Best Friends forever

Pawtucket Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway, left, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michael Gwynn for the Paw Sox talk about Ryan's career at the annual Best Friends Campaign breakfast at the Highland Country Club in Attleboro on Friday. (Photo by John Ochiltree for The Sun Chronicle)

ATTLEBORO - The Attleboro YMCA launched its annual Best Friends Campaign with a kickoff breakfast at the Highland Country Club Friday morning, with nearly 160 people in attendance, including Pawtucket Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was one of the keynote speakers.

The goal for the 2012 campaign is $250,000, and to date, $135,000 worth of pledges and gifts have poured in, according to Y board Chairman Dennis Kelly.

The Best Friends Campaign funds the Y's financial assistance program, ensuring that everyone in the community has equal access to the Y's programs and services.

Major sponsors of the campaign include Deutsche Bank, Bristol County Savings Bank, Sensata Technologies and HarborOne Credit Union.

Attleboro YMCA CEO Robin McDonald was upbeat about this year's campaign.

"When you hear the stories of people impacted by the Y, it's a great reinforcement of what we do and why we do it," she said.

McDonald said the Y has been encouraging low-income families to afford membership as a result of a new sliding-scale payment policy. Started six months ago, it's worked, she said, as membership has since grown from 6,500 to 8,000.

Another speaker at the breakfast was 26-year-old Attleboro resident and lifelong Y member Army Sgt. Jerome Smith, who served tours of duty both Iraq and Afghanistan and is now mentoring children at the Y.

"I'm fortunate to have people like this around," he said.

Kelly reinforced the campaign's goal of "people helping people."

"This is about relationships, and how you make a difference in people's lives, and that's what we do for Best Friends."

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