Emotional testimonials take stage at Y event

By Brandon Gustafson | Feb 14, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Adam Cornell, a Snohomish County prosecutor, was the YMCA’s Annual Campaign Kick-Off keynote speaker. Cornell talked about growing up in the state’s foster system, and why he feels a strong need to give back to the community.

From hard-luck beginnings to unexpected tragedies,  a bevy of speakers shared testimonials last week in front of a packed house at Rosehill Community Center on how the Mukilteo YMCA has improved their lives through its various programs.

The Y’s annual fundraising kickoff event, which took place Wednesday, Feb. 7, attracted more than 200 members of the greater Mukilteo area, and encouraged those in attendance to donate to the Mukilteo YMCA and its Casino Road Community Center.

Attendees included Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Mukilteo City Councilmembers Anna Rohrbough, Sarah Kneller, and Christine Cook, and Mukilteo School District Superintendent Marci Larsen.

Michael Gilson, a member of the YMCA's Board of Directors, served as the night’s emcee, and explained what the night was about.

“The Y is much more than a pool and gym,” Gibson said. “We aim to serve our community as well.”

Eve Goodwin, the night’s first speaker, spoke about how the YMCA was there for her and her family after she was in a serious car accident that kept her bedridden for nine months.

Her family suffered as she couldn’t do much, and her husband was working, going to school, and taking care of their children.

Goodwin was clearly emotional when telling the audience how much the YMCA meant to her and her family.

“The YMCA had been a part of our lives, but we needed financial assistance to get back in,” Goodwin said. “They helped with that, and they helped bring consistency to our home.”

After deciding to home school their children, Goodwin said that through the YMCA’s Home Zone program, they were still able to get exercise like they would if they were still in public school.

Goodwin finished her talk with a goal, and a message for those in attendance.

“I look forward to the day we can give back to the Y,” Goodwin said. “Please, contribute to this great cause.”

Martin Cross, the executive director for the Mukilteo YMCA, talked about their outreach to Casino Road, and about special membership prices.

“In October of 2015, we created a special membership price for low-income Hispanics,” Cross said. “This has given us 300 new families. Our goal is ‘access for all.’ We want to help remove the financial barrier … we change lives for the better.”

Rosalinda Ruiz, a Mexican immigrant and a mother of three, attended English classes and achieved her GED in 2017 through the YMCA’s Casino Road Academy. She, like Goodwin, benefits from financial assistance the YMCA provides for her family

“I was able to take English classes at the Y, and the best part was the free childcare,” Ruiz said. “The childcare is such a huge help … I only pay $15 for my whole family. The YMCA has improved my family and me, and I thank all the angels who are in my life. You’ve helped me achieve my dreams.”

The night’s keynote speaker was Adam Cornell, a Snohomish County prosecutor for their violent crime division, who worked on the case following the July 30, 2016, shooting in Mukilteo, where three Kamiak grads were shot and killed.

“Mukilteo is always in my heart after working on that case,” Cornell said. “I got to know the families of the victims and so many others and ‘Mukilteo Strong’ … I got to see what that means in action.”

Cornell was raised as an orphan, bouncing around between foster homes due to parents who struggled with drug and alcohol addictions.

“At 8, I was given up for adoption by my mom,” Cornell said. “I got separated from my siblings, and bounced around before I was adopted at 14, and I found stability for the first time.”

Unfortunately, the stability didn’t last long; his foster dad killed himself while Cornell was in high school.

“I entered the world as an orphan again,” he said.

Cornell said he lived with a foster mother named Stella Carmichael for three years who taught him some of his most valuable lessons.

“She never let me see myself as a victim,” Cornell said. “She never let me sit around feeling sorry for myself.”

Carmichael pushed him to get involved in activities such as sports, and he said that helped him down the line, and pushed him to be successful.

“I went to college and graduated from Georgetown University,” Cornell said. “I joined the Peace Corps, and I worked with incarcerated kids for two years in South America.

“I learned in my time as a foster kid that, as it says in scripture, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ I have applied that principle in my own life, as we all should.

“I was given much. You might not think so, but I was given much, and it is so critical to me to give back, and I’ve done that as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I’ve done that through public service as a public attorney.”

As he wrapped up, Cornell left the audience with a quote from Ernest Hemingway.

“He said, ‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.’ We’re all strong, but we can all be stronger in those broken places,” Cornell said.

“And that’s what you’re all doing here tonight. That’s what this organization is doing, and that’s what I will continue to do with the pain and difficulty that I’ve faced.”

To close the night, Gilson said the goal is to raise $195,000 in 2018.

YMCA Associate Executive Cory Armstrong-Hoss said money raised will go toward bettering the Y’s programs.

“All funds raised for our annual campaign stay within our community, and go to support two things,” Armstrong-Hoss said. “First, financial assistance for individuals, families, and kids to attend Y programs or become Y members.

“Second, subsidizing free programs and resources, such as our Casino Road Community Center, Casino Road Academy Early Learning Program, or My Achievers Programs at Explorer, Voyager and Mariner. All are offered free to the community.”

To learn more about the YMCA’s campaign or how to contribute, visit:  http://ymca-snoco.org/support-the-y.


Mukilteo School District Superintendent Marci Larsen and her husband, Grant, were among many community leaders who attended the kickoff event. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
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