December 14, 2017

YMCA celebrates 5 years in the Cayman Islands!

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Celebrating 5 Years of the in the Cayman Community

The YMCA of the is celebrating five years of service and commitment to the community this month. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Cayman Y has quickly and significantly made a positive impact on our Islands. Over 30% of the school-aged youth now participate in at least one of the YMCA programmes, and young people are putting into practice the Y values of honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith.

Although still in its infancy stage, the vision for the Cayman YMCA was birthed almost 16 years ago in the heart of founding Board Chairman, Pastor Randy Von Kanel, when he walked into a Y in Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1996. “It was there and then – looking at bulletin boards, gazing at wall murals, and being alone in my thoughts within the halls of this well-equipped, family-centered YMCA facility – that the idea popped: What if we had a Y in the Cayman Islands? What if we had a faith-based non-profit organisation rooted in the Christian values of excellence and honor, of respect and responsibility, and one that worked for “youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility” for all persons?”, recalls Pastor Von Kanel.

Although he shared his dream in a small meeting in 1997, the idea for a Y in Cayman would lay dormant until 2010 when Von Kanel was challenged by businessman Mike Flowers to do something about the daydream he had so many years ago. And so the journey began.

In early 2011, a group of community-minded individuals rallied together around their common concern about Cayman’s youth and violent crime, and from that group a small task force emerged that was committed to the mission of forming a YMCA in the Cayman Islands. By May 2012, the YMCA of the Cayman Islands was legally established and launched with a family fun day and community needs assessment survey. In the summer of 2013, the Cayman Y undertook one of its first major initiatives, which was the sponsorship of Government’s sports camp programmes. By October of that same year, the first CEO, Greg Smith, was hired and still remains in the post today.

“As the new ‘YMCA guy’, my task was clear: protect this special place, help make it better,” said Smith. “Results of an early needs assessment pointed to one key area for digging in – the youth. This message was easy to embrace, as it was the reason I began working for the Y as a Camp Counsellor in 1995. It was there I learned what made the Y unique. It’s a place outside of school or church where young people can be themselves, find themselves, and become the best possible version of themselves.
I was given a tremendous seat to watch a remarkable story unfold here in Cayman.”

2014 was a busy year for Smith and the Board of the Y as members reached out for financial support from close friends and family to establish a solid foundation for the YMCA. The first Y-operated programs were also launched – day camp, family fitness, teen leaders and teambuilding. In addition, the organization also received its official charter from the World Alliance of YMCAs. Another significant milestone was the awarding to the Y of the contract to support quality improvements in the Government Extended After School Program (EASP) in September 2014. One year later, the Y was given the contract to operate the EASP in 8 government schools, and with the later addition of East End Primary, the YMCA now operates in 9 schools, representing 15 government primary and high schools, impacting as many as 1600 youth.

“We are making lives better,” said Smith. “We are inspiring young people – plus a few adults too – to become the best version of themselves. We are helping the island become healthier and stronger. Putting character values into practice have always been, and will always be, the key to us sharing rich and meaningful lives. We’re blessed to be in a very special place, and wise to do all we can to preserve and improve it.”

The Y now employs well over 100 part and full-time staff to deliver all its programmes and services, plus another 75 volunteers at any given time. Although it has been a successful start, the leadership of the Y recognizes there is much more work to do. Earlier this year, the Y announced plans to build a ropes challenge course to promote team-building and social skill development, a venture made possible by the ’s 5K Challenge and support from CUC. This past year, the Y also launched traditional Day Camp in as well as the first Summer Camp Exchange Program for campers/Counselors In Training (C.I.T.), which too was made possible through funds raised by the ’s 5K Challenge.

Looking ahead, the YMCA’s goal is to offer a minimum of one full-service, traditional YMCA facility which will provide a wide range of programs for youth, adults, families and seniors by the year 2019.

In the present, the Y Board is excited to celebrate its anniversary with the Cayman community. The Y Five-Year Family Fun Celebration will take place on Saturday, 9 December from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Field of Dreams. The event will include kickball, music, tasty treats and carnival activities like the dunk tank, slip and slide, face painting, photo booth and more. All activities, food and drink are free of charge.

YMCA Chairman Andrew Johnson is excited about the direction of the YMCA in the Cayman Islands.

“With a strong Board, excellent staff, engaged stakeholders, and a growing group of friends and supporters, the future of the YMCA of the Cayman Islands is very bright!”, Johnson stated. “From this position of health and strength and with our eyes on the mission and goals before us, we are trusting God to continue to lead and strengthen us in our work to provide the most significant and positive influence on our community possible.”

For more information about YMCA Cayman Islands, log on to www.ymcacayman.ky, email info@ymcacayman.ky or call 926-9622.

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