BRADENTON -- With a goal to raise $434,000 for its programs, the Manatee County Family YMCA kicked off its 2015 fund-raising campaign Friday during a breakfast at Renaissance on 9th.
The event focused on how the YMCA has changed lives and avoided the controversy that has swirled around the agency for months, prompting the county to cut funds to the agency.
The State Attorney's Office this week decided not to bring criminal charges in connection with YMCA billing documents that Manatee County auditors contend contained falsified information.
The state attorney's decision "was long overdue," Sean Allison, Manatee County YMCA president and chief executive officer, said before Friday's breakfast began.
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During Friday morning's event Allison interviewed people who support the YMCA.
Robert Purifoy, 23, who lives in the Pride Park area, had one of the most touching stories.
Purifoy met the Rev. Jerry Parrish, who does outreach for the Manatee Y, the summer before ninth grade, when he was 16.
With Parrish as a mentor, Purifoy graduated from Bradenton Preparatory School. He attended Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D. for one year.
He is currently working part-time and volunteers as a youth football and basketball coach for the Y.
"Jerry is a terrific guy, a jokester and prankster," Purifoy said. "I know if I wouldn't have met him and got involved with the Y, my future would have been a lot different."
Purifoy told the audience that he is living his life in a more positive way for a handful of friends who have died in traffic accidents or have been shot.
"I live my life differently by being part of the community," Purifoy said. "I know now it isn't how much money you have, but how you empower other people. Anyone is successful if they make other people's lives better."
The Roths of Bayshore Gardens told Allison that the Manatee Y has strengthened their family.
"I really went there first for selfish reasons to have some time away for myself," said the 38-year-old Roth. "But there was so much happening there that I just wound up spending more time with my family than before and loving it."
The Roths became youth soccer coaches for their boys, who include Duncan, 13, George, 8, and Connor, 5.
Allison got laughs when he said that if a parent comes to the Y with children, they are likely to become a soccer coach.
The Roths spend $72 a month for their Y membership plus $5 for each boy for soccer season, which begins in March, and also has girls' leagues. A gift of $50 helps teach a child the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship through participation in youth sports, Allison said. Donation information: www.manateeymca.org.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.