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Grit and Y Support

The “Charity” aspect of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K can mean so much more than simply financial aid for families and children who need it most. In fact, for some, the funds raised from Y events like the Turkey Trot are downright life-changing.

Let us show you what we mean…

Just a few weeks ago, Baltimore City Council held its 7th District election. The winner of that election was James Torrence, who is a father, husband, relatively newly minted lawyer and irrepressibly impressive in every way. Simply put, he’s the kind of person who makes you feel hopeful about the future no matter how much cynicism you might have acquired over the years.

He’s also someone whose past is a mixture of hardship and triumph, fueled by incredible determination, intelligence, grace… and a little help from the Y.

When we first met James Torrence as a middle school student, he was struggling in school and in many other ways. He grew up having to deal with the grinding burdens of poverty, without his father in his life and his mother passing away due to substance abuse. While being raised by his grandparents, his grandfather died as well.
This would be enough to topple any human being (much less a child), and it seemed to be getting the best of James too. He was often in fights and angry.

Enter the caring and capable Y youth development professionals in his Y after school enrichment program (one of the many Y programs that the Y Turkey Trot supports) at Dunbar Middle School. They recognized both the signs of trouble he was facing along with his unique talents. Through their efforts, James gradually became connected to other Y activities including chess and debate clubs. Seeds of confidence and self-esteem were planted.

In high school, James joined Y Youth & Government, where he quickly excelled as a leader and was voted by his peers from around the state as “Youth Attorney General,” the first African American student in Maryland ever to earn this honor. I suspect that his peers in Y&G saw in him a leader, a young man who wasn’t going to let the circumstance of his life become his life.

The Y’s former Chief Operating Officer, Bob Brosmer, struck up a friendship with James and became a mentor, meeting regularly with him to check on his progress and adding to the cadre of caring Y associates who told James he mattered.

In the summer of 2006, James was hired as a Y camp counselor at the Druid Hill Y. There he met fellow counselor, Orlett Hasket. As I noted, James is a smart guy. Today, they are husband and wife and have a wonderful young son, Jace.

James graduated from Carver Vocational Technical High School, received a Merit Scholarship to Towson University, where he graduated with honors as a double major in Communications and Political Science. He then went on to earn a Master’s degree from the University of Baltimore, followed by his law degree there as well. On November 3rd he became Baltimore City’s 7th District Councilman-elect!

Look up grit in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of James Torrence.

On James’ campaign website he writes about “making Government work for all of us, not just the few;” about how real change comes about “when principled leaders engage in collaborative problem-solving that empower communities and protect vulnerable neighbors.” None of that is theoretical to James.

There’s no question that James is truly a remarkable and inspiring individual. We’re so proud that his involvement in a Y program, and continued involvement with the Y in Central Maryland along his journey, helped to aid in his success.

The Y in Central Maryland exists to help unleash the powerful potential that exists in all of us. To be, as was clearly the case for James, the extra dose of support so many people, of all ages and backgrounds, need at various times in their lives.

When you participate in or make a donation to Y event like the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K, you’re helping to shape the lives of so many children and families just like James.

There’s still time to register and be your family’s ringleader for health, tradition and charity! Learn more and sign up today at ymdturkeytrot.org.

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