Boothbay Region YMCA annual fund co-chairs Robbie and Sara Watts and daughters Ella and Kayla are spreading the Y’s 2021 message “Back Together” by sharing what the organization means to them.
“Family and community,” said Ella, age 13.
“Niceness and helpfulness,” said Kayla, age 9.
Those were the most accessible words on the spur of the moment for the girls because the family had just finished drafting a list of 20 reasons they love the Y so much. With the kids having been involved in the Y since “parent and me” toddler swimming lessons, and Robbie and Sara involved since they were kids, the Y has become more than just a regional landmark – it’s home.
“When we were asked to be the chairs for the annual fund, it was kind of a no-brainer for us simply because the Y has given us so much in the past: From time as a kid running down here and doing all the after school stuff to Kayla going through a couple years of the Montessori program, it’s just been a big community focus for us and we just want to do whatever we can to give back.”
The campaign’s chair works over the summer to expose members and nonmembers to the nonprofit’s work. The annual fund supports operations and helps keep membership rates as low as possible, said BRYMCA Executive Director Andy Hamblett. “They really speak to the fact that the Y is generational. Sara and Robbie grew up in this community and one of the reasons they're still here is all the assets this community has and the Y being one of them.”
Kayla and Ella have been involved in many of the Y’s programs over the past several years including the adventure camps, Explorer Camp, Y Arts camps, Dolphin Swim teams, Fit Kids after school program and more. So, when it became obvious last year the pandemic would affect all programming, the Y did all it could to revamp programs for virtual or spaced out activities. Since both Ella and Kayla were involved in Y Arts and the Dolphin Swim Teams then, the change and dedication required to keep those programs going were apparent, particularly for Y Arts Director Emily Mirabile and the coaches, said Robbie.
“The really great thing is how well the Y has adapted this year just to keep these kids active … Within a few weeks, Emily basically redid the entire Y Arts camp program and created a whole bunch of classes. They changed week to week and some held over constantly, but it allowed parents to have a place for their kids to go …”
The partnership between Southport Central School and the Y was key for all students since there is not enough space indoors for spread-out play or sports, said Sara. While Boothbay Region Elementary School was ending early on Wednesdays, SCS was keeping regular school hours with the end of the day dedicated to attending the Y, Sara said. “There were times on winter days the kids would use the facility when going outside is not an option or the town hall isn't an option. The Y was there.”
Hamblett said the organization immediately recognized the need for programming flexible enough to accommodate people in a variety of situations and Mirabile was key to keeping participants as comfortably involved as possible. “She made sure there was something for everyone whether that was somebody who needed to stay home because that was their comfort level or come together for a little bit.”
This also kept family from afar in the loop by broadcasting through Boothbay Region TV’s studio in the Y. Robbie said family as far as Nebraska was able to watch Kayla perform virtually in “Shrek Jr.” earlier this year. “It's nice to see the lessons everybody learned throughout this whole process. I hope some of that continues because I think there have been some really good possibilities out of all of this. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the facility. We're lucky and it needs to continue.”
Asked what they would do without the Y, Ella, Sara and Robbie said they did not know. “It's always supported working families,” said Sara. “And as a working family, I don't know what we would do without the Y, honestly?”
Said Kayla, “I'd probably sit at home on my iPad in my pajamas being lazy.”