SIDNEY — One person … that’s all it takes to make the difference in a child’s life. And when all the “ones” work together, they can make a difference in hundreds of lives.
“Together We can Make a Difference” is the theme of the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’s Annual Community Partners Campaign Kick-off which was held Wednesday during a luncheon at the YMCA.
Testimonials from three YMCA members, along with comments from Heather O’Donnell, campaign chair, Ed Thomas, CEO, and David O’Leary, operations director, kicked off the two week campaign. The goal is to raise $100,000.
“I am so thankful for all of you here this afternoon,” said Thomas.
O’Donnell, who is the newest YMCA board member, said she volunteered to be chairman because “that the Shelby county YMCA does is near and dear to my heart. I am honored and excited to be part of the effort that gives a hand up to community members.”
Approximately 60 volunteers are involved in the campaign said O’Donnell.
“Last year 1,063 people received financial assistance,” she said. “We raised $100,000 last year. We will continue to support a goal of $100,000 this year but the need we have outweighs the amount raised.
“Last year we helped many families and individuals,” said O’Donnell. “We do this so we can live up to our motto of never turning anyone away.”
The YMCA and staff held its own mini campaign before Wednesday’s kick-off. They surpassed their goal of money raised by more than $2,000.
“We shortened the duration of the campaign to two weeks,” said O’Donnell. “It has to be complete by March 3. On behalf of the hundreds of families whose lives will be changed, thank you.”
Three of the people who have seen their lives changed by the YMCA are Nikol Marvin, John Deeds and Kara Mullen. Both Marvin and Mullen were shown on a video talking about how the YMCA had changed their lives.
Marvin, who has diabetes, said being able to receive financial assistance to join the YMCA said her health has improved since becoming a member.
“I’m glad there’s a place like this that will help my kids and me and other people,” said Marvin. “The YMCA is here to help you and make you a better you.”
Mullen, who is a single mother, brings her two-year-old daughter, Sailor, to childcare each day.
“I had childcare set up but it didn’t work out,” said Mullen. “It’s terrifying looking for daycare. then Sailor came a month early and in a panic I called Elizabeth (Grace) and she told me to come in and meet the teachers.”
After visiting the childcare classes, Mullen took the paperwork home to fill out. As she looked at the cost for childcare, she called Grace back, crying that she couldn’t afford it. Grace told her there was financial assistance available and Mullen could pick the paperwork up.
“With a week to go before I was supposed to go back to work, Elizabeth called and saved the day for us,”said Mullen. “Bringing Sailor here was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Mullen said Sailor is happy to come to the childcare class every day.
“The YMCA is like a family,” she said, “and it’s not like you’re leaving your child with someone you don’t know.
“The scholarship allowed me to go back to work and not have to worry about how I was going to pay for it on Friday,” said Mullen.
The childcare program, said Thomas, has 200 children enrolled in it. They range from six weeks of age to the sixth-grade.
“One out of two children benefit from financial assistance,” said Thomas. “The parent is able to make a living while their child is safe in our care.”
The childcare program is open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Deeds, who is a board member and also the major gifts chairman, told his Y story, which was two-fold. A resident of Troy who practices law with a firm in Sidney, he and his wife were looking for childcare in 2010 after their son Noah was born.
“Noah had some health-related struggles and we wanted one of us to be near him while he was at childcare,” said Deeds. So the couple enrolled him at the YMCA program.
“I would come here at lunch and spend time with my son,” said Deeds. “We recently moved him to daycare in Troy, so I switched from have a child in childcare to being a member of the YMCA.
“It provides a foundation for me,” he said. “I come here three to four days a week during lunch (to work out). I have four life centers — home, work, church and the YMCA. I am blessed to have a YMCA membership and I recognize that some don’t. I want to help someone have an additional life center” with a YMCA membership.
Thomas stressed that all campaign donations will help change the lives of local community members.
“When someone gives to the campaign, 100 percent of every dollar is invested in the loves of people who need the YMCA,” said Thomas.
Thomas reviewed some of the programs offered by the YMCA — the water safety program, the diabetes prevention program and Parkinson program.
“We can’t do it alone,” said Thomas. “Your donation and support makes this all possible.”
Quotes from some of the recipients who have received financial assistance were posted around the room. Some of the included
• Thanks to the Community Partners Program, I am able to attend the Aqua Aerobics class. That helps me regain strength in my arms and legs due to Parkinson’s Disease.”
• “I am a single mom with no support from dad, I am thankful for the opportunity to bring my kids to the Y so we could spend family time together and start living healthy lives.”
• “I stay at home to care for my daughter and my aging grandmother. I want to become healthier so that I can be around longer for my daughter. My mom passed away from health issues that could have been avoided if she had been more active. My fiancé and I want to set a good example of a healthy lifestyle for our children.”
O’Leary summed up the campaign with a quote from Gerald Way, “All the best heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.