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A Proud Tradition and A Promising Future
The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO of Mercer County) is a public benefit community organization that enhances the lives of Greater Mercer County youth and their families, by providing affordable, quality, educational and recreational services. Rooted in the Catholic Tradition, the CYO provides these services in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner respecting the culture and faith of all.
Founded in 1961, more than 100,000 young people have walked through the Broad Street doors of the CYO Center in Trenton or played at the CYO Camp on Yardville-Allentown Road in Hamilton. Currently served by 25 full-time staff persons (including an Executive Director and 3 Program Directors, certified Pre-School Teachers, as well as over 125 Camp, Teen Program, and After School Counselors), the CYO is presently undergoing program expansions, building renovations and tremendous overall growth. A very active eleven member Board of Trustees is committed to a CYO willing and able to reach out and serve the youth of Trenton and Mercer County.
As an agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton (The Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, Bishop and President of the CYO), the CYO understands its mission to be one of love and concern for young people of every culture and faith.
In September 1952, the Catholic Youth Organization of the Diocese of Trenton was established in all eight Counties of the Diocese, under the supervision of Father Leonard R. Toomey, Diocesan CYO Director.
Like its counterparts, the Mercer County CYO functioned in 26 parishes offering a four fold program of spiritual, athletic, cultural, and social activities to boys and girls of both grammar school and high school age, as well as to young adults out of school working. The latter group was known as CYAC’s-Catholic Young Adult Club. With 3,000 youth in these three divisions participating weekly in the CYO program, the Mercer County CYO was one of the largest youth service agencies in the area.
On February 3, 1958, the Mercer County CYO opened its first official headquarters at1 Centre Street, Trenton adjacent to Sacred Heart Church. The building was well known City-Wide as the home of the former Men’s Catholic Club and its gymnasium, game activity, and meeting rooms became alive again.
The CYO Day Camp began on July 7, 1958, on a 20 acre tract site of the old Springdale Park, on Yardville-Allentown Rd. in Yardville, next to St. Vincent DePaul Church; it featured an Olympic size swimming pool, sports, arts and crafts, and acres of woods. The Day Camp was an immediate success, with a daily attendance of 300 grammar school age girls and boys in that first Summer of ’58 and a daily attendance of 500 in the Summer of ’59. The Day Camp still flourishes to this day.
With an ever-increasing number of young people participating, the facility at Centre Street became inadequate. On June 13, 1964, the late Bishop George W. Ahr blessed and opened the present CYO Center at 920 South Broad Street. After all these years, it is still home to thousands of youth and adults who participated in the variety of programs and activities sponsored by the Mercer County CYO.
Today it’s hard to imagine that the building was originally the RKO Broad Theater. After extensive renovations, the auditorium and stage were transformed into a gymnasium featuring a regulation size basketball court and bleachers. The balcony became game and meeting rooms, and the backstage changed into exercise and locker rooms. Second floor backstage dressing rooms reappeared as the arts & crafts area.
No account of the CYO of Mercer County would be complete without acknowledging the assistance and interest of the late Diocese of Trenton and the dedication and work of the late Monsignor Michael P. McCorristin. Monsignor, with a group of volunteers, undertook the renovations at 1 Centre Street and 920 South Broad Street, as well as building the swimming pool and facilities at the Day Camp.
Likewise, the CYO will always be grateful to the legions of men and women, priests and religious educators who in the past as well as in the present, so generously volunteer their time and talents serving the youth of CYO in its long history, here in Mercer County and throughout the Diocese of Trenton.
Written by Monsignor Leonard R. Toomey – August 1996
CYO Founder and First Director