Guest column: Why You should Give to the Y

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By Vicki Tracy

Naples

It turns out mom really does know best. My mother has been a long-time member and supporter of the Greater Naples YMCA, and for more reasons than one.

Until recently, I took the Y for granted. I appreciated the fact that we have a YMCA and supported its mission, vision and programming, and its dedication to build a stronger community. Like many of my friends, we just assumed it would always be there.

I became involved a few years ago, joining a group of my friends that were passionate about the YMCA. Seeing firsthand the organization’s dramatic turnaround under its new leadership made me want to get more involved. Under this new leadership and through pure resolve, the nonprofit reduced $11 million in debt to a manageable and sustainable $2 million.

Having served in many leadership roles ranging from small start-up companies to larger entrepreneurial endeavors, I was impressed by this demonstration of sheer will and perseverance and the board’s chairman and his forward-thinking vision. I became more active in the Y and volunteered to chair the 2013 Sneaker Ball, its major annual fundraising gala.

For 50 years, the Greater Naples Y has shaped the lives of our youngest to oldest residents by creating new friendships, fostering fitness and wellness, providing day care and community outreach, and building character through social responsibility.

Last September, lightning struck and fire damaged the building’s most heavily used facilities, including the gymnasium and fitness center. Our community immediately stepped in to help. Banks, businesses and individuals donated more than $1 million to help our YMCA rebuild. Schools, churches, hospital wellness centers and others opened their doors to provide temporary sites for our day care programs and fitness facilities for its 6,000 members.

As a long-time volunteer and passionate advocate for children and senior programs and a resident of Naples for more than 35 years, I was not surprised by the outpouring of support. I’ve seen this community overcome our toughest challenges.

This Greater Naples YMCA has taken its toughest challenge and turned it into a positive: the opportunity to build the YMCA of the future, one with expanded programs for children and adults and an even greater focus on community health and wellness. This next-generation Y will spring to life by December 2015, upon completion of the final two phases of our rebuilding and re-imagining project.

Can you imagine a Youth Development Center dedicated to exposing children to music, wellness, dance and martial arts, and demonstration kitchens that bring families together to learn healthy cooking techniques?

Just imagine the new two-story Healthy Living Center offering 24-hour fitness center access, a second gym, cafeteria and smoothie station, and a rooftop running track it’s sure to become the role model for any YMCA in the country.

This is our Greater Naples YMCA’s vision and its future. And we need your help more than ever.

The project will cost approximately $7 million, including $4 million from outside contributions.

Anyone can help no matter the budget or income. Become a member and enjoy the facility’s full suite of services and programs today. Did you know they provide corporate memberships and options for small businesses to promote a culture of wellness in the office? Also the Y has consistently served low-income families, offering scholarships and reduced fees for child care and outstanding after-school programs.

Attend or support our ninth annual Sneaker Ball on Friday at Seacrest Country Day School. Tickets are $150 each or $1,200 for a table for 10.

Leave your mark: Donations at certain levels earn naming rights for the Healthy Living Center, the Youth Development Center, rooftop training area and other spaces.

This project is the most ambitious undertaking in the Y’s 50-year history and will help strengthen our community and our families yours and mine.

For more information about the Greater Naples YMCA, visit www.greaternaplesymca.org or call 239-597-3148.

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