Just swimmingly: Y dinner raises funds for water safety

A photo booth provided the opportunity for some extra giggles and fun.

Thanks to the community mindedness of a couple of hundred people, more than 1,000 local and area children are going to be taught swimming and water safety in the coming year.

Members of the Greater Marco Family YMCA's swim team enjoy a photo in between welcoming guests to Hideaway Beach Club.

This was the bottom line to come out of the Greater Marco Family YMCA's annual gala dinner, a major fundraiser held recently at the Hideaway Beach Club.

Money and pledges flowed freely at the annual gala, which was this year dubbed "Diner en Blanc" and prompted most attendees to dress stylishly in white.  

The beneficiaries will indeed be some children from Marco, but more significantly from the Y's outreach program areas such as East Naples and Everglades City.

Many of their families can simply not afford extramural programs, so through grants and fundraisers such as this one, they are able to apply for subsidies.

Marco's charitable generosity is what you might call legendary, and new board president Ashley Lupo summed it up: "Without your support, the community would be poorer in every sense of the word," she said.

Cindy Love-Abounader, CEO of the Y, receives a welcome hug from former board president Jayme Lowe in recognition of Love's 25 years' service to the Y.

And, she added: "May we be mindful of our own blessings."

The Marco Y's commitment to water safety is ongoing, and the mission statement in this regard states that "teaching children how to be safe around water is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Drowning is the leading cause of death among young children in Collier County."

Further, the Y "is the largest provider of Safety Around Water programs in the U.S., (and) is uniquely positioned with the facilities, experience and expertise to successfully address this issue."

In addition, the 2019 Marco Y aquatics program will also cater to the adults who supervise the children from the various areas.

Jim and Allyson Richards enjoy the moment after a successful bid on one of the auction items.

During the evening, the Y's CEO, Cindy Love, had the tables neatly turned on her.

Normally dishing out thanks for community support, she picked up a standing ovation for being at the helm of the Y for the past 25 years.

Linda Cassens and Sue Itayem co-chaired the evening, with main event sponsors being SunTrust Private Wealth and Physicians Regional Healthcare system.

A happy group reflects the good cheer of the evening.

There is still time to give the gift of swim lessons.  Join the Y on Feb. 20-21 for “Give Where You Live Collier” to donate. All funds raised will be matched by the Community Foundation of Collier County and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation

“Our goal on Feb. 20 is to raise $125,000 to teach over 1,000 children in South Collier to swim and be safe around water.  This is something we can all get behind,” said Pamela Vickaryous, Director of Development for the Y.

For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at marcoymca, Instagram at ymcamarco, or on Facebook at marcoymca.