The Y’s History of Building a Better Us

Published: February 22, 2022

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The YMCA was founded in London on June 6, 1844; today the Y can be found in 119 countries—including the US where over 2700 Ys offer programs and services designed to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. What started as a movement to help young men during the industrial revolution, continues to empower millions of young people to reach their full potential as confident, engaged global citizens.

Here are five past notable events and achievements that demonstrate the Y’s commitment to the communities it serves:

  1. American Institutions: Celebrations such as Father’s Day, and organizations like the Peace Corps, all have their roots at the YMCA.
  2. Summer Camp: The oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, first opened in 1855 and countless numbers of boys and girls have since learned the skills and wonders of camping through the Y, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.
  3. Innovating & Inventing: From James Naismith's invention of basketball to instructors creating racquetball and what would eventually become volleyball, the Y has a rich tradition in activities that are played by millions of people around the globe. One Y staffer, Robert J. Roberts, is credited with inventing the term “body building.”
  4. A Nobel Peace Prizewinner: YMCA leader John R. Mott was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for the Y's groundbreaking role in raising global awareness and support and for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
  5. Welcoming Newcomers: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

 

How the Y is relevant in 2022

Today, the Y serves more than 22 million people annually and offers resources at over 2,700 locations across all 50 states. Here are three ways “community” continues as the Y’s number one cause:

  1. Nurturing the Potential of Our Kids: The Y sees the potential in all children and is committed to helping them reach that potential. Through programs such as Youth in Government and Achievers, the Y is helping prepare the future’s leaders today.
  2. Support for All Our Neighbors: As one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, the Y's social services and volunteer programs help more than 10,000 communities nationwide. The Y’s work that began at Ellis Island continues through direct and referral services, community partnerships and bridge-building strategies, the Y addresses the integration needs of immigrants and prepares receiving communities to be welcoming and inclusive.
  3. Improving the Nation’s Health: More than a place to work out, the Y offers programs that help individuals and families improve their health and enact changes that strengthen their community and society. From working with people who are trying to find ways to improve health, but don’t know how, to preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and helping people recover from serious illnesses like cancer, the Y is one of the few organizations in the country with the size and influence that can effectively reach millions of people.

 

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