Commentary: The community is welcome at the YMCA

Mark Pooler, CEO of the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA

Since January, I’ve had the great opportunity to lead the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCAs as new CEO. In that short time, I have seen some incredible impact for both members and non-members of our communities. Our free Race4Chase triathlon program allows young athletes to train for six weeks over the summer. Our diabetes prevention program in Southington, in partnership with Hartford Healthcare and the Main Street Foundation, is a 12-week program that is open to anyone in the Southington community at no cost.

We have been able to reach more than 100 individuals per year since introducing the diabetes prevention program. Our Livestrong program is another free program for both members and non-members who have been impacted by cancer to exercise, train, and have group sessions to talk about getting through this challenging time.

These are just a few of the many examples where the YMCA is reaching out and helping the community, regardless of whether you are a member or not. The common theme I have witnessed is simple: when people come together for a cause, they can do amazing things that strengthen individuals and communities alike.

That being said, our team at the YMCA also believes that we can, and should, make it easier for everyone to access the benefits of YMCA programs. To accomplish that, our staff teams have developed plans to address the changing needs and make-ups of households in Southington and Cheshire. We have asked them to find ways to make it a little easier to get started at the YMCA.

We are taking those first steps now: starting in October 2019, we will no longer require a membership to participate in youth programs at the YMCA. Gymnastics, swimming, day camp, child care and youth sports are among the programs that will now be available to everyone in our communities without the requirement of purchasing a YMCA membership. For most programs, we typically run programs on seven week sessions. Our “Fall 2” session will be the first session available for non-members. For those interested in learning more, registration for this session will begin in mid-October, and YMCA staff are ready to answer your questions today.

Of course, there are still great benefits to being a full member of the YMCA. Members receive discounts on program fees and will have the first opportunity to register for our programs. In addition, full YMCA membership allows you access to our state-of-the-art YMCA facilities, which include babysitting services, our various fitness facilities, and over 100 group exercise classes per week—most of which are complimentary for YMCA members. We believe that there is vast physical, social, and emotional value in a YMCA membership.

We hope that by opening our programs to non-members, it will help make it easier for others to see that value and benefit from a YMCA experience and consider the next level of involvement as a YMCA member.

In addition, we would like to highlight that we have opened up access to the YMCA Camp Sloper Outdoor Center for non-members on Sundays. We have deemed this our “community day” for those who live in the towns of Southington or Cheshire to enjoy the endless outdoor recreational opportunities on this gorgeous piece of property. Access to the property Monday through Saturday remains a full YMCA Member benefit, but on Sundays, the community is welcome to hike, fish, play on the playscape, go down the superslide, attempt the ninja warrior course and more.

This is yet another example of making YMCA experiences more assessable for all who live in the great communities of Southington and Cheshire.

In the coming months, we will roll out additional opportunities at the YMCA, including enhancements and highlights to our family membership options. Our hope, as always, is to extend our work in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility to as many as possible in order to strengthen the foundation of our communities. We hope that these first steps are meaningful for people throughout Southington and Cheshire and make it easier to enjoy the YMCA.

Mark Pooler is the CEO of the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCAs.

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