Elijah’s Story

Elijah Shares his Darien YMCA story.

Darien YMCA member Elijah Trofort loves people and can often be found in the halls of the Darien YMCA, greeting and meeting friends, both new and old.

“He has such an infectious personality,” Youth Development Director John Novak said of Elijah. “He makes it a point when he walks into the building just to say hello to as many people as he possibly can.”

Elijah wasn’t always the outgoing, friendly 19-year-old he is today. According to his mother, Nataliya Trofort, Elijah became the personable young man he is, thanks to the Darien YMCA.

“He became a social butterfly and evolved socially because before he was very withdrawn, very in his own world, and the YMCA unlocked that social aspect, which was the most important for him,” Trofort said.

At age five, Elijah was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder that impacts people’s communication, learning and behavior. In school, Elijah had trouble connecting with the other students and was often a victim of bullying.

In fifth grade, after spending a few summers at a different camp that was no longer a good fit for him, Trofort enrolled Elijah at the Darien YMCA summer camp on a friend’s recommendation. That first summer was a success for Elijah as he made friends and blossomed socially. Elijah enjoyed camp so much that his mother decided to look into other possible programs at the Darien Y for Elijah.

“I learned more and more and more about programs. And the way the Darien YMCA really embraces the special needs population, and how they bring accommodations to their programs is just incredible,” Trofort said.

Elijah joined the Friday Nights social program at the Y, which is a program designed for teenagers to socialize in a safe and comfortable setting while maintaining self-sufficiency.  Elijah also participated in the Innovative Vocation program and the one-on-one swimming lessons, spending upwards of four days per week at the Darien Y.

“It's been really a blessing for the family,” Trofort said. “So, I didn't even sign him up for any other programs. I looked into different programs, but the Darien YMCA is amazing. Why go elsewhere?”

Elijah continued to spend each summer at the Darien Y camp and set his sights on transitioning from camper to counselor. To help Elijah prepare for a future counselor role, the Darien YMCA had him work as a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) for two summers. After two great summers as a CIT, learning new skills and stepping into greater responsibility, the Darien YMCA promoted Elijah in 2023 to Assistant Arts and Crafts Counselor at camp - a role they chose just for him.

“He really just loves the ability to work and relate with kids. He's a big cartoon guy. He loves his cartoons, he loves drawing,” Novak said. “So, we thought that the best position for him would be as our Assistant Arts and Crafts Counselor.”

Elijah rose to the occasion working in Arts and Crafts. He worked all six summer camp sessions and spent camp days connecting with fellow counselors and campers.

“He understood and just took off with it and hit the ground running, and really just started to come into his own as an employee and as a professional in this career,” Novak said of Elijah’s work as the Assistant Arts and Crafts Counselor.

9 years after his first summer at camp, Elijah continually returns to the Darien YMCA each week and has no plans to stop anytime soon.

“All this progress that Elijah made, it's just so much credit to the YMCA, like really analyzing and looking back, it’s what really helped him to be happy,” Trofort said. “He is emotionally more stable and always has a desire to be at the YMCA. He just feels so loved there.”

ELIJAH,