YMCA leader chosen as ‘Person of the Year’

December 29, 2018

The tall guy with the ever-present smile at the Norfolk Family YMCA is hard to miss.

Just about anyone who grew up in Norfolk in the past 35 years knows him, especially if they spent any time at the Y.

Randy Hagedorn, the YMCA’s executive director, has been a familiar friendly face to thousands over the years. And he has been especially visible during the past four years as the Norfolk Family YMCA engaged in a $13.7 million fundraising campaign for the 106,000-square-foot addition that began to be constructed last spring. Hopes are to surpass that amount in the next few weeks in order to build up some reserve funds set aside for future maintenance.

To raise that much money in a community the size of Norfolk has been a huge undertaking. And to keep operations at the YMCA going smoothly while the expansion and renovation takes place is no easy task, either.

It’s for those reasons that Hagedorn has been selected as the 2018 Norfolk Area Person of the Year.

Sponsored by the Daily News and Elkhorn Valley Bank of Norfolk, the recognition program honors an individual who has made Norfolk and area a better place to live and work, especially in the past 12 months. Hagedorn follows on the heels of previous honorees Dirk Petersen, Sue Fuchtman and Emily Afrank.

Hagedorn, who grew up on a farm outside of West Point, said he feels humbled.

“I could go on and on for days to thank all the volunteers and businesses who have made this possible,” Hagedorn said. “It’s them. I’m getting the credit, but it is them who deserve it.”

Hagedorn said he is truly appreciative of his family, the YMCA staff, his board of directors and all the donors.

“God has been great to me,” he said.

Jared Faltys, who with Aaron Otten served as co-chairmen of the capital campaign, and Jim Bradford Jr., who was an honorary chairman, recognize Hagedorn’s importance in the community.

Faltys said the idea of a field house and other things that would be needed to meet the community’s recreational needs was discussed for years. That included a study that put some financial figures behind it.

“Then everybody got sticker shock and the study went on the shelf,” Faltys said. “So eventually Aaron Otten and I got together and said, ‘This community still needs it.’ ”

A more reasonable proposal was generated and sites were considered, Faltys said. Initially, the site near the YMCA tennis center was considered before eventually coming to the conclusion that it would be best next to the existing main YMCA location in the northeast part of town.

“As soon as I called Randy, he immediately said, ‘We’re in. That makes total sense.’ And we started having meetings right away and have been for about three or four years,” Faltys said.

Working with Hagedorn and the YMCA board, it quickly became apparent how important the Y is to the community, especially compared to other cities.

“In many other similar-sized communities, the cities take on the recreation. Here, the Y is the recreation,” Faltys said, “which is unique for the rest of the state.”

Faltys said he and Otten also learned something else with the capital fundraising.

“Going out to the community, number one, make sure it is for an organization that is well deserving. Number two, when we asked money from businesses, they were receptive to giving to the YMCA because of the long-standing relationship the YMCA has developed. That is because of the leadership of Randy. It was an easy ask,” Faltys said. “There was still the part about getting organized and getting teams put together, but you could tell there was support (as evidenced by the amount) raised. If I ever get asked to do another fundraiser again, I would want to make sure who I’m doing it for has as a good reputation because it made it a lot easier.”

Two board members have also put a lot of time in the campaign, Doug Burkink and Dennis Montgomery.

Hagedorn and his wife, Patti, have a daughter, Bre, who played college basketball at Doane and now teaches at a middle school and coaches at Lincoln Southeast.

The Hagedorns’ son, Tyler, plays basketball at South Dakota but is taking a medical redshirt this year because of an injury. Their other son, Matt, plays basketball at Doane University in Crete.

Among the nomination letters for Hagedorn was one from Bre, who noted that she observed her father’s dedication to work and the community while growing up. Among the groups he has belonged are the Norfolk Optimists, Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and Youth Sports Committee.

More importantly, he has a big concern for children, she said.

“If you have ever spent any amount of time with him, I am sure you have witnessed his love for kids,” she said. “He does what he does for the kids of Norfolk. Randy puts in countless hours to make the community the best that it can be. His impact on the community is not something that can be summed up in just 12 months. His impact started decades ago.”

Keeping the day-to-day operations at the YMCA running smoothly is the main focus of his work. But along came the expansion project and fundraising.

“It’s been a whirlwind the last four years,” Hagedorn said. “We have a lot going on.”

Daily operations include youth sports, group exercise classes, swimming, senior activities, maintaining all the equipment for heavy daily usage, member and staff issues that crop up and keeping everything well maintained and ready for member use.

“I have a great staff,” Hagedorn said. “I am very blessed to have such a great staff from my associate director to my maintenance people to my program people to my fitness instructors. Everybody seems to get along. It’s just a good team and a good family.”

The YMCA serves a major role in the community. It helps thousands of people to keep people fit and healthy. It also provides an affordable place for people to work out or entertain children with fitness activities. And it brings people into the community for such things as youth sports leagues, tournaments, races and competitions.

The expansion under way includes upgrading the existing addition, as well as making it handicapped accessible.

Hagedorn’s other volunteer work includes helping at state golf, officiating youth games and serving on various civic groups.

There’s rarely a weekend off, especially during the basketball season when he tries to watch as many of his children’s games as he can.

“It’s been a hectic four years. Before that, there was also high school basketball mixed in there,” he said, “but it’s all been great. I feel truly blessed.”

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