I hope that everyone had a great Labor Day weekend with family and friends. Now that the summer has symbolically come to a close and kids have gone back to school (much to the relief of parents across the region, not to mention our amazing but bone weary team of Y associates who worked at our camps and summer enrichment sites this summer), I thought that one last story from Y camp is in order.
This story comes from Jessica Monaghan, the Membership Director at the Dancel Y in Ellicott City. I think it perfectly underscores why Y camp, and more broadly, Y Youth Development work, is so important and so hard to describe in one neat little sound-bite. It is not about any one program, but more importantly it is about ensuring that we reach as many young people as possible with meaningful opportunities and experiences that will impact each of them for a lifetime and, if we’re doing our work really well, provide them with the message that they can succeed, whoever they are.
I have always believed that our not-so-“secret sauce” is that the Y is truly for all. In a world in which we so quickly put people into categories and allow our differences to define and divide us, here at the Y we work so hard to ensure that we keep our proverbial walls down and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate, no matter what makes her or him “different.”
Allow me to let Jessica tell this story:
“This moment stopped me in my tracks a few weeks ago. As you know, it’s never a dull moment at the Dancel Y. I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. A few weeks ago I was on the lower level cleaning out some storage areas. I walked by the camp office and saw our camp director Lesley Kroll and assistant director Katie Donegan dancing. In the middle of them was 6 year old Luke. Luke was singing and dancing and having a blast. Luke comes directly to camp from summer school, and this transition is very hard for him. The camp team figured out he liked to dance. So, every day his camp day started out with a dance.
For the average person who saw this, it’s just a kid dancing. To me it meant so much more. We as Y associates sometimes take it for granted what we have ability to do every day. This is truly a living mission moment for me. Luke has Down’s Syndrome, his parents trust us, and they believe in our ability to provide a safe place for their son. As you know, when you become a parent your children become the most important thing to you. It really takes a lot for a parent to hand over her child to someone else for 8+ hours a day, particularly when that child has a disability and may not always be able to advocate for himself.
Sometimes I think we get caught up in the day to day crush of operations and don’t always consider that our mission is playing out right in front of us every day. I am so thankful that I got to witness this and couldn’t think of a better place for Luke to be.”
I am proud to give a Y Associate Shout Out! to great folks like Lesley and Katie who surely didn’t need a training or program manual to tell them that every kid is a little different and to do the right thing, even if that includes a little dance every day. Thank you to Lesley and Katie, and all Y associates, for accepting everyone into the Y simply as they are.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland