TERRE HAUTE —
Several smiling young faces line the hallway of the Vigo County YMCA.
The faces are on posters displayed on easels as part of the Heart Gallery, a traveling display of Indiana children who are eligible for adoption.
In its ongoing mission to make a difference in the community, the Vigo County YMCA is including the Heart Gallery in its April events to support Healthy Kids Month. The posters have drawn the interest of many Y members, including Donna Railsback, who stopped her wheelchair to look over the photos and information. She said she and her husband adopted a child several years ago.
That kind of interest is what the YMCA staff supports through its programming.
“This Y is not just a place just to come and work out,” said YMCA branch director Eleanor Ramseier this week, noting the variety of activities planned for April, including Safety Kids Day on Friday and Healthy Kids Day on April 20.
According to its mission statement, the Vigo County YMCA is about making a difference for youth development, health living and social responsibility. Sponsoring the Heart Gallery is just one more way to reach out in the community, Ramseier said. At any given time, about 300 children are waiting in the foster care system for a new family to adopt them. The parental rights for these children have been terminated and they are unable to be reunified.
The Vigo County YMCA, or the Y as it is popularly known, is closing in on its first full year of operation.
Ramseier recalled how the endeavor to get the renovated facility open had to overcome the struggle of attracting more than 300 member units. In just 10 months, the Y boasts more than 2,270 units, which includes individual, family and couple memberships.
“I think the reason why we are succeeding is because this Y is different,” Ramseier said. “We’re making this Y different. People in the community know that this Y is here for the community and the kids. We offer scholarships for youth and families who want to work out.”
And, the Y accepts donations from its members and the public in order to give financial support to children who cannot afford the summer day camp.
“We take donations and that’s what helps send kids to camp,” Ramseier said. “This year, we expect our summer camp to double in size. Last year we had 40 to 50 kids signed up.”
She said she’s found that the main way for the Y to succeed is to give back to the community, and to let others who want to give back to the community, work through the Y.
Several area businesses did just that during the Lose A Ton/Give A Ton challenge. As businesses and Y members recorded their weight loss, they also committed to donating food for the backpack program in the Vigo County Community Schools system that sends healthy food home with children who might not get enough food at home.
“We asked ourselves, where do we stand as a community to help these kids when they need healthy food,” Ramseier asked. The answer was the Lose A Ton/Give A Ton challenge. More than 2,100 pounds of food has been collected for the backpack program.
Two upcoming events support Healthy Kids Month.
Safety Kids Day is set for 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Y, featuring safety programs for youth. From 3:30 to 4 p.m., water safety is the topic. Stranger danger and internet safety are the program from 4 to 4:30 p.m., when the program by “Kasey, the fire and safety dog” shares with the kids until 5:15 p.m.
Ramseier said the Y staff is excited about the Kasey program, especially since she had to book the popular pooch months ago to appear this week.
The Kasey Program teaches children fire and life safety skills. Kasey and her partner firefighter/paramedic Jeff Owens travel the country sharing their life saving message.
Kasey is a black Labrador retriever who has been trained to demonstrate the life saving skills, including stop, drop and roll, crawling under smoke to escape, and calling 911 in an emergency.
Kasey is a certified therapy dog who has been trained in search and rescue and teaches children fire and life safety skills. She wears the badge of the Indianapolis Fire Department and is based in the Indianapolis area.
Then April 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., events that feature healthy lifestyle activities will begin with a yoga nature walk at 10 a.m., and ISU field day at 11 a.m., various kid classes in taekwondo, zumbatomic and ballet at noon, and a one-mile color blast run at 1 p.m.
Events on both days are for members as well as non-members, and there is no cost to attend.
To enter the color blast run, participants must bring a non-perishable food item and wear a white T-shirt. The color dash run will take place in nearby Fairbanks Park.
Also on April 20, a health fair is planned in the gymnasium from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with local businesses providing information for the community.
“At the Vigo County YMCA, we know parents struggle to keep their kids physically and intellectually active every day. We want to help ensure fewer kids are at risk of childhood obesity and more kids excel in school,” Ramseier said. “YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day will get kids moving and learning while also helping families get a jump on creating a healthier summer, and ultimately, a healthier future.”
These events are an example of how the Y is partnering with the community to promote healthy lifestyles and youth development. And it’s something that Ramseier knows about from her own early experiences as a parent.
“I was a single mom for a short time,” she said, “and when the old Y was on Sixth Street, I almost lived there with my kids. I loved the directors at the time.”
The programming helped her family, she said, and her son was encouraged to start a wrestling club for youth at the old Y. She was also appreciative of the scholarship her family received at the time, she said.
“If the old Y had cut off scholarships at, say, 200, and we could have been 201, we would have missed out,” she said. “This Y has gone back to the concept of offering scholarships to those who need it, and we depend on our members and volunteers to make donations that can make that happen.”
Ramseier said that community partners have also been integral to the success of the Y. The United Way of the Wabash Valley and others have provided a lot of support for Y programming. And, one business partner -- which wishes to remain anonymous -- gave a donation of the television monitors in the building, along with their installation.
“They wanted to further our cause,” she said of the donor company.
Anyone wanting more information on the Vigo County YMCA can go online to www.vigocountyymca.org, or call 812-232-8446. Support can also be given by going to the Y’s Facebook Page, and by signing up for Twitter alerts.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.