But finding just the right permanent home for the youth center continued to be a hard and grueling journey.
In 1999, Merrimack College proposed construction of a building on its campus near the YMCA, but that never moved forward.
Then in July 2000, the Andover Youth Foundation suggested that land behind Chandler Fire Station in West Andover be used. Selectmen launched fundraisers in hopes of paying for the $2.3 million youth facility. But while the site won Town Meeting approval, the project was unfortunately halted due to the site’s proximity to wetlands and other environmental issues. Plus, many Andover residents thought the location was too far removed from the downtown and most of the town’s schools.
In 2007, the town finally approved a site behind Doherty Middle School, with the final vote to build the $4.2 million Cormier Youth Center coming in 2011.
On Feb. 6, 2012, the Andover Youth Foundation presented the Board of Selectmen with a check for $400,000 to begin the architectural work and design of the new building.
After years of annual telethons — during which Andover youths would get up and show off their stuff and the ever-devoted Fahey even once allowed his hair to be cut for the cause — the optimistic AYS dubbed “The Finish Line” as the theme of its last telethon in March. Youth leaders knew they were close to their end goal.
The hope is to begin construction of the center in August. Although it is too late for many of us to actively use the teen center, our eyes are on the youths to come. While it is bittersweet knowing that we have missed our chance, it is heartening to see the hopeful faces of tomorrow benefiting from the hard work of our entire community as it has pulled together to accomplish what has been our sweet dream for many years.
Rachel Christ is a senior at Andover High School and a volunteer at the Andover Historical Society.