or helping children and youth succeed, the positive impact provided by United Way has made difference in lives of many.
While much of that impact is immediate and can easily be seen, there are some United Way programs that offer services that provide a positive impact that lasts a lifetime. For one Fulton resident it all began with a trip to Catholic Charities’ CYO Program.
When Mike Curtis was nine years old he learned from his friends that there was a place where he could go to have fun, meet new friends and best of all play basketball. The place, the Fulton CYO, soon became a favorite spot for him. He was soon going to CYO after school, evenings and Saturday mornings. The opportunity to play basketball and partake in the many other youth activities CYO offered was too much to pass up.
“I really looked forward to going to CYO. It was a big part of my life. I was still stopping in to play basketball some Saturday mornings when I was in my early 20s,” said Curtis.
In addition to basketball and the other activities, Curtis said that the all-night sleepovers were one of his fondest memories.
“They were great, especially around the holidays as there would be special holiday-themed activities,” Curtis said. “No really ever slept…we were having too much fun!”
While CYO provided Curtis with hours of fun, it also offered life lessons that would help shape his future.
“CYO taught me about discipline and responsibility. I remember having to stop at the front desk to sign in and CYO Director Jim Smiley explaining the proper conduct we were to display while we were at CYO. It was a privilege to be at CYO and he reminded us of that. It also taught me the value of hard work. I have vivid memories of painting those blue stairs that led to CYO when I was involved its summer work program. More importantly, it taught me how to build relationships. Life lessons like discipline and responsibility are only valuable when they can be passed on through strong relationships with family, friends and others, which is what I did,” explained Curtis.
As a 13-year member of the Fulton City Police Department, currently in the criminal investigation unit, Curtis has seen that the impact CYO had on his life is continuing to shape the lives of youth that visit CYO today.
“For many youth CYO is a respite from turmoil. It’s an alternative that offers healthy activities in a safe setting for those families that may not have the financial means to participate other wise. The impact that CYO has on our community is invaluable. It has the ability to intervene in the life of high-risk youth and offers a chance to help break the cycle of generational struggles and negative behavior. CYO teaches youth how to build relationships in a stable environment that are predicated on positive behaviors. The results of which benefit the community as a whole now and in the future,” said Curtis.
Curtis’ reflection on his experience with CYO is just one of the many stories that could be shared by the thousands of youth and adults who have experienced all that CYO has to offer. It paints a clear picture of how United Way and the programs it supports impact a community.
“Every experience in your life has a role in shaping you as a person, said Curtis. “CYO is a big part of why I am the person I am. I’ve heard people say why should I give to United Way. The answer is simple…results! We have a responsibility to support each other in our community. We need to give of our time, talent and finances if possible. One never knows when the tide may turn and it will be you in need of help, encouragement or even a life lesson. The impact that United Way has produces positive results that can help end hunger, assist our children and youth in succeeding, and improve the health and well-being of our county.
He continued, “for me the results are in the numbers: 42 years in the community, 21 years of marriage, 13 years with the Fulton City Police Department, three beautiful children, and one lovely wife.”