Celebrate the YMCA’s 175th Birthday with a Day of Service
On Thursday, June 6, we’re celebrating the YMCA’s 175th birthday! On this day in 1844, 22-year-old George Williams started a small prayer group to support young men flooding into London during the Industrial Revolution. While social groups of young people gathered around a common cause weren’t new, the Y offered something unique — a fierce drive to tackle social issues and an open membership that cut across Victorian England’s strict class divisions.
The movement spread like wildfire, with new YMCAs springing up across Europe and around the world. In 1851, retired sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan founded the first YMCA in the United States after seeing a desperate need for a safe home away from home for sailors traveling through Boston. Over the next century, the Y adapted to the needs of local communities while staying true to its roots as an organization that fosters connections and helps people reach their potential.
Every step of the way, the Y embraced innovation, becoming the birthplace of basketball, volleyball, racquetball, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and group swimming lessons. The Y’s volunteers have provided relief work in every American armed conflict starting with the Civil War. It pioneered night classes, correspondence courses, and vocational training programs. The Y was also one of the first organizations to start camps to teach young people the importance of being stewards of the natural environment, including YMCA Camp Seymour, which was founded in 1905.
Today, the Y has a presence in 119 countries around the world and serves 58 million people every year. Despite tremendous growth and change, the Y has endured because of its focus on strengthening communities through programs that nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being, and empower people to give back and support their neighbors.
Today, Ys around the globe are celebrating the founding of the YMCA and our shared legacy of bringing people together to learn, grow, and thrive. Here are three ways you can join in the celebration:
Join us in giving back to our community
At the Y, we believe that lasting personal and social change comes about when we all work together. This Saturday, June 8, celebrate the Y’s 175th birthday by volunteering 175 minutes of your time in service to the community. Join us at the Lakewood Family YMCA in Lakewood or the Tom Taylor Family YMCA in Gig Harbor:
Lakewood Family YMCA | 9am-12pm
Volunteers needed for several projects, including a street cleanup, help setup for Summer Day Camp, sanding and staining picnic tables, community garden cleanup, and playground cleanup. RSVP here to get a free t-shirt!
Tom Taylor Family YMCA | 9am-12pm
Volunteers needed for garden cleanup and weeding, window washing, and other activities. Contact Kendra Henderson at 253-534-7868 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Donate to the Y
As a nonprofit, the Y helps kids, adults, and families thrive with programs that teach, connect, heal, nourish, and encourage. But we can’t do it alone. Donate today for a better us.
Share what the Y means to you
What does the Y mean to you? How has the Y impacted you and your family? Share your thoughts and reflections on social media using the hashtag #YMCA175 or share your story on our website.
Want to learn more about the history of the Y movement worldwide and in Pierce and Kitsap Counties? Visit our About Us page to get started.