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Friday, March 31, 2023

The Y – Strengthening communities for over 175 years


On June 6, 1844, George Williams and 11 other young men held a meeting in London that would lead to the founding of the YMCA. This month the YMCA marks 177 years as a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through programs and services designed to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For 177 years, the Y has worked to strengthen communities – creating the first group swim classes, spearheading the first English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and addressing chronic disease through programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Here are five past notable events and achievements that demonstrate the Y’s commitment to the communities it serves:

1. American Institutions: Celebrations such as Father’s Day, and organizations like the Peace Corps, all have their roots at the YMCA.

For nearly 100 years, Naperville has demonstrated its love for parades from Memorial Day through Labor Day. More recently, parades have been happening for St. Patrick’s Day and hometown holidays. And through the years, the YMCA has participated with entries to show its community spirit.

2. Summer Camp: The oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, first opened in 1885 and countless numbers of boys and girls have since learned the skills and wonders of camping through the Y, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.

3. Innovating & Inventing: From James Naismith’s invention of basketball to instructors creating racquetball and what would eventually become volleyball, the Y has a rich tradition in activities that are played by millions of people around the globe. One Y staffer, Robert J. Roberts, is credited with inventing the term “body building.”

4. A Nobel Peace Prizewinner: YMCA leader John R. Mott was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for the Y’s groundbreaking role in raising global awareness and support and for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.

5. Furthering Education: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

Back in 2006, community leader Frank Slocumb and Heritage Y President/CEO Tom Beerntsen kicked off the annual Strong Kids Campaign for the Heritage YMCA Group in Naperville. (PN File Photo)

The Y Today

As the effects of COVID-19 reached across our community, the YMCA realigned its programs and services to help meet the needs of the community. Today the Naperville YMCA is a vibrant organization engaging children, families and adults in programs that promote healthy mind, body and spirit for all. Youth are engaged in summer camps, sports and swimming lessons. We are looking forward toward the fall, and continued programming opportunities such as Before and After School Programs, Family Programs, Youth and Adult Swimming Programs, and more. To find out what is happening at your Naperville YMCA call us at (630) 604-9595.

A lot has changed since George Williams and 11 other young men gathered in London in 1844, but the heart of the Y’s work remains the same. We’re one of the oldest nonprofits in the United States and rely on members and donors to continue our work. Thank you for your continued support!

Erika Wood
Erika Woodhttp://www.ymcachicago.org/pages/safe-n-sound-staff
Erika Wood is the Executive Director of the YMCA Safe ‘n Sound. Contact her at ewood@ymcachicago.org.