Young man YMCA’s ‘biggest supporter’

Since he joined the Mississauga YMCA at the age of 8, the centre has remained a constant and positive influence in his life. Even during his years at Philip Pocock Secondary School, when he ran with the wrong crowd and found some minor trouble, Tolias knew his circle of friends at the YMCA would always welcome him back with open arms.

Tolias, 22, recently decided to return the favour for all the support the “Y” (as he affectionately calls it) has provided over the years. That gesture came in the form of a $2,500 donation to the YMCA Community Fund that provides financial assistance to people who have difficulty paying membership fees.

Approximately 25 per cent of Mississauga’s 9,000 YMCA members receive financial aid. Tolias and his family of eight were once a part of that group.

“My dad and I used to play squash there and then (one day) he came up to me and told me we wouldn’t be able to go anymore,” said Tolias.

His family couldn’t afford the fees, which for those who can afford it amount to several hundred dollars a month.

Tolias was devastated. However, the YMCA worked out a payment plan for the family and they were able to remain members.
This sense of social responsibility is what makes the YMCA more than just a gym, according to the centre’s community fund specialist, Marcy Robertson.

She has been at the Mississauga location since it opened 14 years ago and takes pride in the loyalty members show. “I’ve seen people…start off in (tough) situations and the YMCA is a good place for them,” said Robertson.

“It makes people feel welcome and safe. We help people with financial assistance so they can join and when they’re on their feet, pay the full fees.

“They always say the YMCA was there when they really needed it. That’s why so many members come back as volunteers.”
Currently the YMCA has over 300 volunteers.

The Mississauga YMCA is hosting a luncheon this Tuesday to raise $20,000 to hit this year’s community fund goal of $122,000. Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased by calling 905-897-6801, ext. 401.

TVO’s Studio 2 personality Steve Paikin hosts the event and the keynote speakers are Ray Patrick, president of Mary Kay Canada and Derek Hatfield, who sailed single-handedly around the world. The YMCA also provides many programs and services to the community in addition to their well-known fitness programs.

Career counselling, day care, employment resources, summer camps and drug and alcohol addiction counselling are offered. Tolias himself took advantage of the career counselling back in 2000 when deciding between college and university. Normally the course costs $925, but with some help from the YMCA, Tolias paid half of the regular fee and was awarded a year to do so.

Now he owns and operates the successful Tolias Landscaping & Plowing business, beautifying lawns at 30 homes and 18 buildings across Mississauga. He owns three landscaping trucks and said last year his company made over $500,000. When he donated to the YMCA two months ago, he felt it settled some debts and said thanks.

“It’s a scary thought, where I would be without the YMCA,” said Tolias.

“They had a 100 per cent impact on my life. I told them when I made my first $1 million I’d turn into their biggest supporter.”