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Annual YMCA fundraising campaign has eye on $300,000 goal for 2010

Date: 5/24/2010

May 24, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD - The YMCA of Greater Springfield was nearing the end of its annual April to May fundraising campaign last Monday when Reminder Publications sat down with President and CEO James O'S Morton to talk about this year's goal and the many ways those dollars would benefit communities throughout the area.

"Our goal [for 2010] is $300,000," Morton said. "To date we've raised approximately $220,000. We've got about $80,000 to go."

And though this year's target figure is $64,000 higher than the $236,000 raised in 2009, Morton was confident that the Y would reach its goal.

"Despite the economy, our community has continued to generously support our program and the children and families we support," he said.

Where will the money go?

Morton said it goes right back into the many programs the Y offers at its downtown Springfield campus on Chestnut Street, its Scantic Valley branch in Wilbraham and programs at sites in Palmer, Monson, West Springfield and Chicopee.

"Every dollar raised goes toward providing families and children with financial aid and scholarships to make certain that everyone has access to our programs," he said.

Those programs, Morton said, go far beyond the "swim, gym and camp" activities the organization's symbol seems to readily bring to mind for many people.

"YMCA [programs] throughout the country, and especially in Springfield, are much more," Morton emphasized.

Among the programs Morton listed were the Scantic Valley's Road 2 Recovery program for cancer patients, the Springfield Y's teen parent program for young mothers who have not completed high school, the Y teen leadership program, the Y youth in government program, the Y-TIP program -- which offers city teens free membership in exchange for good school attendance and consistent academic progress, the Y-SPEED program -- indoor track and field training and competitions targeting middle and high school students, the Y-RIDE program -- which offers North End youth the opportunity to learn horseback riding at an equestrian center in Connecticut and teen drop-in centers in the North End on lower Liberty Street and at Birch Park Circle in West Springfield.

In addition, he said a site in East Longmeadow offers a Montessori program, sites in Chicopee, Monson, Palmer, Wilbraham and Springfield provide breakfast and before school care for children ages six to 13 and 23 sites scattered throughout Chicopee, Springfield, Wilbraham, Hampden, Monson and Palmer provide after-school programs for the same age group.

The Y also operates learn-to-swim outreach programs for youth in Springfield and Agawam.

"We focus a lot on youth [programming] because it has us challenged in communities across the country," Morton said. "We serve any and every youngster who comes through our doors and often these youngsters are suffering from a great number of challenges and [with the Y's help] they are able to overcome those challenges."

For example, Morton said, every student who participated in the Y-SPEED program so far "is now in college or applying to college." For two-year participants in the Y government program he said there is a 100 percent high school graduation rate and "95 percent have gone on to college."

Meeting this year's fundraising goal, Morton said, will ensure program participants who need help -- this year a total of 17 percent of members in the Springfield branch and 12 percent in the Scantic Valley branch -- will receive the aid and scholarships they need to keep coming to the Y.

Readers interested in helping the YMCA of Greater Springfield reach this year's fundraisng goal by the May 31 deadline should make checks payable to the YMCA of Greater Springfield and mail them to YMCA of Greater Springfield, ATTN: Development Dept., 275 Chestnut St., Suite 1, Springfield, MA 01104.