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Article Published April 14, 2019
Soundview Y Director Doug Shaw Leaving to Take on New Challenge
Pam Johnson, Senior Staff Writer

After 17 years of leadership and remarkable milestone moments, Doug Shaw will step down as Executive Director of Soundview YMCA at the end of April, to take on a new challenge, as president of the Ben Callahan Sports Complex project.

Soundview Y volunteers are planning a special evening thanking Shaw for his many years of dedicated service, set for Thursday May 2, 6 – 9 p.m. at Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club in Branford. Tickets to the event, which includes a buffet dinner and cash bar, are available now; for more information, call (203) 481-9622‎.

Soundview Y Board of Managers member Anita Catardi said it's difficult to put into words all that Shaw has done to help develop, build and grow Soundview Y. She noted his years of dedication to the success and important evolution of the Soundview Y began back when the organization was based in a small satellite office, offering off-site programs to shoreline residents. It continued and grew during years of fundraising and community support efforts which helped bring about the Y's premiere facility, constructed from the ground up and opened at 628 East Main St. in Branford nine years ago.

While he couldn't have predicted it, Shaw recently experienced another milestone first during his career with Soundview Y – his staff saved a life.

"We just saved a gentleman's life the other day," said Shaw, speaking with Zip06/The Sound on April 12. "He had a heart attack [during a workout] and we hooked up the AED machine and brought him back."

A Branford resident and past Shore Publishing Person of the Week, Shaw said the decision to leave Soundview Y has been difficult, but the time is right.

"It's always good for a new person to come in, with different eyes on the operation," said Shaw. "After 17 years, nine of them being in this building, I'm looking for my next challenge. And to become president of the Ben Callahan Sports Complex to honor the Callahan family, who mean a lot to my family – Ben was a super, super kid -- it just feels right."

The Ben Callahan Sports Complex project will open a sports complex on the shoreline in memory of a Branford resident and dedicated youth sports participant, 10-year-old Ben Callahan, who passed away due to a drowning incident in 2017. The tragedy brought immediate support for the family from the Branford community, and a shared understanding of the brief life of an exemplary young person; which continues to resonate.

The project, now in its early stages, was developed from conversations which began over a year ago between Shaw and Dave Callahan, Ben's dad. Earlier this year, the two partnered with others  interested bringing a sports complex to the area, said Shaw.

Now, " feels like it's the right time to get this sports complex built," said Shaw. "The reason I took this on now is that there's a group of us, and someone has to do this full-time. Someone needs to be negotiating [for] land, working with builders and developers, as well as getting ready to start raising some money to build this."

Once a location is set, more public information sharing plans and ways to support the effort will be forthcoming, said Shaw.

Soundview YMCA has been an important part of his life for nearly two decades, but he knows the organization will continue to thrive after he leaves because of its staff and memberships, Shaw added.

"Walking out on the 30th of this month is going to be a challenge," he said. "But the only reason I was successful is because I hired great staff. We have amazing people that have worked here. Even more important are the members."

Shaw said he'll especially miss hearing Soundview Y members sharing success stories.

"To hear people say, 'I've lost 25 pounds because I'm able to swim here; or from taking your classes,' I'm not going to hear those stories. I'm going to miss all of that," he said. "But the good news is, as I tell my staff – I'm going to be a member now!"

As a branch of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, Soundview Y draws members of all ages from towns across the shoreline including Branford, North Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Madison and many more.

The Soundview Y Board of Managers has started its search for a new executive director.

Asked if he had any advice for his successor, Shaw said, "...make sure you can multi-task! You have a great staff here, and great members. And remember what it's all about – it's  all about the members."