By Lethbridge Herald on March 13, 2018.
Strange and wonderful things were happening at the Lethbridge YMCA on Monday.
A woman was riding an exercise bike on the front step with brightly coloured balloons surrounding her in the chilly morning air. A man in brightly coloured clothing walked a treadmill while being interviewed by a local reporter, and party poppers were going off inside at semi-regular intervals as volunteer exercisers met their fundraising goals.
It was all part of the great atmosphere created by YMCA staff during Monday’s annual “Be Active to Build Strong Kids” event, which raises money to help subsidize memberships for lower-income families in the community.
“The more kids feel empowered and good about themselves, the better the whole community is,” said YMCA board chair Stephen Mogdan breathlessly as he walked his treadmill at the halfway mark of a three-hour stretch.
“The reality is in our community about one in five kids are at or below the poverty line. Those are the kids that wouldn’t have the ability to come to a facility like this and enjoy some of the great programming, so that is really what we are trying to target to get those kids into programs here.”
The YMCA set an ambitious goal this year to raise $30,000, and its more than a dozen volunteer excercisers were more than keen for the challenge, said YMCA CEO Jennifer Petracek-Kolb.
“This is just an outstanding group of individuals we have had step forward today as our volunteer fundraisers,” she said. “Everybody is pitching in and setting really high goals. When we started this event four years ago we asked people to set a minimum of half an hour and $500. Now we have people staying for hours and raising thousands. It is such an incredible testament to our value in the community, and how people support what we are doing in Lethbridge.”
Rahim Karmali, financial services manager for Lethbridge Toyota, was one of those volunteers who came out to ride an exercise bike for hours to raise money for the event. He said he wanted to support the YMCA’s efforts to help underprivileged kids in the community.
“We need to start really young with kids,” said Karmali. “The YMCA having camps and other programs gives kids a reason to get active. There is both a physical benefit and a social benefit for these kids. What the YMCA does is really important because they are laying a strong foundation for our youth.”
No other individual fundraiser showed more commitment to these principles than Pam Haapa-aho, who rode an exercise bike for hours in the cold on the front steps of the YMCA. Haapa-aho was already well on her way to raising $10,000 when The Herald spoke to her Monday morning.
“My feet are freezing,” confessed Haapa-aho with a chuckle. “But I try to up my craziness every year to make people want to donate. I was very happy I was able to make my goal of $5,000 raised early in the day, but I am not stopping yet. I am going to keep going out there, and keep going for the kids.”
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