From the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges:
The South Mountain YMCA was one of Rob Harrigan’s first connections to Maplewood when he moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. 15 years ago.
Harrigan and his wife, Elaine Laramee, entrusted their toddler to the care of the Y’s Early Child Learning Center as they both headed to work in New York City each weekday.
Harrigan witnessed firsthand the calm professionalism of the ECLC staff in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on lower Manhattan, and was again impressed two years later when the Y community rallied around a family whose 4-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer.
And then, in May 2013, Harrigan was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. The outpouring of encouragement and support the Y community gave him and his family moved him.
With his recovery, “I felt a real obligation to give back,’’ said Harrigan, who stepped up as chair of the South Mountain YMCA’s board of managers last June. He and his family “realized how blessed we are.”
The 54-year-old champion of the YMCA received the John C. Prizer Award for Social Responsibility at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ 39th annual dinner, held April 7 at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover. The South Mountain Y is one of six branches of the Metro YMCA, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey.
“Rob’s passion for the Y and the community shines through all the time,’’ South Mountain YMCA Executive Director James Goodger said.
Harrigan began volunteering at the Y long before he joined the board of managers in 2011. His 16-year-old son, Jack, is a camp counselor, and his 9-year-old daughter, Rory, is in the Y’s after-school program and summer camp.
“We’re very much a Y family,’’ said Harrigan, a senior financial advisor and vice president at Merrill Lynch. Harrigan’s family moved often when he was young. “The first thing my parents would do when we got to a new place is join the Y,” he said.
Harrigan sees the South Mountain Y — the largest volunteer organization in Maplewood and South Orange — as an engine for social programs. He reaches out to government leaders, school officials, the business community and other organizations to discuss the communty’s needs and how they can be met.
“Rob is really the community connection for us; he keeps the Y in the loop, and gets us a place at the table,’’ Goodger said. The South Mountain Y runs programs at locations throughout the two towns.
During its annual campaign the Y raised $175,000 to provide scholarships to families that cannot afford Y child care and summer camp. (Harrigan gives generously and Merrill Lynch provides a matching donation, Goodger said.)
“I’ve seen the positive force the Y has had on my children, and we want to make sure all children have that opportunity,’’ Harrigan said. He noted the community is diverse racially and socioeconomically, with 8 percent of families living below the federal poverty level.
Harrigan has been a strong advocate of Togetherhood, the Y’s social responsibility initiative through which volunteers brainstorm and carry out programs that benefit the community. For example, the Togetherhoood commmittee partnered with an organization called Soccerhood to provide immigrant children the opportunity to play in South Orange’s soccer program.
Harrigan spearheads the Y’s Memorial Day Duck Race, the branch’s largest fundraiser that brings in more than $20,000, and volunteers at Healthy Kids Day, the Y’s July 4 activities and other events, often doing the heavy lifting.
“He’ll get his hands dirty and do whatever needs to get done,” Goodger said.
ABOUT THE Y
Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges is the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey, serving more than 35,000 individuals and providing more than $1.2 million in direct financial assistance. Its six YMCAs, located in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne, are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living, and fostering a sense of social responsibility. They offer an array of programs that build spirit, mind and body for people of all ages and all circumstances.