Most people know the Y as a place for “gym and swim,” and fostering healthy living is a core part of the Y’s mission. But the Y does much more than that in the community and for the community. Over the last year we’ve shared some of those stories of how the people at the Y — members and staff — go above and beyond to do everything from ensuring everyone has a place at the Y to fostering future Olympians to raising student performance in school. Here’s a look at some of those stories….and we look forward to bringing you even more in 2013!
1. Everyone belongs at the Y. If there’s one thing that defines the Y more than anything else, that’s it. From people with disabilities to seniors to single parents and everyone in between, the Y, through the Strong Kids Campaign, ensures everyone who could benefit can be a part of the Y. More than that, though, the welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff make people feel like valued members of the Y family.
2. The Y provides access to the arts to people who might not otherwise have a path discover their creative spark. The Detroit Creativity Project, supported by a group of successful Detroit-expatriate actors and comedians now mostly living in Los Angeles, has provided more than 100 high school students with improvisation classes taught by local professionals. Y-Arts instructors are prominent in their fields in addition to teaching kids the fundamentals of visual arts, hip-hop, acting and more. And the lobby gallery of the Boll Family YMCA provides a space for the community to see the work of well-respected artists in all media.
3. The Metro Youth YMCA, or MY-Y, encourages youth to achieve their dreams — and beyond. From showing them a path to college to actually driving them to out-of-state scholarship interviews, MY-Y impacts at-risk young people’s lives for the better.
4. More than 700 Detroit school kids learned to swim for free through the Detroit Swims program. African-American and Hispanic youth are at much higher risk of drowning than Caucasian children; teaching them to swim will reverse that tragic toll. The eventual goal is to have every child in the city of Detroit able to use basic survival skills in the water.
5. More than 800 girls learn life lessons through running with the Girls on The Run program. Not only do they develop themselves as runners — a physical activity they can enjoy for a lifetime — they learn lessons about self-esteem, peer pressure, and stress management, among other themes. One group even got a visit from the reigning Miss Michigan, Angela Venditti. The Girls on the Run philosophy is to teach girls to Honor Their Bodies, Celebrate their Voices, Embrace their Gifts and Activate Their Power.
6. Y staff believe in the mission; their work goes far beyond just a paycheck. Lifeguard Chelsea Cheek, a college student working two jobs, donates a substantial percent of her paycheck from lifeguard duty at the Macomb YMCA to the Strong Kids Campaign and has raised money through community events. Staff at South Oakland have donated time to teach classes, help with a Mom-To-Mom sale, and more to raise money for Strong Kids scholarships. And even the youngest members step up with creative ways to fundraise.
7. The Y encourages fathers to bond with their kids. The Adventure Guides program, which will be expanding to more branches in 2013, sends fathers and daughters off on adventures from ice skating to camping, creating bonds that last a lifetime.
9. Even people who never fit the fitness-enthusiast mold learn to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle at the Y. Alexis Sumner went from weighing 400 pounds to doing sprint triathlons, and new mom Dani Keith-Marchment finished her first 5K when she never thought that was possible thanks to the help of her trainer.
10. Providing quality education and improving skills is a key part of the Y’s impact. The Y runs two schools locally, Detroit Leadership Academy and Detroit Innovation Academy, both of which have received gorgeous playgrounds through the hard work of volunteers. And the Y’s summer program for at-risk students, Camp Phoenix, serves students’ entire families and has a measurable impact on academic performance.
11. Day camp at all branches provides children, from toddlers through teens, with a high-quality and fun experience, and parents with peace of mind that their children are in a safe, caring environment.
12. Middle-school age youth throughout the Detroit Metro Area learn about the importance of making smart decisions about sexual activity — and that staying abstinent is the healthiest choice for them — through the Y SWIFT (Sexual Wellness Information for Teens) program.
13. The Y launches future Olympians. Three-time Olympic medalist Peter Vanderkaay began swimming at the Y at age 7, and continues to give back through helping raise awareness of the Detroit Swims program.