Estate of City Native Creates Scholarship for New Haven YMCA Youth Center

Thomas Smolack’s legacy gives local children the opportunity to experience the place that nurtured him.

New Haven, CT (June 29, 2023) – If you were looking for Thomas Smolack when he was a kid, he’d be down at the New Haven YMCA. Each day after school and through the hot months of summer, he would be working out and spending time with his buddies. Everybody was from around the neighborhood.

Thomas Smolack
Thomas Smolack was known as the "godfather of the gym," as an adult in Roswell, Georgia. He became interested in fitness as a boy going to the New Haven YMCA.

Working out at the gym remained a central part of Smolack’s life throughout his adulthood, and he never forgot the place where he first learned about the importance of fitness and where he met his first close friends.

A new generation of local children will have a similar opportunity to experience growing up at the Y, thanks to the Thomas Smolack Scholarship Foundation Fund, established by Smolack’s estate at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The fund will pay for financial assistance, including free memberships to the New Haven YMCA Youth Center.

“He loved the Y,” said his friend Jeffrey “J.” Prothero, who met Smolack at a gym they both went to as adults in Georgia. “They called him the godfather of the gym because he’d work out two or even three times a day!” Prothero added. “The gym was his whole life. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and never married. He was a bodybuilder, and he worked every day doing his conditioning, lifting weights and swimming.”

Prothero eventually served as Smolack’s trustee after Smolack was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He loved the Y.

Jeffrey “J.” Prothero / Friend and Estate Trustee

“I said to him, `Tom, what if you were to use your assets to give some of the kids memberships to the Y, kids who can’t afford it? You could get them off the street with a fund that would last forever. What if you could provide that?’”

“And he said, `Boy - wouldn’t that be something,’” J. recalled. “It was the most excited I’d ever seen him.”

Through Prothero, Smolack made arrangements with The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to create the scholarship fund.

“The call came out of the blue,” David Stevenson, President and CEO of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA said.

YMCA Youth Center
The YMCA Youth Center is open to all young people.

“J. called me and said they wanted to start a fund to get kids in New Haven, particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to pay for a membership involved in the New Haven YMCA Youth Center, a branch of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA. Of course, we loved that idea.”

Read the complete fund story here.

Click here for information about memberships to the New Haven YMCA youth Center or contact District Executive Director Erin Kelly at 203-776-9622.

About The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s mission is to inspire, support, inform, listen to and collaborate with the people and organizations of Greater New Haven to build an ever more connected, inclusive, equitable and philanthropic community. Established in 1928, The Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the U.S and has been built by donors supporting a broad variety of issues and organizations. As the permanent charitable endowment for 20 towns in Greater New Haven, The Foundation is implementing a 5-year strategic plan to expanding opportunity and equity in our region. Stepping Forward, a commitment addressing the impact of COVID-19 and advancing racial equity is also in place through 2023. For more information about The Foundation visit or follow @cfgnh on facebook and twitter.