For Derek Martin, the Executive Director of the Bethlehem YMCA, the work with the children goes hand-in-hand with embodying the mission of the Y, and the core principles of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.
“We instill that within all our children in all our programs, as well as within our staff,” said Martin. “We see thousands of children come in each day and through our camps, and the guidance they receive and the confidence they receive is invaluable to their growth.”
The Capital District YMCA also participates in the Reach Out For Youth Campaign, an effort to raise money to support young students and families who may not be able to afford the after-school programs.
“Some parents can’t afford to send their kids to these quality programs, and they end up home alone,” said Shaw. “After school, we provide that safe haven and a happy place for the children to develop.”
Events like the Lights On Afterschool Campaign nationwide help to raise awareness of the programs at facilities like the YMCA. For Shaw, it is also an opportunity to let the community know about the monetary support available for parents who may not think it is possible to enroll their child in a similar program.
“We want to get the word out about the campaign, so that people can come and say that they heard about it, and that they would like to join.”
The afternoon programs were started at the Bethlehem YMCA in 2007. Shaw said the interest has grown, and the program is now full.
The Lights On Afterschool celebration started in 2000 with events in more than 1,200 locations. This year, organizers estimate that more than one million people would celebrate Lights On nationwide.