NORTH ADAMS -- For the first time in five years, the Northern Berkshire Y's "Reach Out for Youth" campaign has reached its fundraising goal and exceeded it.
Executive Director Justin Ihne said the campaign, which has raised about $42,000 this year, is vital to the Y's ability to provide financial assistance to families for youth memberships and scholarships to participate in swim lessons, sports, summer camps, daycare programs and before- and after-school care through its Y Aid program. The campaign's goal for 2012 was $40,000.
"It comes at a critical time when we're seeing an increase in families and members asking for assistance, which unfortunately is a sign of the times," he said Friday. "By reaching our goal and exceeding it, we'll be able to apply more funding for those scholarships and memberships. For us, it's all about strengthening the foundation of our community. We want to give back to the community and ensure that no one is denied access to our programming because of an inability to pay."
During 2011, over 800 individuals -- about 50 percent of the Y's membership -- received access to memberships, as well as to summer day camp, youth sports, aquatics and before- and after-school programs with support from the Y Aid program.
"I'm extremely humbled and grateful. The response of the people who believe in the Northern Berkshire Y continues to be strong," Campaign Chairman David Bond said in a news release. "It
Since January, a total of 165 individuals and businesses have donated to the campaign.
"We still have some pledges left to collect, but we've seen a 15 percent increase over last year's campaign," Ihne said. "We've certainly had our challenges over the last five or six years. Being able to increase our annual giving over the past two years shows the community's dedication to the Y and what we have to offer and benefit the community with."
The Y kicked off its summer day camp programs this week, offering the traditional day program at Camp Abenaki and a SteepleCats baseball sports camp at DiSanti Field. A half-day "Itty Bitty" sports camp program, aimed at children ages four to six, also began this week.
"It's been a great week and a hot week," he said. "We've added extra swimming time at the lake and extra pool time for the sports camp to help out with that. So far the kids are having a great time and enjoying themselves. We've teamed up with the SteepleCats again this year, who are working at our camps. We're able to have them here because of the Ruth Proud Trust Charitable Foundation. They're a great group of guys and we're excited to have them back. It's a way to offer a connection to the players for the kids, who get to learn from a group of great ball players."
Over the summer, the Y is offering 25 different week-long day camps, including new sports camps featuring lessons in lacrosse, dance and ultimate Frisbee.
Ihne credited Bond and the organization's numerous volunteers for the success of this year's campaign success.
"Our volunteers have been tremendous and committed," he said. "They really helped make that goal possible. They give direction to the Y. We're lucky to have them and look forward to doing more great work with them."
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