Found My Y: Stepping Up for Youth and Families
Last updated: January 26, 2022, at 1:46 p.m. PT
Originally published: January 20, 2022, at 5:21 p.m. PT
By. Michael Douglas
Many things come to mind when I think of the Y, but I think what most amazes me are the ways in which we support and serve the people in our community.
There are two programs in particular that amaze me every year and inspire me most to not just work with the Y, but also donate to the Y: Safety Around Water and Holiday Meal Support.
When I first started work at the Y six years ago, and heard about the Y’s Annual Fundraiser, Annual Fund Drive, I had the same thought that many new staff have: “Why would I give my money back to the company I work for? Didn’t you just pay me for the work I did?”
It was not until I heard our aquatics director speak about our Safety Around Water program that I became inspired and found something that spoke to me. I was a swimmer from a very young age, I even competed in the Y swim team for several years. In my opinion, swim lessons should be available to everyone, especially living here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where we are surrounded by water. Beyond the Sound, there are so many amazing trails to hike and mountains to climb, and almost all of them come with their own lake or river to stumble across. Learning to swim opens up these spaces to more people to enjoy, and helps reduce risks of drowning, a leading cause of death for youth.
The Safety Around Water program offers qualifying youth free swim lessons, providing them with an important life and safety skill that can help keep them safe. Thanks to the generous donations of people in our community, in 2021 we were able to offer free swimming lessons to local fourth graders and teach them how to be safe around the water.
Another program important to me is addressing hunger. In 2021, I had the privilege to run our Holiday Meal Support program out of the Northshore Y. Not only has Covid-19 thrown additional struggles and obstacles in front of all of us, but it has shown a spotlight on all the struggles that already existed. This program focuses on families who may need a little extra financial support to enjoy those special holiday meals that many of us take for granted.
This is simply one way I've found to use the resources of the Y to make my little slice of the world just a little bit brighter. Every dollar raised for this campaign went directly toward supporting families in our community and I’m proud to say that last year we were able to support over 1000 people during the holiday season, thanks to the support of the Y, volunteers and everyday people who were able to donate to help others.
One of these families still resonates with me. Last November, as I was leaving a grocery store, I saw a woman and her daughter out front asking for food and money donations. I walked over to them and gave them the cash I had in my wallet, then realized I had some of my Y business cards with a link to the Holiday Meal Support program request form written on the back.
I explained what it was, how the Y runs this program every year, and helped them access the request form on their phone. It was great to be able to offer assistance to another family, but I still had a big problem to solve. The number of families that had asked for assistance was far greater than the funds we had raised, we were only going to be able to support about half of the families that had asked for assistance.
Thankfully, the day before I was scheduled to notify families, we received a large donation that allowed us to support every family. It’s hard to describe the feeling when someone receives a grocery store gift card, and we ask for nothing in return.
These are just two of the programs that I am passionate about. In my six years working for the Y I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of everything the Y has to offer. If you would like to join me in donating to the Y, please visit seattleymca.org/give or reach out to me at email@example.com
Michael Douglas is the Branch Administrative Coordinator for the Northshore YMCA and Dale Turner Family Y.
Found My Y is an occasional series of reported stories and personal essays from the people in and around the Y who weave the fabric of our communities. From sharing fun anecdotes of levity to the grand moments when we learn something bigger about ourselves, stories are our history and a gift. Have a story to share, or want to nominate someone for our next installment, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Found My Y."