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The City Journals

YMCA after-school arcade games help mark the organization’s 125th anniversary

May 03, 2019 10:50AM ● By Carl Fauver

YMCA Community Family Center after-school program participants Ajoh Majok (top) and Kaylee Deegan join the fun at the “Y’s” cardboard arcade game. (YMCA Community Family Center)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Six years before the turn of the 20th century, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) got its start here in northern Utah. That was before any automobiles had shown up and long before the state capitol building was constructed.

This year, the organization is celebrating it’s 125th anniversary serving northern Utah by continuing to provide the kind of services that have made it a long-term institution.

“Seeing the work that is being done and the way they benefit these kids, I am always excited to support the ‘Y’ and am proud to have it in my district,” said Taylorsville City Councilman Ernest Burgess, who’s northernmost city council District 1 is home to the YMCA Community Family Center (4223 South 1550 West). “The Y does so many great things to help these kids, despite working on an always-limited budget. I just love the place.”

Family Community Center Outreach Director Rebekah Adamson is thrilled to have the support of Burgess. She just wishes more people were aware of what’s being done at her center.

“I think the Taylorsville community at large doesn’t know much about what we do or has ever even been here,” she said. “But those who do seem to appreciate the services we provide.”

At a recent Taylorsville City Council meeting, elected officials heard a pitch from the YMCA of Northern Utah for another year of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding. One of the longest-running federal funding programs, CDBG provides money for a variety of community development activities.

This year, the YMCA Community Family Center received $7,000 in CDBG funding — not the most it has ever received through Taylorsville City but better than average.

“Federal and state funding is typically used for staffing purposes,” said the center’s Out of School Time Director Cory Harrison. “We have eight fulltime and 18 part-time employees at our center and at the other Taylorsville locations we serve. We also have volunteers who help us from Salt Lake Community College. Several of them spend their time helping with our ‘America Reads’ program where they read to our kids.”

This spring, the YMCA Family Community Center hosted its annual “College and Career Family Nights” at three different locations: the center and two nearby elementary schools. The evening is designed to encourage creativity among the kids and to remind them that thinking about higher education and pursuing a college degree is not something they should rule out, even if their economic circumstances are challenging.

“I think the career preparedness night is such a worthwhile program,” Burgess said. “My thinking on that is, if those kids are given more of a vision (about educational opportunities they might one day pursue) then it gives them an important goal to look up to and pursue.”

As a part of the special nights, several kids also constructed makeshift arcade games out of cardboard boxes. Called “Caine’s Arcade,” the games were modeled after an arcade created several years ago by a then 9-year-old California boy, Caine Monroy, whose ingenuity was featured in a documentary, resulting in funding donations to help him and others to afford college.

“We brought our Caine’s Arcade back because the kids enjoy constructing the games,” Harrison said. “It keeps them active and thinking about their futures.”

The YMCA Family Community Center also provides about 180 students each month with hot meals. Food is served at the center along with several area schools.

On April 27, the center hosted its annual “Healthy Kids Day,” complete with games and outside vendors. Started in 2010, “Y” officials say the day is primarily intended to educate particularly lower-income families about the importance of healthy eating and lifestyles. 

Now, with the end of the school year fast approaching, the YMCA Family Community Center’s next big goal is to fill slots for their summer camps.

“Our series of 10 weeklong summer camps begins June 3,” Adamson said. “We keep the kids busy with a variety of craft activities and also take them on field trips to places like Red Butte Garden, Hogle Zoo and the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.”

The camps are for children ages 5 to 12, with costs varying depending on financial needs. Parents interested in signing their kids up for the camp should call the YMCA Community Family Center at 801-839-3388 or visit its website at ymcautah.org.

“They (YMCA staff and volunteers) are always coming up with new ways to keep kids busy, entertained and out of trouble,” Burgess said. “I go to bat for them — with the city council, and the public — every chance I get.”