The YMCA’s Still Got It

A shot from the YMCA-YWCA’s annual cliffhanger event. Photo by John Enaje.

The Capital’s YMCA-YWCA has a lot to offer locals.

Founded in 1867, the Y works to advance the health and well being of children, youth and families. The Y provides services that tackle issues such as children’s health, unemployment, homelessness, social isolation and inequality. The Y’s goal is to make a positive impact on those who need these services the most.

Healthy living is a cause that the Y has always championed by providing gym facilities and fitness programs to the public.  What sets the Y apart from other gyms, however, is its dedication to providing a welcoming atmosphere that is encouraging, supportive and inspiring.

Ali Riel is the General Manager of two Ottawa YMCA-YWCA facilities. As we spoke it was quickly clear that Riel is proud of the Y’s dedication to inclusivity.

Cliffhanger_Ines BR3
The YMCA-YWCA’s annual cliffhanger event. Photo by John Enaje.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” says Riel. “It doesn’t matter what your financial means are, or what your religion or race is. We provide subsides for anyone that needs one. (People) can get a membership, they can participate in swimming lessons (and) we can send them to camp. Everybody has the opportunity to come through our doors to get fit and get healthy.”

In 2014, over 37,500 people participated in the Y’s health and fitness programs, and 5,058 of those members received financial assistance through subsidized memberships.

The Y’s breadth of accessible programs is impressive, to say the least. They aim to offer programs for every member of a family, from pre-school children to adults over 50. Family Inclusive memberships are also a great and affordable option for families who are looking to get healthy together. A Family membership at the Y offers children’s swim lessons, children’s programming like dance and sports, as well as adult fitness classes, all at one cost.

Building a foundation for a child’s healthy future is a cause that the Y is dedicated to, as well as one that they’ve been expanding upon for the New Year.

“How do we teach young children to be active?” Riel says. “We need to teach them the right skills. We are incorporating that teaching into our (children’s) programming,”

“The Y is a place that will introduce them to a multitude of sports and activities. We want to give (kids) a grassroots experience that they can then figure out what sport they like to pursue. We want to introduce them to all of the possibilities that are out there.”

Riel recognizes that not every child is interested in sports.  “We want to develop the whole being, and mind, and body. Not just the athlete. Kids can learn about arts, crafts, drama and music, too.”

Related: Adrenaline Junkies Rejoice: YMCA’s Cliffhanger is Back.

The Y also offers kids a chance to learn aquatic skills with a national swim program that is delivered in all Ys across the country. The program introduces swim skills that are transferrable to the Red Cross and Life Saving Society swim programs. Riel explains that the Y aims to teach kids at a comfortable pace and level style.

“There isn’t a deadline for a child to receive a (swim) badge. It doesn’t matter if it takes a child one or two sessions. It’s our job that they walk away with sound skills and water safety.”

The Y is also launching an exciting new Youth Night. Every Friday, youth are encouraged to take part in different sports and activities, such as basketball, group fitness classes, a youth open swim, hip-hop dance classes and more.

Also arriving this winter is a new adult group fitness class. Group Power combines music with traditional strength exercises and a motivating atmosphere to push adults to their person best.

With so many programs to choose from, you are bound to find something your whole family will enjoy at the Y.  You can learn more information about the National-Capital Region YMCA-YWCA by visiting their website.