Family, friends, coworkers and Boys and Girls Club protégés of the late Roland Carito convened at the group’s Partition Street clubhouse on June 1, over a year since his death last April 15 after a long-standing illness.
At the memorial, the Roland Carito Achievement Award, a scholarship in the works for a member of next year’s Saugerties High graduating class, was announced by organization CEO Joe Fay. “He could turn any situation into a teachable moment,” Fay, one of the event’s speakers, remembered about Carito. “He had all the skills to be the next executive director.”
Carito would have been 42 on June 6. Born in Mount Kisco, the New York native attended school at Taconic Hills, graduated from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass., and later attended the University of New Hampshire. He dedicated his life to helping at-risk teens, previously working at other similar programs before settling into his Saugerties position and living in Glenmont. He coached the club basketball team, and was a member of the Saugerties Kiwanis Club, the Ulster County Workforce Investment Board youth council, the Esopus Creek Conservatory and the Community Development Partnership.
The group celebrated his decade of service with the club through the exchange of memories, many of which were recounted by children who had since left Saugerties to attend college. A plaque in his name presented to Carito’s wife and children reads, “Those that touch our lives stay in our hearts forever.”
“This means a whole lot to our family. The kids can always come back and remember their father and the work that he did,” said Carito’s bereaved wife Charlotte. “He impacted everyone he touched. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to know him.”
Teens recalled using the M&M Game, a sort of talking stick mechanism favored by Carito that uses the color of chosen candies to establish talking order. They recalled lessons and impressions from their mentor. One said that Carito had taught him self-confidence. Another remembered tips Carito gave him in playing playing pickup basketball.
Juan Dejesus, who has a limp caused by a form of cerebral palsy, said he was “pretty angry” when he first came to the club around the time that Carito became director in 2007. “I could never really get over having a bad leg, and Roland took me under his wing and showed me that having bad legs didn’t define who I was and almost made it better — they give me better characteristics. When I first came to Boys and Girls Club, I wasn’t even allowed to play gym in school. He let me play in the gym after school, he never held me back on anything,” recalled Dejesus. “[When we went camping] he made sure I did the five-mile hike, whether it took six hours or three hours. Then we went swimming afterward.”
Dejesus went on to receive the club’s Youth of the Year award in 2012. He was one of a dozen grown-up club members, examples of Carito’s influence, who were in attendance.
“I make it part of my work to continue his work and what we’d planned to do,” said his successor, AnnChris Warren, hired by Carito in 2013. “We’d talked about it quite a bit, Any teen that had been within the organization who had done direct programming with Roland lost a parent.”