Bash fundraiser underway to help First Coast YMCA programs

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 4/14/21

CLAY COUNTY – The YMCA is known by many as their favorite local gym or their favorite place to swim, but its reach in the community goes far beyond that.

It’s a charity organization …

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Bash fundraiser underway to help First Coast YMCA programs

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – The YMCA is known by many as their favorite local gym or their favorite place to swim, but its reach in the community goes far beyond that.

It’s a charity organization after all, and when its staff isn’t busy focusing on strength training with members, teaching a member how to do a new fitness move in the pool, or coaching a teenager in a game of soccer, they might be handing out food to those in need.

“Because we do so many different things, and depending on how a family or individual plugs into the YMCA, that may be the only perspective they have,” First Coast YMCA President and CEO Eric Mann said. “The Y has been around close to 112 years in this community and ... that’s because of what we’re able to do for the people in the community, and that’s only possible because of our excellent staff and community partners.”

The organization’s annual Y-Bash happened earlier this month and it’s not only a celebration of the YMCA’s many partners, employees and volunteers, but a celebration of what the YMCA is all about: its community.

“It went very well,” Mann said. “Y-Bash is our annual celebration of volunteers and impact in the community so we generally have over 300 people from around our service area that’s in attendance...and we weren’t sure in terms of how this virtual one was going to go, but we’re very pleased with not only the number of people, but the engagement of our constituents on this particular platform.”

Each Y-Bash comes with a charity goal for the night, and this year’s bash was to raise money for the YMCA’s Camp Immokalee at Keystone Heights. Mann said it’s the Y’s oldest branch, operating non-stop for more than 110 years. That mobile cause during the Y-Bash kicked off what the YMCA hopes to be a big year for fundraising.

“The goal is to raise $2.147 million this year,” Mann said. “It will help us continue to reach those communities and those individuals who really need the YMCA. You can see by our funding priorities that having a place for our kids, whether it’s afterschool, youth sports, our Tiger Academy, or even our swim lessons, these funds help us serve so many people. In 2020, with the schools closing, we reverted back to emergency assistance for first responders, but now we’re serving more individual kids as our camps are there to keep children safe and active.

“Those camps are great because they’re there to help kids get through this particularly tough time and it helps their parents who are working and in need of good childcare and afterschool programs. Those dollars go toward things like that.”

Another benefit of the fundraiser is the First Coast YMCA New American Welcome Center.

“One of the key things, and this was a focus last year too, is the New American Welcome Center,” Mann said. “We’ve had it now for about four years and it’s really helpful to new Americans who have immigrated to the U.S. and to Jacksonville. It helps them not only form a welcoming standpoint, but you can imagine what it’d be like immigrating here during COVID-19 and trying to get a hold of things in a brand-new community.”

Mann said the center has had 1,600 visits by 222 individual families and that the YMCA looks forward continuing its support of these families and new ones. The breakdowns of the wider funding priorities held by the YMCA this year include nurturing kids with safe places to learn and thrive, empowering teens through education and leadership opportunities, making kids of all ages safe in the water, strengthening seniors in spirit, mind and body and positively impacting local communities.

As to what that could look like in terms of numbers, here’s what the First Coast YMCA was able to do in 2020: safely serve 2,985 children at 42 before and after school sites, provided 242,500 meals for children across the community, engaged 204 teenagers in leadership development, helped 2,954 youth members learn the importance of water safety.

The fundraising has already begun. Even if the YMCA doesn’t reach its goal, Mann said the YMCA will continue to do what it’s always done: help those in need.

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