July 31, 2013

YMCA’s New Wellness Center Honors Jim and Nancye Fitzpatrick

When the Princeton Family YMCA opens its renovated athletic facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, September 14 at 10:30 a.m. in the Dodge Gymnasium, it will not only have new equipment it will have a new name.

The expanded open space with new cardio equipment, strength training, and free weights will officially be known as the Jim and Nancye Fitzpatrick Wellness Center.

The renovation, called “Project Jumpstart,” is designed to encourage healthy living and physical activity among people of all ages. “Our YMCA is dedicated to strengthening the foundations of community — and healthy living is one of our three areas of focus,” said Princeton Family YMCA CEO Kate Bech. “Offering an updated, modern Wellness Center with appropriate equipment is key to our ability to support Princeton residents and to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle, particularly among families.”

The naming of the new center came as a delightful surprise to Jim and Nancye Fitzpatrick. For more than a year, YMCA volunteers secretly raised money for the new facility which they had decided to name in honor of the longtime Princeton residents who have deep ties to the YMCA Movement.

Mr. Fitzpatrick has often said that the YMCA was one of his greatest influences. His father was a chaplain with the Y. The couple’s children participated in a variety of Y activities and programs and their son Hugh currently serves on the Board of Directors of the national YMCA of the U.S.A. Several of the Fitzpatrick’s grandchildren have attended and worked at YMCA resident camps.

Now almost 90 years old, Mr. Fitzpatrick was a bomber pilot in World War II. After his plane was shot down over Germany, he became a prisoner-of-war and recalls the supplies that he and his fellow soldiers received courtesy of the YMCA.

As part of the war effort, the YMCA provided books, athletic equipment, musical instruments, and art supplies to prisoners in the hopes of keeping up their spirits in the face of uncertainty. Mr. Fitzpatrick credits the books he received about economics for capturing his interest and sparking a passion that ultimately put him on his career path in finance.

Following the war, Mr. Fitzpatrick went on to get an education and eventually became the chief investment officer for the national YMCA Retirement Fund. During his tenure, the fund experienced unprecedented growth, which helped thousands of YMCA employees maximize their savings for a secure retirement.

The Fitzpatricks share a deep commitment to youth development and education.

Nancye Fitzpatrick, a former teacher at John Witherspoon Middle School where she taught English to generations of seventh- and eighth-graders from 1966 to 1982, has served the community through her work as a volunteer. She was a director and president of New Grange School. In the late 1980s, she was a mentor with the Trenton Afterschool Program. Even today, she meets monthly with one of her young charges from that period, now a 33-year-old woman.

So far, more than 40 donors have contributed $300,000 for Project Jump Start and they aim to raise a further $200,000. “The enhanced space will help us advance our mission of healthy living, and encourage more people of all backgrounds and abilities to become members and a part of the YMCA family,” said Ms. Bech.

It is hoped that the updated facility, the first major construction project at the YMCA in 40 years, will draw new members to the Princeton Family YMCA. Increased membership would benefit existing programs such as Princeton Young Achievers, an afterschool program for economically-disadvantaged children, and Y Scholars, a group mentoring program for young people that fosters education, aspirations, and goal-setting.

The construction, which is expected to take 12 weeks, is being led by the Yedlin Company, a Princeton-based commercial contractor. The YMCA will remain operational on a modified basis while the renovation is carried out.

For more on the YMCA’s membership opportunities or to make a contribution in honor of Jim and Nancye Fitzpatrick, call Denise Soto at (609) 497-9622 x209 or send an email to dsoto@princtonymca.org.