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“Helping one child might not change the world, but it could change the world for that child.”

The YMCA Strong Kids Fund gives underserved, at-risk youth and those with diverse abilities a Y experience through memberships, camps, sports and after school programs.

2022 Community Benefit Report

Did You Know?


helps two children with special needs learn to swim?


gives a child the opportunity to play a youth sport?


provides a child with a one-year membership to the YMCA?

What is Strong Kids?

Strong Kids is a fund that helps give kids and those with diverse abilities in our community access to Y programs and activities.  We do not turn anyone away due to their inability to pay.  Our mission is one of inclusiveness and we make individuals and families feel welcome regardless of financial limitations.

In addition to the scholarship memberships, Strong Kids funds the following programs:

RYse and Shine

  • The YMCA provides a summer camp experience for children in District 186 who are in transitional housing. This camp includes transportation to and from camp, breakfast, lunch, tutoring and swimming lessons. We are inspired by their ability to tackle so many hurdles in their lives with so much determination, courage, and grace.

Saturday Strikers Bowling Program

  • The Saturday Strikers bowling program is designed for persons with disabilities. It provides physical exercise, team building, self-confidence, and a path out of isolation. Each year we send individuals to compete in Special Olympics bowling. You see the true impact of this program when adults, youth, parents, YMCA staff, and volunteers are cheering and supporting each other.

Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP)

  • The YMCA Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) provides swimming lessons to individuals with mental or physical disabilities. The goal is to give people with special needs the opportunity to learn how to swim at their own pace. We also have a competitive swim team, the Snapping Turtles, to help prepare the athletes to compete in Special Olympics. It provides an environment for the athletes to work as a team and to make lasting friendships.

YMCA Strong Kids Stories

Jack (Age 9)
SNAP- Special Needs Aquatics Program

Jack is smart, curious, and an amazing optimist. Diagnosed with a condition that delays normal muscle development as an infant, he has worked hard in therapy to do things many kids do naturally. Jack is very aware of his condition but says “Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I can’t play baseball or soccer or do anything I want.” Swimming has been therapy for Jack since he was very young, but it wasn’t until the past year that swimming really helped him thrive. With the support of STRONG KIDSFUND Jack was able to take individual swim lessons. In just six months, he has overcome reluctance in the water and fear of the deep end. Jack attributes his success to his instructor Abby. “It’s like she’s the Sun and I’m a solar panel absorbing her energy. She taught me to believe that I’m Jack and I’m a swimmer!” We think Jack’s a bright star with a universe of opportunity ahead.

Malik (Age 6)
ENOS Park After School/ Summer Camp Program

The first things you notice about Malik are his beaming smile and his endless energy. He’s full of questions and wants to know how everything works. Malik’s personality is huge. He’s happy, outgoing and makes you feel like a friend from the moment you meet him. He enjoys coming to the Y after school and can’t wait for summer camp to start. He loves swimming, basketball, the craft projects, and especially spending time with his Y friends. Malik says he can’t imagine what it would be like not coming to the Y and says, “I’d be really sad.” Malik has great affection for his YMCA counselors and talks about them almost like family members. He wants to be a counselor when he’s older. While he might not realize the SRONG KIDS FUND makes his Y experience possible, Malik knows the feelings of safety, comfort, and joy when he’s here. We just know Malik will be a help to others with his compassion and powerful personality.

Decolbie (Age 9)
ENOS Park After School/ Summer Camp Program

Decolbie is incredibly creative with the imagination of a true artist. He illustrates his own fictional characters, then writes stories to go with the drawings. Decolbie is an expert on all things Harry Potter and generously shares his prized wands and book of spells with his Y after-school friends. He shows a kindness and empathy that make him well liked and respected among the other kids. For Decolbie, coming to the Y is a highlight of his day. He says the Y is a place he can be creative and meet new friends. “I feel relaxed and recharged when I’m here.” The STRONG KIDS FUND gives Decolbie the chance to imagine the change he wants to make in the world “When we drive by homeless people it makes me sad. I want to be an artist and a police officer so I can use the money I make to help them.” We believe many people will benefit from Decolbie’s talents someday.

Christian (Age 11)
Matthew Project Summer Camp

Christian is wise beyond his years. He radiates a sense of calm and confidence even when playing his favorite sport, basketball. He’s got a very accurate 3-point shot. A scholarship student at St Patrick’s, Christian excels in math – algebra is his favorite- but he does well in all studies. He’s unassuming in his many skills and is appreciative of his life and the people, primarily his mother, grandmother, and brother who have worked hard to make sure he has the opportunities to succeed. Christian’s mom, Sharrell, is a single parent who grew up in foster homes. She decided at 14 she would have a better life for her kids. She’s now a nurse and puts in long hours to support her family. Christian’s family lost everything in a house fire and were homeless. His mom credits the Y STRONG KIDS FUND with helping provide a safe place where he could meet new friends, learn, and be active while they rebuilt their lives. Christian shows strong leadership at school, in sports and at the Y Summer Camp. He wants to be a counselor soon. We know he’s destined for even bigger leadership roles in the future.

Wes (Age 49)
Saturday Strikers- Special Needs Bowling

Wes has been a Saturday Strikers team member since 2018 and it’s clear he loves the program. Wes was born blind and with diverse abilities but also with an amazing support network. Wes’s sister, Angie, became his primary caregiver when their mother passed away. Her childhood friend, also named Angie, along with her son, take a big role in helping Wes overcome challenges. The Y Saturday Strikers Bowling program gives Wes the chance to meet new people, socialize with friends, and have a unique experience twice a month. Wes and his family are thrilled the YMCA STRONG KIDS FUND gives him and so many others with similar situations the chance to get together and enjoy a Saturday. Wes’s sister, Angie, and their friends have become regulars at the bowling alley cheering on Wes, giving support to the whole team, and organizing all the ramp bowling that makes the sport accessible to many more players. “We are so grateful to the Y for the happiness this program brings him, “said Angie.

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