Blast from the Past: Meet Judge Colin O’Donnell,1979 Youth of the Year

If there was any doubt about how meaningful it is to earn the title of Youth of the Year and be a Club alum, one need only to ask Judge Colin O’DonnellColin joined Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club when he was seven years old. Since the age of seven, he immersed himself in every aspect of the Club: sportsCanadian Camp, and Camp Small Fry. He also took part in a number of community efforts.  Ultimately, his dedication

Colin receiving his Youth of the Year Award in 1979

 to the Club, his compassion for others, and his academic success earned him the title of New York State Youth of the Year in 1979 And while that may have seemed a capstone achievement at the time, it was just the beginning. Colin would go on to serve as a camp counselor, coach, and even join the Board of Directors in 1988 — a role he continues to play to this very day.  

Colin O’Donnell began his 52-year connection to Grenville Baker Boys Club when he received his welcome letter from Woody Lewis in 1969 at the age of seven.  New to Locust Valley and with two hard working immigrant parents, the Grenville Baker Boys Club became Colin’s second home.  There wasn’t one athletic or recreational activity that Colin wasn’t a part of — whether it was playing flag football, baseball, basketball, joining the bowling league, woodshop, rifle range or just playing games and socializing — Colin was determined to be a part of it all.    

For several years, Colin attended Camp Small Fry, the Boys’ Club day camp, where he was not only Camper of the Week but eventually a counselor.  He has fond memories of overnight trips to Gettysburg, Montauk and Tobay Beach where the campers slept under the stars.  He also went on to spend time as a Canadian Camper.  It was one of the greatest camping experiences he had as a teenager.  Under the ever-watchful eye of 

Executive Director, Woody Lewis and the rest of the counselors, Colin learned how to fish, do his own laundry and water ski on Holmes Lake. His experience at the Club’s camps was so positive that when he was eligible   — Colin became a Camp Small Fry Counselor and learned his first lesson in paying taxes — when Woody took FICA out of his $15 per week paycheck!  He was a counselor and summer employee for five years and became the Club’s and the Boys Club of America’s New York State Youth of the Year in 1979.   

Colin went on to Bucknell University on a partial Club scholarship — then Seton Hall law school and in 1988, during his first year in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, he was asked by Woody to join Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club’s Board of Directors.  He continued to remain active in the Club participating in the Alumni Association as president, coaching and refereeing baseball, soccer and basketball.  He also initiated the Teen Tour travel Camp and chaperoned ski and snowboard trips.   

Currently, Colin resides in Bayville and is an elected Judge of the Nassau County District Court.  Colin is the first Club member to be elected President of the Board of Directors. During his tenure he oversaw the successful building campaign and construction of the new gymnasium and the increase of the Club’s endowment portfolio. Having been active in all aspects of the Club’s activities and volunteer governance he feels that it is important to give back and provide opportunities to our communities’ youth.  

Today, Colin is an elected Judge of the Nassau County District Court

Colin’s Essay for his Youth of the Year application was reprinted in The Leader