The YMCA of Rock River Valley spreads a message of strengthening community and removing negative labels at its annual Community Dinner.
More than 500 people were in attendance at Giovanni’s Restaurant on March 16, 2017 for the event that featured comedian Michael Jr.
The evening opened with a spoken word piece titled “Rockford Method 2” from former YMCA Intern Challenge participant Zach Thanasilangkul. The message of the lyrics is to show while progress has been made in our community, work still needs to be done to promote unity, encourage education, fill jobs and lower crime rates. The piece shares the Y’s role in the effort as a place for all – as people pursue a healthy spirit, mind and body.
CEO Mike Brown spoke of the Y’s impact. The Y serves more than 50,000 members through programs offered at six branches and 24 Kids’ Time sites at area schools. He offered highlights including the celebration of Camp Winnebago’s 50th anniversary, more than 26,000 free lunches served every summer at Camp, 1,379 volunteers giving more than 34,000 hours, and 1,700 donors contributing to more than $1 million in gifts that provide subsidies, scholarships and services through the YMCA Annual Campaign.
“We have such great assets in the Rockford region and while sometimes it feels as though we can’t win, I must remind you that we have organizations, people, and leaders who are turning this city upside down, shaking out the dust and impacting thousands of lives everyday,” said Brown.
Brown’s speech transitioned to a discussion on social responsibility – one of the Y’s three areas of focus along with youth development and healthy living. To be socially responsible means to act with others in mind, to act for the benefit of others, to act in love. Brown addressed the detrimental effects of putting labels on people.
“Labels are hurtful and they segregate a community into classifications,” said Brown. “Labels are inappropriate and labels are detrimental to the people we serve. We are talking about classism, racism, sexism and all the isms that group people with a label. The sooner we can encourage a change in our language, the sooner we can advance Rockford to the next level.”
The YMCA brings all people together. We meet them where they are and we work to put Christian principles into practice through programs, services and relationships that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. The Y is challenging community members to reach beyond their comfort zone, recognize perceptions and labels, break down barriers and fight for our people.
Brown announced the YMCA’s newly formed partnership with Judson University will bring Judson’s Rockford campus to the I.D. Pennock Family YMCA in the fall. The partnership includes a two-year, fully funded scholarship in the Adult Professional Degree program to be given out every year. The winner of the first scholarship is Brenda Reddic. Reddic went back to school after the industrial company she worked for closed. She earned an Associate’s degree in human services, but didn’t pursue a Bachelor’s degree because of finances. Reddic says the scholarship will allow her to further her education, so she can help others turn their lives around.
Three YMCA awards were also presented during the dinner:
YMCA Antonio Little Teen Leadership Award and $1000 scholarship – Victoria Malone, East High School
YMCA Community Leader Award – Rick Engen
YMCA Outstanding Business Impact Award – Rockford Fire Department
Funds raised at the YMCA Community Dinner support the annual campaign. If you’re interested in making a donation to the 2017 annual campaign, please visit our give page
or call the Mission Advancement office at 779-500-0800.