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Issue Date: July 2008

Building the Dream

Lori Valko Weber
Although all YMCAs work to provide a safe, fun environment for kids and families through physical activity and other programming, the Lake County YMCA approaches its mission with style thanks to $3 million the Dream House has provided over the past 14 years. Each year talented volunteers donate their time and resources to build and decorate a home from the ground up. The public is then invited to tour the one-of-a-kind finished product, and one lucky visitor can win a drawing for the home or a $200,000 cash prize. Proceeds from the event are used to provide facility and equipment enhancements at all branches of the Lake County YMCA.

“The Dream House has really allowed us to afford the equipment that allows us to reach more people and give more opportunities for our members,” says Dick Bennett, Lake County YMCA CEO. “We appreciate all the support the community has shown for the Dream House. We make our capital improvement decisions to help further our mission and return that support back to the community.”

Dream House funds have bought buses, gym equipment, an in-line skating rink, an outdoor chapel, expanded locker rooms, defibrillators, water attractions, accessibility modifications for handicapped people and more. This year, the Y hopes the Dream House will bring in about $200,000, funds that will be divided among Lake County branches (Painesville, Madison, Willoughby, Perry’s Outdoor Family Center and the Childcare Centers).

“We really want the Dream House to be a dream come true not only for the person who wins the home, but also for Ys and their members,” says Peggy Swanger, director of development. “The Dream House allows us to offer the best in improvements and equipment.”

One of the most popular Dream House acquisitions is TechnoGym equipment, exercise machines that have helped provide the Y with state-of-the-art fitness equipment since 2000. “One of our main goals is to reach people who just don’t know where to begin an exercise program,” says Beth Horvath, health and wellness coordinator at the Painesville branch. “We want to help them work through their barriers to living a healthy life.”

TechnoGym has helped motivate many people who may otherwise have given up on their exercise program, Horvath notes. Users just insert a computer key into their equipment to get individualized feedback on repetitions and time. They have a virtual personal trainer.

“New members are often surprised at just how sophisticated our equipment is,” Horvath adds. “It’s very motivating. And, when people don’t show up, the software alerts us.” Y workers call these members to find out if they’re OK. “We want to let them know we miss them and encourage them to continue their fitness program. It’s part of our mission to reach out to the community.”

Bennett agrees that TechnoGym is among the Y’s most popular features, and adds that the Y prides itself on its ability to adapt to the changing needs of Americans at the local level. One of the newer YMCA initiatives, called Activate America, addresses the cultural shifts necessary to promote healthful lifestyles among a population increasingly diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“We want to help create a healthy community,” Bennett says. “When members come to us with specific health concerns, it’s our job to engage them in meaningful, effective programming. They need to walk into our Y and feel that it’s OK for them to be here. This welcome has to be inherent in everything we present — from our signage to our vending machine choices to our equipment and programming. The Dream House helps us extend this welcome and continue to provide an environment that promotes a healthy community.”Building the DreamThe YMCA’s annual event helps residents live the life they want.

By Lori valyko Weber

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