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Kunhardt/My Turn: Help the YMCA help Franklin County

The YMCA in Greenfield is kicking off its 2014 annual campaign today with a goal of $150,000. All of the funds raised will be used to help Franklin County youth and families have access to the vital programs and services the Y provides.

Seven years ago, 12 to 13 percent of our members utilized our Sliding Fee Scale to join. Today 30 to 31 percent need help, and it is increasing every year. Seven years ago, the Y provided about $180,000 in financial aid. We are projecting a number in 2014 that I thought we would never see — $500,000 or about 20 percent of our budget. Because we are located in one of the poorest counties in Massachusetts, the challenge we find is the gap between what we are raising and what we are providing is getting wider and wider.

The good news is that people of all ages and from all income levels are making a choice to be healthier in mind, body and spirit. In fact, over 52 percent of the doctor referrals to our Exercise is Medicine program need financial assistance to get healthy. The physical improvements of many of our EIM graduates, who have continued their Y memberships, have been truly amazing.

The Y, however, is much more than a great place to exercise, it’s a cause. As a charity, we are dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving Franklin County’s health and well being and providing support to Y members and nonmembers. In 2013, charitable gifts helped make it possible for over 800 children improve their swimming skills, 100 children attended our child care programs each day, 250 children benefited from our summer reading program at Camp Apex, and over 2,000 children got regular exercise to help with the county’s youth obesity issue.

Our Full Day Preschool students not only got a great education, but they also had 30 to 60 minutes of physical education every day, which is what every child should have. Donations helped seniors get or stay healthy so they can age in place in their own homes for as long as possible. For many, our Water Therapy classes make the difference between really living life or suffering in pain each day.

All total, over 10,000 Franklin County residents of all ages did something positive for themselves at our Y in 2013. When people donate to the Y’s annual Campaign their generosity reaches children, families and seniors throughout Franklin County (55 percent of our members live in towns other than Greenfield.)

If you are contacted by one of our 90 volunteer campaigners starting April 2, please help your YMCA to continue to be an important charity in Franklin County. If you do not get contacted by April 15, please send your gift directly to the YMCA or go to our website and click on the “Donate” button. Every gift makes a difference. Everyone has a role to play; together we can achieve so much more.

Dan Kunhardt is the chairman for the Greenfield YMCA 2014 annual Campaign.

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