By Susan E. Campbell
The YMCA’s well-known summer camps
provide 10 weeks of education and fun for
thousands of kids each year.
But a lesser known fact about the camp
program is that many youths are able to attend
for a week for free, thanks to the fundraising
efforts of people like Kindra McHale, executive
director of the Clifton Park YMCA and her staff
of 300, as well as generous members of the Y
and the community at large.
“My vision is to help as many kids and families lead healthier lifestyles through our programs and unique services, not only in Clifton Park but in our neighboring towns and villages,” said McHale, who has held the directorship for the past three of the 10 years she has been associated with the Clifton Park branch.
In these communities there are “gaps,” families McHale said need assistance with school supplies, clothing, day care and after-school programs. As a non-profit organization, the Y turns no one away from because of inability to pay and pledges “membership for all.”
Fundraising makes subsidies possible.
Recently, McHale built a relationship with the Waterford-Halfmoon School District to identify kids on the state-wide free and reduced school lunch program to receive one free week of summer camp.
With scholarship money provided by MVP Health Care, 30 kids from that school district will attend one Monday through Friday session from 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. at no cost to the family. Camp enrollment is capped at 300 per week and about 95 percent typically come from the Shenendehowa school district. The cost for a week is on a sliding scale based on household income.
Consider the example of one local family who lost their father to cancer recently. “The mom has bills to pay, but she can attend to what she needs to do while the kids come for camp and swimming lessons,” McHale said.
Running Start is another Clifton Park Y program for kids based on the free and reduced lunch program. Running Start makes it possible to take some children from the first grade to fifth grade on a shopping spree for school clothes and supplies, plus get a free Y membership for a year.
The YMCA is not just for kids. It reaches out to adults, too. McHale said there are excellent aqua fitness classes at the Clifton Park Y that seniors love. “We have certified instructors who can gear classes to injuries or problems such as hip replacement,” McHale said.
May 5 marked the facility’s 19th annual triathalon with 150 people entered entrants this year, said McHale. The course included swimming for 350 yards, biking for 10 miles and running three miles. The goal is not to make money but to invite the community to get to know their local YMCA better, according to McHale.
“If we can break even I’m a happy girl,” she said.
Looking ahead, McHale hopes in the next three to five years to “get outside the four walls” of the Clifton Park Y building and into the communities stronger than ever. And fundraising will continue to consume much of her energy.
“The scholarship campaign raised $142,000 this fiscal year and I will make sure every penny is used for the community,” said McHale.
“A full 13 percent of our 13,000 members donated and 100 percent of our staff of 300 donated back to the community. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The balance of funds comes from all corners of the region, from mom-and-pop stores to local corporate business leaders.
More information about the Clifton Park branch of the Capital District YMCA is available at www.cdymca.org.