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Beating the Odds

Accident victim beats odds with help from the YMCA.

Accident victim Cavallero, left, with daughter Gracelyn, 4, and her 2018 to 2019 YMCA prekindergarten teachers, Kelly Duffy and Gina Brown.

Christina Cavallero says, “I don’t remember it at all” when describing her 2003 automobile accident. Others recall it vividly, as Cavallero was given a 99 percent chance of not surviving or of living in a vegetative state.

Today, she’s happily employed at the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA and as a substitute teacher in Vineland. The story of her recovery is a progression over 15 years of therapy, adaptations, and heroic perseverance. She has earned college degrees, bought a home, and, by 2018, returned to working.
That year, the now 40-year-old Vineland resident enrolled her youngest child, Gracie, in the Y’s prekindergarten program.

“It was well kept and clean. Plus, I liked the staff,” she explained.

At the suggestion of Theresa McKay Booth, senior director of Child Development, she began working in the Y’s Before and After School program.

“I explained I was unable to work full time due to my disabilities. This was no problem for Terri. She worked with me then and still does now. Despite the school year being over, I was still offered a position to help with the YMCA summer camps. Here I am able to keep kids in a safe, educated environment while there is no school.”

Help from the Y Cares Financial Assistance program eases the cost of schooling at the Y for Gracie and other local families.

“My teenaged son and daughter see that without the Y’s help, we couldn’t do it. That lesson had has been passed on to them; they both go to school, have jobs, and help out,” Cavallero said.

Y Cares is funded by the Y’s Annual Giving initiative. Local individuals, families, and businesses contribute funds to help people like Cavallero. They also benefit from programs such as LIVEstrong, diabetes prevention, and other mission-worthy activities.

“I appreciate people’s generosity,” Cavallero said. “This has really made a positive difference in our lives.”
She continued, “The YMCA has done quite a bit for my whole family. They have employed me, given affordable gym membership for my entire family, educated my daughter, and helped prepare her for school. We also have been able to take advantage of lifesaving programs offered here as well. The YMCA has been a phenomenal factor in my recovery, even 15 years later. They’re more than just a physical gym facility.”

Though she needs a cane, Cavallero has good mobility—and lots of energy and spirit. She said, “I’ve had doctors look at my chart, and their eyes nearly pop out. They can’t believe I’m alive.”

She attributes much of her happiness to the positives at the YMCA: “I can’t believe how involved the Y is in our community. They give back so much!”