CEO Update: Summer Games that Inspire Our Work

 

Dear Y Community,

Today is National Nonprofit Day, and as we take the day to think about the work nonprofits do for our community, I wanted to share with you a Y program that doesn't always take the lead when we discuss the Y's impact.

Two weeks ago I finally had the chance to watch the sports and athletes I’ve been waiting all summer to see. I don’t mean the Olympics though; I’m talking about YMCA Youth Sports. Sports have always been an important piece of our youth development programming, but this year it is so thrilling to see kids discovering new sports, socializing with friends, and being active and healthy after a year of remote learning. We did many important COVID-19 relief programs this past year, but now our work turns to picking up the pieces and doing what we’ve always done to strengthen community.

The Y is a starting point for many kids to learn about active and developing healthy habits for a lifetime. And the benefits are far greater than just physical health. Through YMCA youth sports programs, kids gain self-confidence and build positive relationships while learning the value of teamwork and good sportsmanship. The opportunities that we create for kids are thanks to our community. From the donors who fund our Y-Assist program for financial assistance, the coaches who volunteer their time and passion to instruct children, and our dedicated staff including the referees who are often teens gaining their first work experience. Just as the world comes together to make the Olympics happen, our community comes together to make YMCA Youth Sports happen.

At the YMCA of Superior California, we believe that everyone - regardless of age, income, or background - should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Because, we believe that opportunity shouldn't be a privilege. Let’s again use the Olympics to put this into context. When we hear of the Olympics, many of us think of extensive training through governing bodies, elite academies, and sponsors; but there were stories from Tokyo this summer to the contrary. One of them included Brazilian Gold Medalist Surfer Italo Ferreira, who was first introduced to the sport not on a surfboard, but on the lid of a styrofoam cooler. Amazing things happen when opportunity and potential are brought together, and that’s why we need to arrange the meeting.

Many of us root for these athletes having never heard their names before, we do it simply because we share a national connection. But that admiration grows into a fever pitch when these degrees of separation become even closer. Many YMCA’s across the country are feeling that pride this summer:

  • In Boston they cheered for Molly Seidel, Women’s Marathon Bronze Medalist, and member of the Huntington Avenue YMCA. Her Olympic run was only her third ever marathon.
  • The values of sportsmanship instilled at the Harrison Family YMCA of North Carolina were celebrated worldwide as Men’s 800m Runner Isaiah Jewett, who grew up in that Y, helped a competitor reach the finish line after a race-ending fall.
  • A child named Allyson Felix turned to the Y in Los Angeles for after-school and sports grew up to become the most decorated U.S. Track & Field Olympian this summer, and through all of the years of training to collect 11 medals, she still finds the time to volunteer to support the Crenshaw Family YMCA.
  • The Y’s connection to this Olympic are so many, especially for the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA near San Diego, who cheered for Gold Medalist Relay Swimmer Michael Andrew, Women’s Skateboarder Bryce Ava Wettstein who started skating at the Y at age 5, and Para-triathlete Amy Dixon who trains at the Y in the pool and on treadmills and cycles. A single Y can have an impact on the lives of so many because of the diversity of programs available.

Our Y’s connection to the Olympics was long ago, 9-time Olympic Medalist Mark Spitz was first introduced to competitive swimming at the Sacramento YMCA when he was 6 years old. In 1967, future three-time Gold Medalist Swimmer Debbie Meyer broke the American women’s record in the 1,650-yard freestyle event at a meet in the Sacramento YMCA’s pool. These stories are from our past, but I’m confident will have an Olympic connection one day again with your support:

  • Either enroll or recommend our Youth Sports programs this Fall.
  • Volunteer to coach a sport so that we can serve every child who turns to us.
  • Make a gift to the YMCA to create opportunities for every child with a dream.

However, I want to emphasize that it’s not about medals, winning, or glory. The success of our Y will be measured across living rooms in different homes, as old friends text and call each other as they tune in to watch someone they competed with at the Y decades ago as kids, and share old Y stories. Those memories will strengthen the bonds of community for ages.

So as we celebrate National Nonprofit Day today, we celebrate you for supporting all of our programs,

Sharna Braucks

President & CEO

YMCA of Superior California