Susan Olson At Your Service
BY JANICE LLANES FABRY
Susan Olson can’t help but get a little emotional when talking about how Rye and the Rye YMCA has influenced her life and that of the families here.
“I’m personally grateful to be a part of this special community and that I get to see the impact the Y has on people’s lives, from working families in need of financial support to those affected by illness,” said the Y’s Development Director. “The Rye Y has been around for 106 years and is really an anchor institution. It’s a very special place to be and Rye is such a generous community.”
For three years now, Olson has been raising funds for the YMCA’s annual campaign and the Y Cares Financial Assistance Program through March Madness and the Rye Derby, which are set for March 28 and April 26 this year.
“Y Cares allows us to make sure our doors are open to everyone and provides memberships and program subsidies for those families who can’t afford it,” she explained. “Last year we awarded over $420,000 to help those going through a difficult time and it seems the need is growing every year.”
The program also fully funds LIVESTRONG for cancer survivors and
Safety Around Water, which teaches children essential water safety skills in an all-out effort to prevent drowning. Moreover, it enables the Y’s aquatic staff to pay complimentary visits to the elementary schools.
About the plethora of programs available for all ages, Olson noted, “It’s amazing to watch the kids blossom here. It’s remarkable to see the skills they learn boost their confidence. On the other end, the seniors are able to maintain social connections while staying physically fit and in good health.”
If one gets the feeling Olson has been committed to service for much longer than the three years she has been at the Y, it’s because she has been. As a past president of Rye City Lions Club and a member for 13 years, she’s proud of the work the organization does, from raising funds for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and supporting diabetes prevention to sponsoring an annual event for Rye High School’s scholar athletes and commemorating a standout member of the community who has made a significant local impact.
Olson is also on the Rye Women’s Interfaith Committee, dedicated to the promotion of goodwill and understanding among people of all faiths. Currently, the organization is working on their annual conference and reception, Hope and Healing: Inside and Beyond Prison Walls at Christ’s Church on January 26. Various speakers will focus on services provided to families affected by incarceration.
There’s no question Olson has been a force of nature in Rye since she and her husband Tom moved here from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia 27 years ago.
“I feel like I’ve been here longer than the town I grew up in,” she said.
Her community involvement began in the schools as a stay-at-home mom, then as a Girl Scouts director. All three of their children attended Milton and Rye Middle and High schools. Today, the eldest, Michael, is a Captain in the U.S. Army; their daughter Katie is a Sales and Marketing Manager at Turning Art; and Matthew graduated with a degree in Ethical Agriculture and is currently enrolled in a masters and doctorate program for acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
After raising her children, Olson also spent seven years fundraising for The Osborn and waxes poetic about founder Miriam Osborn’s “wonderful mission” to ensure ongoing support and care for seniors. “She was so ahead of her time,” marveled Olson, who went on to run the annual capital campaign for Holmes Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center.
It’s no surprise that Olson was appointed to serve on the Rye Cable and Communications Committee most recently. “I learned video editing and production at RyeTV, which is an amazing community resource and a great way to tell stories about the nonprofit organizations I work for,” she exclaimed.