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YMCA JOY campaign helps Calgarians access fitness, exercise, and well being programs

For so many Calgarians hard hit by the economic turmoil of the last year, the possibility of having a membership to the YMCA or even sending their children to a YMCA camp is seemingly out of reach.

With those Calgarians in mind, and those newcomers to the city in need, the YMCA launched their annual JOY campaign on Giving Tuesday.

The fundraising drive aims to provide financial support for children, youth, and adults to take part in the YMCA’s programming.

“Before Covid we did have a financial assistance program, and we’ve seen that grow a little bit since the pandemic because of inflation, and just people struggling a little bit more than ever,” said Jennifer Walker, Vice President of Philanthropy for YMCA Calgary.

“For us, it’s important to make sure that our doors are open for everyone, including those vulnerable individuals who just have limited financial means.”

Walker said that on Giving Tuesday, the charity was hoping to raise $50,000 from the community to go alongside $50,000 in matching funds, for $100,000 total. Throughout the holiday season, she said, they hope to raise as much as possible to help those in need.

“We’re hoping to raise as much as we can to make sure that people who want a YMCA experience, and who need it for their health and well being, have the opportunity at the end of this year and into 2023,” Walker said.

She said that as little as $25 sends a child to a day camp for a day, $100 lets a family of four have an unlimited membership for a month, and $500 is enough to send a child to Camp Chief Hector in the summer.

“Those are just some examples of different amounts of generosity that are just going to unlock and open doors for so many different people in our community,” Walker said.

Helping to spread the joy of fitness, exercise, and safety

Walker pointed out one of the very basic things that many Calgarians take for granted, like being able to go to a swimming pool, can sometimes be out of reach for low-income and vulnerable populations.

“Swimming is a basic need—kids need to know how to be safe around water, and be able to play outdoors near open water,” she said.

“These are critical programs that kids participate in, whether it is life saving skills like swimming, or group sports and basketball, and those team team opportunities to play, learn, grow problem solve, be with their peers, and have some fun.”

Among the other groups that the YMCA has helped, and continues to help are newcomers to Calgary.

Walker said that the Calgary YMCA has had a long lasting relationship with the Ukrainian YMCA, long before the latest headlines about the war in that nation.

“We have a really large population of YMCA members that are newcomers to Canada, whether it be Ukraine or other parts of the of the world, but for individuals who are coming from Ukraine, YMCA Calgary has been partners with YMCA Ukraine for over 15 years,” Walker said.

“We help them to establish themselves, and we’ve had partnership visits back and forth. We’ve had Ukrainian YMCA volunteers and staff here learning about how we run our programs and support community, and so this isn’t for us about something’s happened in the news.”

Valeriya Chernykh, an evacuee from Ukraine, was one of the recipients who was gifted a membership to the YMCA that helped her transition to Canada.

Today, she’s a Zumba teacher at the YMCA.

“Everyone has been helping my daughter and me, and everyone was extremely kind at my first Zumba class,” she said.

“Zumba is now more than a workout. It has helped me fight depression and grow a loving community for my family.”

Giving locations are available at all of the YMCA locations in the city throughout Nov. 29, and donations can be made online any time at www.ymcacalgary.org/raisejoywithus.