What exactly, is the meaning of "IMPACT"? A word that we use everyday in the nonprofit world, sometimes it just means being able to demonstrate to donors that their dollars are doing something "worthwhile." But what is that, even? I wonder, is what I do really making a difference in anybody's life? Am I making an "impact" in my community??
By working at the Y, I really think I am making an impact, in my own way. The Y is a nonprofit charity—a lot of people don't know that we do a lot more than just help people get healthier in the fitness center or swimming pool. As a Youth and Family Program Specialist, my programs and events are providing kids and families a welcoming and safe space to learn, grow and thrive. Families get to spend more quality time together—whether it's a Gingerbread House Building Workshop or an Indoor Playground class, I see memories being made between parents and their children, bonds being strengthened every day. In our summer camps, I can see kids learning about topics ranging from farming to engineering to art—and it gets me every time I see that "Ah-ha!" moment sparkle in their eyes, when they make a connection or realize how much they love the subject. When I see the smiles of our participants, I know what I'm doing, is making a change in their lives.
For the past year, I've been working with Susan Guber, good friend and colleague of mine at the Summit YMCA on the Sundays in Motion Special Needs program. It's a program where each month, we provide a Sunday to the special needs community where they can join us at the Y for 2 hours—1 hour of active play and another hour of swimming. We've grown from 3 families to now serving over 27 families. Being able to reach as many people as we can and providing this service to them is great, and is truly exciting. Not all families, especially Special Needs families, have things to do or places to go on weekends and holidays. At the Y, we can provide that and make them feel welcome and safe in a fun environment. But I'm not going to lie, working on Sundays can sometimes be a bummer—who doesn't like to have a weekend to themselves once in a while?
But this past Sunday, I along with our team, Allison Zeimann and Susan Guber, we left feeling euphoric. In addition to having our auditorium set up with various play equipment, we incorporate games that allow the children, parents, and volunteers to interact with each other. While playing Duck, Duck, Goose, one of the moms of a special needs child, who was also playing the game, suddenly leapt up from the game elated, with the BIGGEST smile on her face, and gave us the thumbs up sign.
She kept mouthing, "This is the first time, this is the first time!" After the game was over, she came up to me and said, "This is the FIRST time he has ever played a game. And he was verbalizing. I send him to socialization classes and other things and he never seems to get it or engage. Today he not only got it, but he played the game. Duck, Duck, Goose is a milestone!"
She drove over an hour to get to us, but said she was thankful for what we do and that she can't wait until next month.
Honestly, this was my Greatest. Sunday. Ever.
It's because of moments like these that keep me coming back to work at the YMCA everyday. It's moments like these that remind me that what we do makes a difference, and makes us not only stronger as individuals, but stronger as a community.
And it's not just for kids. Whenever I walk into the Summit YMCA, or any YMCA for that matter, I can actually SEE the impact we have on our community. When I see seniors in their fitness gear congregated around the coffee bar chatting and laughing, I know the Y has provided them a space where they can not only get healthy, but make friends and have somewhere to go other than the four walls of their home. When I see teens weightlifting in the strength room, motivating each other to go for that extra rep, or Achiever students learning about college applications in our conference room, I know the Y has given them the opportunity to socialize in a safe environment where they'll be active and productive, with strong role models to lead them. When I see aftercare kids learning about nutritious fruits and vegetables on Taco Tuesday, I know the Y is teaching them the importance of eating healthy AND yummy foods, something I've always strived to do as a parent. The Y is changing lives. We ARE making an impact, in so many ways.
It's no wonder the Y tagline is "For a better us." Because truly, all that we do, is just that. It's all - For a better US.
Anyhow, just wanted to share this story with everyone, because it truly made me ecstatic. Happy Holidays to all and stay warm this winter!
"I love my job and am fully committed to making our youth and family programs the best that they can be. Although some days can be stressful, every day is different, every day is a blessing, and every day I consider myself fortunate because however small, I make a difference."
Phone: (908)273-3330 ext. 1166
To learn more about the development and availability of Special Needs programs at the Summit Area YMCA, please visit www.thesay.org/Special-Needs-Programs
About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)3 charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, New Providence, Millburn, Springfield, Short Hills, Summit, Gillette, and Stirling. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need. To strengthen your community and provide others with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, make your tax-deductible donation today at www.thesay.org/give