Picture of Ernie Gismondi

In Loving Memory

Mr. Gismondi, who was known to those as Ernie, was a bomber pilot, a friend, and a gardener. In his quiet, but proud manner he would spend most mornings at the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut and share whatever vegetables he had on hand with everyone around him, including fellow members and staff. He associated the Y as his special place, nding solace and community when his wife passed away several years ago. His favorite vegetables to give out included his tomatoes and pole beans, which grew up to 16 inches in length.

“It is my hope that Ernie’s love of practical gardening will be instilled in the youthful workers in your project. He would be pleased with this association.” Gretchen Bauta, President of the October Hill Foundation, wrote in a letter to the YMCA.

In Danbury, 32% of kindergartners, 41% of 6th graders, and 34% of 9th graders
are considered overweight/obese. Obesity rates among Hispanic and lower-income students, who respectively make up 40% and 50% of the Danbury student population, are particularly pronounced due to a shortage of affordable recreation programs, lack of knowledge about the importance of exercise and nutrition, and families’ nancial inability to purchase healthy foods.

Because healthy eating and exercise are key to both preventing the onset of obesity and lowering existing obesity rates, the Regional Y launched the SCRAM program in 2012 to get area children moving and eating right.

As part of the SCRAM nutrition work, the Regional Y built 13 raised garden beds at the Ellsworth and Pembroke elementary schools, which are used to teach hands-on nutrition lessons, grow fruits and vegetables for healthy snacks and cooking projects, and to expose the children to a wide variety of produce. Additionally, 20 beds at the Regional YMCA Children’s Center in Bethel were constructed and added into the preschool and afterschool/summer curriculum. Excess garden crops are made available to students’ families along with healthy recipes.

In honor of Mr. Gismondi, the October Hill Foundation has decided to donate a gift in his name for ve years of support for the gardens. With this gift, the gardens throughout the Regional YMCA branches will continue to prosper and teach children and their parents about eating better and provide families with proper nutrition to lead more active and healthier lifestyles. The Regional Y will be hosting a bench dedication event this fall for Ernie. This event will be open to the public.

SCRAM (Students Can Run and Move)

SCRAM runs from October to May in conjuction with the Danbury Public Schools’ after- school, Extended Learning Program (ELP). At the end of
the 25 week, students show improved physical tness test scores, are more knowledgeable about good nutrition and increase their fruit and vegtable consumption. A 4 to 6 week summer variation is also offered at up to four Danbury Public School summer school sites. SCRAM reaches over 400 children and their families each year.

Currently, 450 students ages 2-12 participate in our garden programming, and 800+ family members are served directly
or indirectly through parent education work and the excess crops that are offered for home consumption.

The gardens grow 20+ varieties of spring and summer seasonal crops. SCRAM and the gardens are made possible through foundation grants.