Area YMCAs raising funds for families in need

Editor-in-Chief

‘Tis the season for giving, and for the eight Wichita area YMCAs, that means raising funds for the Strong Communities Campaign.

Strong Communities is the Y’s annual fundraiser for low-income families needing to use its facilities at a reduced cost. The campaign kicked off in late October and runs until March 5.

 In the past, the campaign was known as “Strong Kids.” However, Andover Y administrative assistant Tracy Ingram said that title gave the impression the campaign only helps children.

“With the name ‘Strong Communities,’ it shows that we help everyone in the community, regardless of age,” Ingram said.

The purpose of Strong Communities, Ingram said, is to provide Y programs at a reduced cost, or free of charge.

“If you qualify for [Strong Communities], you qualify based on your income,” she said. “Youth sports, gymnastics, any of our programs, you can get at a reduced cost. And the campaign covers the cost of all of that.”

Ingram said the eight branches in the Wichita area raise about $2.1 million a year with the Strong Communities campaign. During the last campaign, the Andover branch raised $165,000 with the campaign. However, the branch gave out $300,000 in assistance, a difference of $135,000, Ingram said.

“Eventually, we’re going to have to close that gap and that’s what we’re working on this year,” she said, “how to raise that gap between what we give away and what we raise.”

Citywide, the Y has several fundraising events scheduled throughout the campaign. One of the most popular fundraisers is the annual Bowl-a-thon, scheduled for Feb. 7 at Northrock Lanes. To participate in Bowl-a-thon, a group of up to six people is formed, with each person contributing money raised for Strong Communities. Bowl-a-thon attendees can also ask others for donations.

“It’s a great event, it’s a family event,” Ingram said. “You get your pledges, you get a T-shirt, pizza, you get to bowl. It’s all fun.”

Within each branch, however, the efforts to raise money are somewhat limited, Ingram said.

“We don’t want to overextend ourselves to our members,” she said. “You don’t want to constantly ask people for money, or ask to participate in events.”

However, Ingram said the easiest way to ask for money is to simply ask people to donate. She said the Y will do that in a variety of ways.

“We will make phone calls,” Ingram said. “We will stand in the lobby and talk to members. It’s simply a matter of if you don’t ask, you’re never going to raise money. And that’s a very difficult thing for people to understand, but it’s the best way to raise money, to simply ask.”

For Andover Y executive director Shane Loy, the campaign boils down to the service of the people.

“It’s all about the people we serve,” he said, “who we help, giving back to the community and helping people who are in need.”

For more information about the Strong Communities campaign, including upcoming fundraising events, visit www.wichitaymca.org.