The Chatham-Kent YMCA has some heavy lifting to do and is looking to the public for help.
The Y’s annual Strong Kids campaign is underway, with a goal this year of $110,000.
The campaign helps fund local YMCA programs that help better the lives of children and youth from families with financial barriers. Strong Kids helps give them access to recreation, healthy environments and good nutrition.
Jim Loyer, head of this year’s Strong Kids campaign, said the idea is to provide a hand up, not a hand out.
“We provide youth and families with the opportunity for enjoying our recreational, day care and summer camp programs in a supportive and positive environment,” he said. “More than 1,000 families rely on it (in Chatham-Kent).”
Raising funds for the program isn’t easy, given the various needs in C-K, but the community support is usually impressive.
“There are so many hands out for so many great causes,” Loyer said. “Chatham-Kent is an unbelievable place for all types of charities, including Super Kids.”
DeLano Collier is a single father with four children. He’s experienced firsthand the hand up from Strong Kids.
“Strong Kids allows me and my family to use the facility,” he said.
He and the kids have been using the Y since his oldest was nine; he’s now 16, and uses the basketball court every day.
But the boy isn’t alone.
“Every Friday, we come here for a swim and a movie,” Collier said. “It (the Y) keeps us together. There’s something for everyone.”
For Collier, it’s time to give back. He said he’s starting to volunteer at the Y, and his oldest son soon will be as well.
Chris Prince, community engagement co-ordinator with the Y, said the 2015 Strong Kids campaign raised nearly $87,000.
“This year, we’re trying to serve more people,” he said, adding the campaign is off to a solid start with $6,300 already raised.
The fundraising continues into May.
For Prince and Loyer, just coming into the YMCA provides its own rewards.
Loyer said simply walking into the facility and hearing the buzz of activity is payoff enough for his volunteering efforts.
“The hum in the background, of all the families enjoying themselves here, is like wrapping yourself up in grandma’s comforter – it’s so warm and welcoming.”
“The reason I love coming to work is we get to help everybody in the community,” Prince said. “We give people opportunities that aren’t readily available normally.”