Montclair Outdoorsman Honored for Leadership at Metro YMCA

By: News and blog | Thursday, May 2, 2019 | Volunteering

Bill Ruhl at the National Winter Activity Center

Destiny played a big part in Bill Ruhl becoming a leader at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.

Ruhl discovered the Fairview Lake YMCA Camps in 2010 while seeking a sleepaway camp for his son that offered sailing. The place — 71 miles from New York’s Harlem YMCA where Ruhl served on the advisory board — quickly became a favorite for the outdoorsy family.

Fast-forward several years, and the head of the YMCA of Greater New York, the largest YMCA in the U.S., urged Ruhl to take the next step in nonprofit leadership. Ruhl, then a director at Verizon, joined the Metro YMCA’s board of directors in 2015 and hit the ground running.

Ruhl organized Verizon service projects, identified potential donors, recruited board members, and facilitated the launch of the YMCA’s Learn to Ski program by partnering with the National Winter Activity Center (where he is now director of the Elev8/Learn Program). In 2018, Ruhl led a 20-member team that over seven months created a strategic plan to guide the association and its seven branches for the next three years.

“If I had to describe Bill with one word, it would be energy!” Metro YMCA President and CEO Richard K. Gorab said. “Bill does not stop moving, he does not stop thinking, and he does not stop advocating for our Y.” Ruhl received the 2018 Kenneth A. DeGhetto Philanthropic Ambassador Award at the association’s annual dinner held April 11 at the Hanover Marriott in East Hanover.  

Ruhl said he teared up when told he would receive the award, created in memory of DeGhetto, a longtime Metro YMCA director who died in 2016 at age 92. A World War II veteran and retired chairman of the global corporation Foster Wheeler, DeGhetto gave generously of his time and resources to champion the Metro YMCA’s mission of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

“To be honored in the name of someone you respected so much is pretty powerful,” Ruhl said. DeGhetto mentored Ruhl when he joined the board.“Ken just started dispensing wisdom. He urged me to really get involved, and told me ‘it’s going to be so rewarding for you.’ ”

Ruhl took DeGhetto’s advice. He visited the branches, attended numerous events, and spoke to more than 120 people to understand the breadth of Metro YMCA programs and how they impacts people’s lives. 

As a boy living in a suburb of Albany, New York, Ruhl learned to swim at a YMCA and attended a YMCA summer camp. He lived several years of his childhood in the Catskills, spending lots of time in the woods. When the family returned to the Albany suburbs, Ruhl became an environmental science camp counselor and worked as a ski patroller in winter.

“My parents were very into the outdoors,” Ruhl said, explaining how he became an enthusiast of camping and hiking, water sports like sailing, windsurfing and kayaking, and cycling and cross-country skiing. He has biked the 58.3 miles from his Montclair home up the hills of Sussex County to Fairview Lake YMCA in Stillwater Township.

When his son, Ryan, was young, Ruhl brought together a group of dads and sons to participate in the Adventure Guides program at the Montclair YMCA. He and his daughter, Payson, had been in a similar program, enjoying weekend camping outings.

It wasn’t surprising that after retiring from a 30-year career in the telecom industry, Ruhl transitioned from his position on the board of directors at the nonprofit National Winter Activity Center to leading its Elev8/Learn program. The program instills a love of winter sports in children and has grown from 80 children to over 2,100 in the five years Ruhl has been involved. 

Ruhl holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in engineering, and an MBA. He and his wife, Kim, a dermatologist, met as undergraduates at Dartmouth College. The Montclair couple continues to volunteer at Fairview Lake YMCA during camper intakes.

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