GRAVENHURST - Now through its first full year since opening in late December 2011, the Gravenhurst YMCA exercise and aquatic facility reached its 2,000th member last week, then promptly raced up even further.
Gravenhurst YMCA general manager Tara Gregor said it’s been an exciting inaugural year of growth for the facility, which seems to be the destination of choice for many exercising Muskokans. When the exercise facility opened in late December, the Y had already signed up around 1,000 members and that reached the 2,000 mark on Jan. 10. Gregor said within days of signing up the 2,000th, they had already added another 30 or more.
“My Y allows people to reach their full potential; that’s really what we’re driving forward as we move to engage our youth,” she said, adding for many of the members, the Y “is like family.”
Breaking down those membership numbers, Gregor said there are 353 young children, 137 youth in the preteen or young teen ages, 50 students, about 800 adults and 366 seniors. She added that the Y provides financial support to almost 300 members who otherwise would not be able to afford membership.
She explained about 74 per cent of the clientele come from Gravenhurst and surrounding area, 22 per cent from a little further afield like Bracebridge, Torrance or Kilworthy and the other approximately four per cent is made up of the more transitional members, like cottagers or people passing through town.
Since opening, Gregor said the YMCA has added several new pieces of equipment and classes including a new aqua-fit class starting up in January, workshops for members, new youth programs like the Junior Lifeguard Program, and a preschool swim program.
She said when the Y opened there was a small handful of youth volunteers that has blossomed into a strong core of 12 youth volunteers, 10 of whom were sent to an annual YMCA youth volunteer retreat back in November of 2012. She said in the next six months a youth advisory committee will be created to draw on the ideas of those younger minds.
“We want to really start to look at programming to engage that age group but to also empower that group to give back to the community,” Gregor said.
In total, Gregor said there are some 29 volunteers helping with operations at the Y and full-time staff has been increased from the original five to eight and there are now approximately 30 part-time employees.
Now through its first full year, Gregor said a five-year strategic plan to continue “growing a strong Y” is being developed. She said the key of that plan will be to further engage local youth in fitness and healthy lifestyles, break down barriers to fitness for seniors and engage the populace as a whole to build a healthy community.
In the more immediate future, the YMCA will be holding a launch event to kick off a Strong Kids Campaign on Feb. 16 while during the Feb. 18 Family Day holiday, the facility will be open for all to tour and use for free. For more information about the local YMCA and its programs, check out the website at ymcaofsimcoemuskoka.ca.