5 Ways the YMCA Changes Lives

Feb 19, 2018, 14:20 PM by Andra Coberly

You walk into the gym each day, smile at the fella behind the front desk, slip on your head phones and you get to work. You sweat, you get your heart rate up, you feel good.

And then you leave.

As a Y member, you rely on your fitness facility to keep you strong, fit and balanced. It's you time, right? 

But you may not realize that the Y is a nonprofit… that thousands of people rely on the YMCA of Boulder Valley for something more than a workout… that the Y is vital to local families, seniors and little bitty adorable children. 

Thank you sign from Head Start students

Take for example, our preschool in Longmont. More than two-thirds of those kids are only able to attend because we provide them with financial assistance. Without that support, parents would have no option for childcare, and without that care, they would simply not be able to work or to feed their children and pay the bills without government support.

The situation is similar in our after-school programs and summer camps. In fact, in some of our sites, the need for financial assistance reaches 90 percent. These are kids who have no other place to go, and parents who are desperate for help.

The Y is their safety net.

But childcare is just the beginning. Here are four other ways the YMCA of Boulder Valley changes lives, supports those most in need and challenges your perception of your gym:

1. Feeding Low-Income Kids

One in 7 children in Boulder County goes to bed hungry each night. That's why the YMCA of Boulder Valley has partnered with Boulder Valley School District and Community Food Share for BVSD No Student Hungry: A Weekend Nutrition Bag Program, which offers bags full of shelf-stable, whole, unprocessed food and fresh fruits and vegetables for high-need students to take home over the weekend and extended breaks, free of charge.

BVSD, Community Food Share and the Y are now sending an average of 543 bags of food home every week. And the program is expected to expand.
Weekend Nutrition Bag Program

“People know they can depend on the Y and know that the Y is going to be there to kind of take it that next step further,” says Laura Smith, Programs and Grants Coordinator for The School Food Project in BVSD. 

2. Teaching Children to Swim — And Saving Lives

It began as a dream: Boulder County Head Start had lost several children due to drowning, and the Y offered to help, for free, using staff and volunteers

That was the beginning of YMCA of Boulder Valley's Safety Around Water Program and our partnership with Head Start. That was 2013. Since then, more than 600 children have taken free water safety lessons through the Y. Many of the children in the program have never had swim lessons before and a few have never been in a swimming pool, making the program an invaluable resource for these kids and their parents.

The Safety Around Water Program is about far more than being safe. It’s about providing children new opportunities for growth and development. It’s about children staying active and healthy. It’s about gaining the confidence that comes from accomplishing new skills.

3. Supporting Adults With Chronic & Degenerative Diseases

There are little pockets of community at the Y. Not just friends who grab coffee after class. Not just swim teams or hockey leagues. There are people who find connection, understanding and emotional uplift in the rooms of our YMCAs — while also getting the expertise that allows them to prevent and heal from disease. 

We've seen our Parkinson's and MS Foundations Classes, with the help of Gary Sobol, transform from a class of six to a loving, lively community of people who use movement and exercise to combat the deficits that come with Parkinson's and MS. In fact, the class has spread across the country, impacting thousands. 

LIVESTRONG at the Y is more than a fitness class. It's a transformative experience that helps people recovering from cancer, treatments and surgeries gain strength, boost endurance and heal from the emotional and physical trauma of the disease. Participants form strong bonds that last far beyond the length of the class.
Livestrong supports cancer survivors at the Y

And there is more: YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, EnhanceFitness for those with arthritis, Healthy Weight & Your Child, etc.

4. Financial Assistance For Membership

The largest amount of financial assistance we provide is for membership. That means that 1 in 3 of your fellow members receive a scholarship. Yes, that's 1 in 3 of the smiling ladies in your Zumba class and 1 in 3 of the giggling kids playing in the pool.

In many of these cases, it's because of a job loss or an illness, a divorce or a major life event that makes that monthly payment just too much. In other cases, it's individuals who are struggling to make ends meet but who still need community, wellness support and a positive place to thrive (and don't we all deserve that?).

We recently gave a membership to a family through Voices For Children CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), which provides trained, court-appointed volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Boulder County. The mother who received the membership is working hard to recover from substance abuse, attempting to change her behavior and trying to teach her kids a healthy lifestyle. The Y has been integral in this process. She recently became emotional telling her drug court magistrate how much it meant to her to be able to take her kids to swim at the Y and create happy memories over the weekend. They go to school on Monday thinking of fun at the Y, not of the challenges their mother is facing.

The Y is full of people who are overcoming, finding strength and healing — and we thrive because of it.

So, you ask, what's this got to do with you? You are just a member. You are just the guy who runs on the treadmill three days a week for 45 minutes. You are just the woman in the back row of the yoga class.

I'd challenge you to rethink your relationship with your gym. You are a part of a cause. You are a part of all the good things we do here. Just being a member of the Y means you contribute toward our mission and values and programs.

But remember: Your membership is what you do for you, and your donation is what you do for others. Give what you can when you can to make a difference in the lives of the person next to you on the treadmill or the little bitty adorable girl playing in Child Watch. Give for the kids who need enrichment and the parents who need childcare. Give for the woman who has fought two bouts of cancer in two years. Give to save lives and to fill hungry bellies.


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