The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 15, 2014

YMCA’s Back A Youth opening the doors

Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — As a boy of 11 or 12, Maurice Allen would visit the YMCA to play basketball.

“Quite a long time ago I used to come up to the YMCA, and I didn’t have a membership, but I got affiliated with the Y when I was playing in the YMCA league through one of the other community centers, Booker T,” he said. “I always wanted to come up to the Y at noontime to play basketball, and I would sneak in the back door.”

Allen said it was “a long time” before anyone wised up to what he was doing, eventually being caught by one of the women working the front desk.

“I may have been 11 or 12 years old,” he said. “I was probably sneaking in for a year or so or for two years.”

When it came to the attention of Executive Director Ken Rapp, he took Allen aside to talk.

“I remember Ken pulling me into his office and saying, ‘Hey, what can you afford?’ and I got my grandmother involved, and we came up with a program that worked out just for me, and I became a member of the YMCA through Back A Youth.”

Since then, Allen has come a long way at the YMCA, now serving on its board. He said the Back A Youth program still makes an impact in the Enid community.

“I think it’s still very effective in the community and still very much needed,” he said. “The YMCA does a lot to provide a family atmosphere that people can feel comfortable bringing their children and feel comfortable not just working out but being able to be free and liberal about how they feel about God and how they serve.”

Allen said without the Back A Youth program he would not have been exposed to such an environment at such an early age.

Each year, Denny Price Family YMCA begins its annual Back A Youth campaign, and each year numerous volunteers participate in the fundraiser.

This year’s goal was to raise $140,000 to provide scholarships to the YMCA for youth and families who might not otherwise be able to afford the programs offered. Volunteers were able to raise $151,320 this years from more than 600 donors.

“We could not do this alone,” Rapp said. “We thank our donors, members, volunteers, staff and the community for their contributions. Their support gives us the resources to make sure everyone in our community has access and opportunities to reach their full potential in a safe, welcoming environment.”

During this year’s campaign kick-off, Rapp read a letter to volunteers he’d received from a mother who said she could not afford to clothe her teenagers and send them to the YMCA.

He said he would guess the mother was working full-time to support her family, without much help, leaving the kids to their own devices while she was working.

He asked the volunteers if they wouldn’t rather those teens be at the YMCA.

“This program is really very much worth your time,” he said. “It helps our community and our kids.”

In 2013, the goal for the Back A Youth program was $125,000. Volunteers soared past that goal, raising $141,000.

YMCA board First Vice President Cathy Stocker, who chaired this year’s campaign along with Peter Dillingham, said the program benefits children and parents.

“Our fundraising efforts are to support our Back A Youth program, and that program provides scholarships to youth who cannot otherwise afford to participate as members of the Y, or in various programs of the Y, such as baseball, flag football, indoor soccer, basketball, swim lessons and swim team,” she said. “Approximately $20,000 we are able to raise in our Back A Youth campaign will be used to support adult scholarships, the bulk of which are one or more parents of the youth who received scholarships that the family can then participate.”

Stocker said more than 700 youths and 250 adults received financial help through the Back A Youth program last year.

“We’ve got a lot of good volunteers,” Rapp said. “It’s a good cause.”