Essay: Islanders winter at the Y

Essay: Islanders winter at the Y

While there may have been a lack of flurries outdoors this winter, there has been a flurry of activity at the Y over the last few months. The result of this activity is much bigger than the Y itself. The love Islanders have for our community is strong, and I feel lucky to be able to witness that in this wonderful community center every day.

It’s more than just something to see, but something I’m able to experience by meeting and working with new people on this small Island who share something profound: a love for giving back to their community. The enrichment gained from coming together and giving back is felt throughout and extends beyond the walls of the Y. I recently experienced this during three very successful fundraiser events we held in February, all with the same goal of staying active and giving back. The cross section of Islanders who participated in the events was a true representation of our community — children, teens, seniors, adults and families all coming together. We also gained many first-time supporters of the Y, as we raised awareness of how the Y is fulfilling a need for year-round activities.

The Y Mako Swim Club kicked off the month of February with Shark Week, raising a total of $4,000. Each child on the team solicited sponsors for one power hour swim in the pool. Every lane was filled with swimmers constantly splashing and kicking for one hour, all with the same goal – to swim their hearts out to raise as much money as possible. Two days later, the night before the last home swim meet, in swim team tradition the swim parents organized a pasta dinner at the Y, lovingly prepared by Tea Lane Caterers and served by the Mako swimmers. Many of the children and parents commented on what a great feeling of coming together and sense of accomplishment it gave participants. One child mentioned how he never felt so proud in his life as he did the moment he finished swimming. I thank the swimmers, parents and Tea Lane Caterers, who all deserve congratulations for making Shark Week at the Y such a meaningful experience.

Saturday, February 11, was a big day at the Y. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Island cyclists spun their love for cycling into an opportunity to help others during our LiveLoveRide event. In six hours of cycling, our volunteers raised a total of $10,000, to benefit the Y scholarship and Community Outreach Program. I received many heartfelt thank-yous from participants and sponsors who were grateful to have had the opportunity to help raise money to support their neighbors. Congratulations and thank you to all Island cyclists who volunteered their time to ride, cycle instructors who were our inspiration and motivation, and individual and business sponsors for their generosity (please visit www.ymcamv.org/new-events/live-love-ride for a complete listing of our business sponsors).

On that same Saturday, the Y kicked off the Island’s first Special Olympics swim program. This new, free program is just one of many examples of how the Y supports all members of our community through our outreach program. Enrollment for the program is ongoing, and the spring season will culminate with a swim meet for all of our practicing athletes and will be open and free to all.

Later that evening, the Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center held a concert featuring the DayTrippers, a Beatles tribute band. All proceeds from the event help to support program operations of our fabulous new Teen Center, open to all teens Monday through Friday at no cost, with special events every Friday and Saturday. Thank you to the DayTrippers, our loyal supporters, Laurel and Ray Whitaker, for organizing and volunteering their time to all things related to the Teen Center, and WMVY Radio.

Through benefit and free community events, the Y aims to bring the community together year-round, in a variety of fun and healthy activities for all ages. Save the date for our upcoming free events: Healthy Kids Day, April 28 (free and open to the public); Senior Triathalon, May 23 (free public event, 62+). For full information on our upcoming benefit events, including Stars + Stripes Fest, Cool Pool Parties, and how you can become involved, please visit our website at www.ymcamv.org/news-events.

It takes a whole Island to make a difference. Thank you for supporting our community through the Y’s Island Impact efforts. We’re proud to be able to offer so many great opportunities and could not do so without the support and generosity of donors and volunteers like you. Again, my sincere gratitude to those who help give meaning to what we do at the Y.

Sarah Soushek is a fundraising campaign manager for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.