YMCA: Something For The Whole Family

ymca-2by John Lynch

Thanks to the YMCA of Central Kentucky, the four children of Joi and Brian Knapp of Lexington have experienced a gym-bag full of after-school activities such as soccer, gymnastics, t-ball, coach-pitch t-ball, karate, basketball, gymnastics, ballet, and guitar, cooking, sewing and swim lessons.

And on the weekends, the whole family will head to the North Lexington Y, rent bikes for mom and dad, and take a family bike trip along the Legacy Trail.

“We love the Y because our children have experienced so much and we haven’t paid an arm and a leg to do it,” Joi said.

“For us, it’s year-round and nonstop.”

In addition to the after-school activities, Joi is working with a personal trainer at the Beaumont Y.

Nikkey Blackman, a single mom of 6-year-old Kyle, tells a similar story about the Y as a kind of extended family.

Kyle has attended the preschool program at the North Lexington Y, taken swim lessons since he was 2 and just completed his first year of summer camp.

“That was the best experience for him because for the first time he started to emerge in group activities,” Nikkey said.

“Just the look on his face when he came home and told me about all the friends he made. He was stretching outside of his comfort zone, which was a new concept for us.”

It’s new for Nikkey but rings a familiar bell for David Martorano, who joined the YMCA of Central Kentucky as CEO in January.

Martorano knows all about the Y and family. Growing up in Milwaukee, he walked to the Y after school as a child, and he has made the Y his adult career.

This is his 22nd year with the Y, having served in Detroit and Cincinnati before moving to Lexington with his wife Viki and their four children.

Lexington and the Y are such a good match, Martorano said, because both are family centered.

“Lexington is a family friendly community that has given our family a warm welcome,” he said. “And that’s how it is at the Y. We have something for everybody in the family from infants to seniors.”

With 3,000 children in childcare and after-school activities and another 1,700 in summer camps, the Y specializes in serving the needs of growing families.

In all, the Y, which is celebrating 160 years in Central Kentucky, has 27,000 members and serves 68,000 Kentuckians annually through membership and programs.

If you’re looking for an after-school activity for your child, there’s virtually no limit to the Y’s offering, as the Knapp and Blackman families and many others have discovered.

The Y’s sports programs emphasize skill development and sportsmanship rather than wins and losses.

ymca-1Families also know the Y for its after-school programs at 16 elementary and middle schools where children get help with homework, participate in art and music programs and have fun time on the playground.

For the first time this year, the Y is adding similar after-school programs at its Lexington branches – Beaumont, North Lexington and High Street – where children can enjoy same after-school activities, including all the Y’s facilities.

“We know life these days can be hard on families when both parents are working,” Martorano said.

“It’s been demonstrated that kids in after-school programs are successful in school. The Y is an organization that can be supportive to families and schools.”

Martorano who regularly arises at 4:30 in the morning and works out at the Beaumont Y before work, is proud of the Y’s commitment to improving the health of the community.

Because recent studies show that one in three Lexington residents is pre-diabetic, the Y offers a free diabetes prevention program of physical activity and nutrition education that has helped reduce the incidence of Type II diabetes.

Physical activity is a staple of Y after-school activities, which also offer healthy snacks and nutrition education.

Plus, getting healthier can be a fun family experience.

“The Y is all about community and making an impact on people’s lives,” Martorano said. “But it’s also a great source of family entertainment.

“This is a place where the whole family can play together, and you get the biggest bang for your buck.”