Your local YMCA has reached an important milestone by turning 169 years old. And, because this longstanding community organization is always looking forward, the Y is devoting the entire year to celebrating the well-being of the communities it serves — as well as giving families a nice little incentive to increase their daily exercise through the Y 170 Challenge.
Established in 1852, the YMCA is likely the oldest charitable organization in the city, says Helene Weir, President and CEO of YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. “We are the second YMCA association in the U.S., younger than Boston by just one year,” she says. “Detroit really was groundbreaking in bringing the Y to the community and talking about the real need for the Y at that time.”
In her roles at many Ys across North America over the past 38 years, Weir has recognized the value each YMCA brings to its home community. “In metropolitan Detroit, our Y has a focus on health and wellness, which is critical,” she says. “From the early days of the pandemic, we saw the health disparities and we are committed to promoting wellness. We recognize how important it is to look after each other, and look after those in our families and our community. What do you have if you don’t have your health?”
As a charitable organization, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit is open to all, even if affordability is out of reach. “If you can’t afford to be a member at the Y, we raise money for everyone to have the opportunity to join us, particularly children,” Weir says.
At Y facilities
While many people consider the Y a great place to workout, it’s also a community organization that reaches deep into the community to help individuals — especially children and families — build the skills necessary to live a successful life. Through many active partnerships with organizations and other community services, the YMCA changes lives.
These are some of the stories we don’t always hear about the value of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, but that have made a difference within the broader community.
Through a partnership with Detroit Swims, the YMCA helps reduce drowning, the second leading cause of death of kids ages 1 to 14. This vital program introduces urban children who lack access to swimming pools to potentially lifesaving water safety skills they’ll have for a lifetime.
In the past decade, more than 10,000 children have gained access to quality early childhood education through the YMCA’s child development center and free preschool programming. For kids in high school getting ready to go out into the workforce, the YMCA’s Youth in Government introduces kids to the legislative and judicial process, while the Achievers program helps students prepare for postsecondary education through test prep and skill building. Through a partnership with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, kids can gain valuable work experience, and the Y’s STEM program introduces K-8 students to skills that are in demand for Michigan’s future workforce.
For more than a century, residential camp programs at Camp Ohiyesa and Camp Nissokone have provided kids with valuable growth experiences while giving them the chance to make lifelong connections with peers and mentors. Day camp programs allow kids to have unique experiences to blend fun with academics in a format that is accessible and close to home.
In the community, too
“YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit is about all of these different types of programming, but not just in the facilities in our locations and our two camps, but in how we take programming out into the communities,” Weir says. “Our mobile sports program brings activities into communities where there aren’t any recreational facilities, and that’s funded in part by the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation.”
During a time of acute need heightened by the pandemic, the YMCA created a food program to provide families and children with nutritious meals. “These are the things we do that people don’t see. We will work hard as we head toward 170 years to do a better job of telling people about all of the ways we impact our communities,” she adds.
Since 1852, the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit has grown and changed to become more inclusive, welcoming people of all ages, faiths, backgrounds and genders. “The best way to celebrate the Y’s 170 years is to help us encourage the community to get active and be healthy,” Weir says. “What better way to say happy birthday to the YMCA than to improve your personal health?”
Get your family started on your own celebration of 170 years with the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit by taking part in the Y 170 Challenge. A program designed to help all of us move more and sit less, the Y 170 Challenge gives families the chance to log 170 minutes of movement weekly — that’s just 20 minutes more than the recommended 30 minutes, five days a week for good health.
Download the Y Detroit app on your Android or iPhone device and start logging your movement for a chance to win prizes each month, including free Y memberships and plenty of Y swag. You don’t have to be a Y member to participate, but of course, you are welcome to join your local YMCA branch.
The Y 170 Challenge formally launches on November 1, 2021, but you can get started any time.
Learn more about the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and the Y 170 Challenge at ymcadetroit.org.