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Money will boost water safety, swimming programs

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Among its many and varied community outreach programs, the Greater Marco Island Family YMCA places special emphasis on teaching people how to swim.

As the Y motto goes: "Strong swimmers, confident kids."

Staging the programs involves costs, of course, and this year the Marco Y again will rely on a share of the money raised during a Feb. 20-21 drive known as Give Where You Live Collier.

The Marco Y is among 40 pre-selected non-profit agencies in the community that will benefit from the 24-hour fundraiser, which runs noon Feb. 20 to noon Feb. 21.

And, should the Marco Y (once again) excel at raising funds to meet the overall county goal of $4-million, it would be in line for a portion of  $500,000 in matching funds, as well as an extra $5,000 if its donor numbers swell above other non-profit donor numbers.

Bottom line for the Marco Y is that it hopes to net $125,000 for its swim, aquatic and water safety programs.

"We're very excited at the Marco Y for the 24-hour fundraising window. The Y's number one goal is to prevent drowning by providing safety around water programs and swim lessons. This is our fifth year involved with Give Where You live Collier," says the Y's Director of Development/Grants, Pamela Vickaryous, adding that donations must be dated Feb. 20 and can be pledged before the time. They will simply be credited into the window.

The Marco Y's Social media is a vital tool for promotion and awareness of the drive, Vickaryous says, while "peer to peer" fundraising is also in full swing - along with approaching Island businesses and corporations.

"We'll also be at the Farmers Market on Feb. 6 and 20 handing out pledge cards," Vickaryous says.

An awareness "open house" is also planned for Feb. 20 at the Y on Sandhill Street.

Aquatics director Morgan Joseph will oversee many of the water safety and swimming programs, which are set for the summer.

"I'm really excited because we'll be able to get more kids involved," Joseph says. "It's really important, because of where we live - there's water everywhere."

Joseph, who recently secured her position with the Y, is a former competitive Edinboro University, Penn. swimmer, instructor and qualified lifeguard.

The kids she mentions, incidentally, include not only youngsters from Marco, but also neighboring schools such as Manatee (elementary and middle), Parkside, Avalon and Everglades City.

Many of the off-island participants, Vickaryous says, will qualify for subsidies because they come from families with modest incomes.

The 5-year-old Give Where You Live Collier program is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Collier County and the Richard M. Schulze Foundation.

Vickaryous sums up the essence of the swim and water safety programs in a statistical context.

"We have 71 percent water around us, and children are 100 percent curious," she says.

Programs on general water safety and awareness are presented each summer by volunteers from the local U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary and the MIFD.

For more information on donating, visit givewhereyoulivecollier.org/organizations/the-greater-marco-family-ymca or call Vickaryous at 394-3144 x125, or at grants@marcoy.org. Executive assistant Mara Madera is also available at x113 or at execasst@marcoy.org.

The Y is also on Facebook (marcoymca), on Twitter (@MarcoYMCA and also Instagram at ymcamarco.

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