From The Enterprise: YMCA continuing to fundraise for a host of popular and new programs
By Amanda Irwin
Posted May 6, 2018 at 5:54 PM
Touch a Truck, which raises money for the Old Colony YMCA annual campaign, is May 20. The campaign supports several new and ongoing programs the YMCA offers.
Because of Old Colony YMCA’s ongoing annual campaign, cancer survivors, children with non-typical abilities — including those with autism, Asperger’s and severe anxiety — and children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds all have access to programs developed for their specific needs at no or little cost to them.
“The other thing the fundraisers help us do is just ensure that anyone that wants to be a part of the Y can be a part of the Y,” said Joe Leaver, Old Colony YMCA East Bridgewater branch executive director. “We obviously charge for membership and some of our programs have fees, but if you came in and you didn’t have the income or weren’t able to make the payments, then you can still come in. We use funds we raise through the campaign to offset those costs.
“In our mission statement, it actually says ‘regardless of ability to pay.’ So we try and get it out there,” he added.
The Y continually fund raises for its annual campaign, which supports these programs, and the next fundraising event is Touch a Truck on May 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Compass Medical, 1 Compass Way, East Bridgewater. The cost is $20 per family or carload or $5 per person with a $20 maximum.
East Bridgewater YMCA summer camp kicks off on June 18 and runs through Aug. 24 with week-by-week enrollment, which is ongoing. The day camp is one of four, with others in Plymouth, Middleboro and Stoughton.
“Each camp is a little bit different,” Leaver said. “Our camp is what we call the backyard camp. We’re outside behind (the Y). We have a ropes course, archery range, they’ll go swimming in our pool, they’ll do skits, activities, games, arts and crafts, science and nature, sports — all that fun stuff.”
The East Bridgewater YMCA camp costs $230 per week, but camperships are available and supported through the annual campaign. Last year, $115,000 worth of camperships were given to campers who otherwise were unable to afford it. Each camp’s costs may vary based on the activities offered.
“The nice part about our camp is we try and keep the cost as low as possible to be affordable. One of the good thing is transportation is included. We have bus routes all over. Our bus routes basically run from the Stoughton-Avon area to basically cover all the way down to Plymouth and as far over as Taunton and Rehoboth,” Leaver said.
Education-gap scholarships are issued with help from area schools for campers as well, and are also funded through the annual campaign.
“They have found over the course of a lot of research that kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds and families will actually regress in the summer from their learning,” Leaver said. “A kid with access to maybe going to a museum, going to summer camp or going on family excursions or reading books over the summer will stay or may gain just a little over the summer. Whereas the kid from low socioeconomic background that doesn’t have access to those things will actually regress just a little.”
Research indicates that by fifth grade, a child from a low socioeconomic background will have fallen two to three grade levels behind, according to Leaver.
“So we as an association have made a commitment to learning over the summer,” he said. “And so, we offer the surrounding towns in our service area 10 scholarships for four weeks of summer camp. So we give out 40 free weeks of camp to school systems who can identify kids who may be deemed at-risk of regressing over the summer. We’ve seen some great impact. Every year the school systems will look for us to continue that.”
“One of the big things we do here is the Y-ability program,” Leaver said. “What that is is for kids with non-typical abilities. That could be anything from Asperger’s, autism, any other special needs, social special needs, a kid who just doesn’t do well in big groups (or) a kid who might have severe anxiety. Primarily we service kids with autism in this program.”
The free program has three aspects: swimming, fitness, and music and drums.
“We’re teaching kids with autism and with non-typical abilities how to swim,” he said. “One of the leading causes of death in the United States for kids with autism is drowning.
“What we’ve found through research is that kids with autism have elopement risk — where they tend to wander and they wander away from parents. And the sensory of the water, they’re drawn to water. And they don’t do well with swim lessons because of the surroundings, the sounds and it’s very hard to find one-on-one swim lessons, so drowning becomes a major issue for kids with autism. So, we offer free swim lessons,” Leaver added.
Other programs for non-typical children are the Drum-ability program, which is a rhythm and dance class where they drum on medicine balls and dance, and a Fit-ability program, which is targeted toward teens and involves weightlifting, boxing and fitness.
The Livestrong program is reconvening in May and is a free 12-week program for cancer survivors that aims to meet physical and social needs.
“They’re referred to us by their doctor,” Leaver said. “They’ll do zumba class on Fridays. They’ll lift weights, jump in the pool, but then they’ll also have some social time where they get to kind of talk about what they’re going through, what it was like, what the recovery has been like, some of their struggles, some of their feelings.”
While YMCA is commonly known for its programs that engage children, families and older adults in physically healthier lifestyles, many — including the Old Colony branches — have extended beyond that to develop programs that meet the specialized needs of specific groups at little to no cost to the individuals participating. Though some programs receive partial funding from government programs or foundations, many work in conjunction with funding raised through the annual campaign.
“The big part about us is trying to be a community center,” he said. “If you come in here on a daily basis you’ll see all sorts of pockets of people from seniors, active older adults, families, kids, college kids,” Leaver said.
“If there’s a need in the community and there’s a gap we feel like we can fit, the Y wants to be that convener to sort of say, ‘Ok, how can we help?’ ”