Growing up, Richard Wasserman remembers spending his summer vacation at his local Y summer camp. He was born and raised on the Upper West Side; he now works as a diamond dealer and jewelry designer on East 47th street.
His show room is located in the heart of the diamond district, and he has been designing breath-taking pieces for almost 20 years. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife Eve, and their 4 children. Wasserman has always tried to give back to various charities in both New York and New Jersey for years and tries to instill a sense of generosity to his children.
"I have had a very blessed life, my family and I share a beautiful home in the suburbs, and I have felt very lucky throughout my entire life," he said. "I always try to give back, it is important to me." Last summer he found himself in a position to truly live up to that, and learned what it really means to give back.
On his walk to work every morning, he noticed a little girl sitting outside in the heat right outside the entrance to his office. Her mother was handing out flyers for a business nearby, and brought her daughter to work everyday because she couldn't afford another option.
He was stricken with guilt knowing the heat was almost unbearable during his walk, and couldn't imagine sitting in the humidity like that all day. "Julia would sit reading or coloring on the sidewalk beside her mother, literally spending her summer on the streets of New York," he explained.
"I remember thinking what is this beautiful little girl doing sitting here like this. One day it had to be 90 degrees outside, and I just couldn't walk past her anymore," he described. "After speaking with her mother I learned that they had absolutely no money, and she told me she didn't want to leave her little girl at home alone."
From that moment he knew he had to figure something out for this hardworking mother and daughter. He remembered the fun he had attending summer camp at the Y on the Upper West Side as a child, and he knew the Vanderbilt YMCA was only a few blocks from his office.
Wanting to help he called up the Vanderbilt Y located on 47th street, here he connected with their Fund Development and Communications Director Mary Park. Since Wasserman was calling in June, all the camps were completely full and there was no more money to fund another camper.
However, the staff at the Vanderbilt Y was very touched by Julia's story so they made room for her to attend their summer camp. Wasserman helped her fill out the application, and she started attending their soccer camp a week later.
"During the middle of the summer I hear a buzz at my office door. We have cameras everywhere for security, and we can see everything. Someone kept buzzing the doorbell and knocking on my door, but I couldn't see anyone out there," he told us. Completely confused he answered the door and realized that it was Julia; she was too small to be seen by the cameras. She had paid him a visit to tell him all about her time at camp. "She had such a beautiful summer playing at their soccer camp, and the Y absolutely loved her."
Wasserman has donated to charities in the past, but couldn't believe how amazing it felt to help someone so directly. Inspired by Julia's story, he has now partnered with the Y again this summer to help send 10 underprivileged children to camp.
"The value of the Y that I experienced, first in my own childhood and again this past summer has truly inspired me," he said. "Seeing Julia transform into a Y Camper has motivated me to help more children like her; children I don't know yet or may never know."