Since he was a child, John O’Connell felt a strong connection to the programs and services provided by the YMCA.
He attended afterschool and summer programs at “the Y” in Highland Park, learning how to swim at the Downtown Los Angeles YMCA and gaining life lessons from its offerings.
“The valuable life lessons these programs instilled in him helped shape John’s character and his dedication to his community that he has called home for more than 46 years, the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Mark Helm, chair of the board of directors at the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles.
O’Connell’s decades of leadership and service to the Santa Clarita Valley YMCA were formally recognized by members of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles during its 135th Annual Celebration event May 11.
More than 500 attendees from YMCAs across Los Angeles County looked on as O’Connell was presented with the Golden Book of Distinguished Service award.
A tradition that dates back to 1934, the Golden Book award is reserved for extraordinary and committed volunteers who went above and beyond to make a difference in communities and lives of others.
Each year names are added to the book to honor the recipients of the award for many years to come.
“The Golden Book of Distinguished Service now holds the names of 344 of our most precious volunteers,” said Cynthia Bryan, senior program director for Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley Family YMCA. “They have shown extraordinary leadership, commitment, and devotion to service and loyalty to the Y and its core values.
Since he moved to Santa Clarita, O’Connell has served on Santa Clarita Valley YMCA Board of Managers and on several committees, including the Golf Classic Committee, within the organization.
He acted as chair of the board of managers, attracting new partnerships to the Y, starting an advisory council to engage in the community and raising charitable donations totaling more than $1 million.
“John’s powerful leadership was especially felt when he was a key member of the task force to get land for a future facility,” Helm said. “The task force was successful and the Y was awarded more than 4 acres of land in the Santa Clarita Valley with an estimated land value exceeding $5 million.”
O’Connell was also named one of The Signal’s Top 51 and helped create the Santa Clarita Valley Giving Alliance to bridge the fundraising gaps in the community.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_