All posts by Chad Baird

Strong Kids Month Kickoff!


March is quickly approaching- which means the kick-off of YMCA Calgary’s Strong Kids Month!
One signature event will be the Cycle for Strong Kids event on Monday March 6th at the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA.

This event is open to all. Past participants have included YMCA members, staff and volunteers, local business’s, local cycling groups, etc. The purpose for the event is simple… rally a team together, compete against other teams for calories expended and raise money for YMCA Calgary’s annual Strong Kids Campaign.

Participation is based on two categories, “Pro” and “Not So Pro.” The Not So Pro teams can select an hour time slot that works for your team. The “Pro” teams will ride head to head in the evening starting around 6:30 pm.

The goal of the cycle is to raise funds for YMCA Calgary’s annual Strong Kids Campaign. Team registered will receive instructions on how to set up an online donation page to share with friends and family to raise awareness and donations for the Strong Kids Campaign.

The winning team is determined by the amount of calories expended (tracked by the bike) and the amount of money raised. The winning team will be celebrated at an event following the cycle. YMCA Calgary will recognize any team that raises $1,000 or more with a banner to be hung in the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA to thank the team for their efforts.

Please contact Gord Beach (Strong Kids Committee Special event volunteer director and cycle organizer) for more information. Once you have your team confirmed Gord will forward race details and timeslot options. 

Gord Beach
(403) 554-2894
Interested in cycling without a team? Individual participants are welcome!  Contact Gord for more information.

If cycling isn’t your thing mark your calendars for April 29 and join us for the YMCA Calgary Family Fun Run at the Eau Claire Plaza. Registration is open       

Father and Son: The Santos Family

Football Star.

What does it take to be great? All-Star high school football player Tyler Santos believes he and his father have found the answer to these questions working out together at YMCA Calgary.  They have seen first-hand what makes an athlete great is the drive to get up every morning and better themselves physically and mentally. Tyler was introduced to this concept at a very young age and it is what has enabled him to be so prosperous on the football field.

Tyler started playing football at eight years old and was a skilled athlete right from the beginning. He was always the starter and that is why it was such a jarring switch when, at age 12, Tyler moved divisions and positions, becoming the rookie. He was no longer his coach’s first choice and his natural talent alone was not enough to be the star of his new team. After a full season of little field time and ample bench time, Tyler felt defeated.

Joe Santos realized that this was the tipping point in which his son could quit or push on to excellence. Joe made the suggestion that would change both of their lives for the better: “Tyler, let’s go workout. Let’s go to the Y. I challenge you to challenge yourself.”

Tyler agreed to let his dad become his trainer and started slowly with light weights. Under the careful guidance of his father, Tyler began to build himself into a better athlete. Every day, Tyler got a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. Tyler learned that excellence is not a quickly-reached destination, but slow progression to the goal through consistent activity.

Across the next several years, Tyler and Joe went together to the Shawnessy YMCA most days of the week and put in the work needed to become great. Together, they mapped out the path to achieve Tyler’s fitness goals and that path included consistently working out at the Y.

“I love the weight room and the whole place really influences me to do better,” says Tyler. “The YMCA is a place to get healthier and improve yourself.” Also, working out with his dad strengthened an already strong bond between the two. “It is great to have my dad train me and it was just great to work out together” says Tyler.

Joe believes that it wasn’t the weight floor alone that benefited his son’s life, but the entire family atmosphere of the YMCA.  The family environment allowed Tyler to interact with kids his age to encourage healthy competition and realistic goal setting.

It has now been five years and Tyler and Joe still frequently work out together. Tyler went from the bench to an all-star football player because of his dedication to healthy living and physical fitness. Joe got to hang out with his son more and stay in excellent shape. YMCA Calgary was their win-win. Now, Tyler is looking ahead and his future goals include playing competitive college football in the United States. Tyler and Joe plans to keep training together at YMCA Calgary and become a better athlete, one workout at a time.

Recovering from Adversity: The Gwynne Family


When Marcy Gwynne was five months pregnant, her husband Paul was diagnosed with cancer. During the next six years they fought through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries. On October 16, 2014, Paul passed away. The first person Marcy called after relatives was Jenni Thompson from YMCA Calgary. Marcy wanted her boys to stay involved with the Y.

Marcy, Paul, and their six-year-old twin boys Max and Alex started coming to the YMCA when the boys were two. Paul told Marcy, “I want to be here. This is a place for families.”

During Paul’s illness, YMCA staff volunteered to take care of the boys before and after their programs so their mom and dad could get to the hospital on time for treatments. After Paul passed away, YMCA staff volunteered to watch the boys again, this time to give Marcy a break and some alone time to grieve.  

Originally from Ontario, many of Marcy’s friends and family expected her to move “home” after Paul’s death. But through it all, she says, she’s never felt alone.

“We call this the YMCA family,” Marcy says. “I have so much support and community at the Y. There are people here who are helping me and my boys.”

Paul would wait in the YMCA lobby while his boys were in swimming lessons and sport classes. Marcy remembers how staff would check on him and how other members, parents and kids, became their friends. When there was concern that Paul’s treatments wouldn’t be covered by health insurance, other YMCA families offered to fundraise for them.

“We were chosen as a family in the Adopt-a-Family program twice,” Marcy says. And even though they are low-income because of Paul’s inability to work, they’ve never felt discriminated against.

“The people here have been so good to us.
If someday I can pay it forward to the Y, I will.
Right now, my way of paying it forward is to keep coming because the programs and opportunities are so wonderful for the boys.”

Max and Alex celebrated their sixth birthday at the YMCA in April 2015. The loss of their dad has been difficult beyond words. But their mom sees how being at the Y has helped them during their dad’s battle and through their time to grieve. They have been making friends and building skills, not just in basketball and swimming, but also through increased social skills, dedication, and confidence.

For Marcy, having her sons continue to participate in YMCA programs is an important part of her husband’s legacy. After attending family camp at Camp Chief Hector YMCA in 2014, Paul confided in his wife his dream that his sons would one day be camp counsellors there. She remembers him saying “We can afford to give them everything because of the YMCA.”

Thank you YMCA Calgary Strong Kids donors!


Thank you YMCA Calgary Strong Kids donors!

Together in 2016, we raised $1,442,700 to support the positive growth and development of children and youth through YMCA programs and membership. We are pleased to share that Strong Kids helped provide over 23,000 YMCA experiences.

As our city continued to be hit hard by the economic downturn, it was more important than ever to be able to support children, youth and families. The need for financial assistance to register for YMCA programs and membership increased by 19% from 2015. Because of our donors we were able to meet this increased need. Your support provided children and youth with opportunities to develop physical literacy, engage in positive relationships, build community and support their individual overall wellness in this crucial time.

Philanthropic support is vital to support children, youth and families who come to the YMCA for opportunities to lead healthier, happier lives. 100% of every donation goes towards giving kids the chance to reach their potential. Thank you for continuing to make such an important impact in the community. We greatly appreciate your partnership as we all work toward building healthy communities.


Special programming for Family Day!

Family Day

Family bonds are of utmost importance and that is why on February 20th, we encourage you to put away your cell phones and focus on the family. YMCA Calgary has free access for everyone the entire day and this is a great opportunity for families to connect. We also have special programming for the whole family! Here are the special programs we are offering on #NoPhoneFamilyDay:


Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot

Family Drop-In Basketball, 12-3pm

Open Swim 7am-8pm


Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA

Preschool Drop In – 10-11:30am

The Wibit, 1-3pm

The Wibit is an aquatic obstacle course, learn more here


Shawnessy YMCA

Family Yoga, 11:30am-12:30pm  *sign up required

Family Climbing, 10am-2pm

Family Zumba, 1-1:45pm


South Health Campus YMCA 

Family Climb, 11:30am-2pm


Saddletowne YMCA 

Family Fitness Circuit, 10-11am and 3-4pm 


Remington YMCA

Family Playground, 10:30am – 12:30pm

The Wibit, 12-3pm

The Wibit is an aquatic obstacle course, learn more here


Check out the facility schedule to see what else is happening on Family Day at a YMCA location near you!

2016 Annual Impact Survey



The results of the annual impact survey are in! Thank you for your feedback.  We learned how you view YMCA Calgary’s facilities, programs, services and the delivery of all three. We also learned what influences your health and well-being. Your feedback is vital to us as we move forward so we can continue to improve on the quality and impact of our programs and services to help promote your health and wellness.

Here are a few things that we heard from you through this survey:

Adults & Seniors

  • Being active at the Y impacted respondents’ whole health – and their kids too.
  • The majority of respondents feel healthy and have seen health improvements in themselves as a result of participating at the Y.
  • As a result of participating in YMCA activities, 82% of the respondents have increased sense of happiness and vitality.
  • More than two thirds of the respondents are further engaged with activities related to personal interests or goals (73%), have enhanced self-confidence (71%) or are more resilient as a person (68%).
  • Respondents revealed that it pays to keep at it and keep going: Those who participated at the Y more than three times per week or for longer than 5 years tend to achieve more positive outcomes than those who participated less.

Children & Youth

  • The majority of the survey respondents believe YMCA helps their children try new activities & explore new experiences (83%), become more confident (81%) and interact with people of different age and background (79%).
  • The average satisfaction scores for YMCA aquatic/recreational sports programs and preschool programs are both 87%. Around 90% of the parents express that their children liked going to the program and the program instructors encouraged their children in a positive and respectful manner.
  • This year’s average satisfaction score for YMCA Child Minding services is 89%, a 2% increase from year 2015.


Thank you for taking the time to complete our annual impact survey. 

Survey responses help us evaluate our facilities, programs, services and our impact on the health of individuals and the community.  Your feedback helps us evaluate how we develop and deliver programs and services and shapes what we do in the future.

You don’t need to wait until the next annual survey to influence positive change at the YMCA and in the community.  Visit us online at and share your feedback/suggestions/comments anytime!

Individual impact on youth in the Y7G program


The high school drop-out rate in Calgary and Alberta is the highest in the country. Research shows that male and female students stop attending for very different reasons, but one key contributing factor is a lack of connection to their school.

Research shows that after-school programming can support the positive development of at-risk youth when it includes appropriate supervision and structure and competent qualified staff.  Practices that support the healing journey of Aboriginal youth involve addressing issues of cultural identity, social inclusion and mentoring.  They promote protective factors in youth and include Aboriginal cultural identity, adults modelling a healthy lifestyle, good physical and mental health, and healthy peer modelling.   Youth can reach their potential when connected with a positive adult, when they are connected to school and their community and when they can envision a positive future for themselves.

Our YMCA 7th Generation (Y7G) program is offered to aboriginal high school students in Calgary. It operates at three Calgary high schools and encompasses cultural teachings through storytelling, traditional activities, leadership skills, 7 Sacred Teachings, Medicine Wheel Teachings, Elders and cultural field trips.  Our partnership with the Calgary Board of Education enables the students in the YMCA 7th Generation Program to receive high school credits. It is a great opportunity for Aboriginal youth to reconnect with their heritage while building pride, a positive self-identity, and a positive connection to school.

Y7G participants connecting to culture through the program

On a blistery cold day in November 2015 the Y7G cohort gathered and made the journey to Blackfoot Crossing. This historic site is on the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is where Treaty 7 was made between her Majesty the Queen and the Blackfoot people. There, the group was able to explore the life of the Blackfoot people before the signing of Treaty 7 – a rich cultural life that revolved primarily around their most important source of food, shelter, clothing, tools and spiritual connection with the buffalo. The group learned how drastically their ancestor’s lives changed when they no longer had buffalo to sustain their semi-nomadic way of life, and in turn how this led them to make Treaty with the federal government and its royal head of state. The chiefs and elders who were present on that historic day in 1877 had to struggle with a decision that would determine the well-being of generations to come – a true test of leadership that is difficult to imagine.

This was an unforgettable experience for both staff and participants alike. It was evident that the group was connecting with their history in ways that would not have been feasible in a classroom. The youth were able to walk the very ground where their ancestors made an enormous decision that would without a doubt have an immense impact on the generations that were to follow. Now, seven generations after this fateful event, the current generation of youth will soon step up as leaders and make decisions that will impact the next seven generations to come.
In spring 2016, the Y7G participants went to Writing on Stone Provincial Park. The bus ride to Writing on Stone was filled with chatter and laughter, as lasting friendships had flourished between the youth. This field trip was just south of Calgary where the land was still, quiet, and hauntingly beautiful. The river at Writing on Stone is surrounded by hoodoo rock formations (which legend tells were once people, petrified into the landscape), sacred hills where many had gone on vision quests, and massive rock faces filled with ancestral art. It was expressed by staff that you could “feel the land speak to you here, and it would tell you stories of the hundreds of ceremonies that had taken place in this sacred site.”

The group toured through paths that wound alongside rock faces that held the traditional ancestral art of the Blackfoot people. Incredibly this ancient form of communication was still evident, withstanding the test of time, bullet hole markings from Mounted Police target practice, and modern graffiti. Each picture tells a different story and can be interpreted many different ways by the various eyes that looked upon them. Consistently though, the images tell the story of the perseverance of Aboriginal people.

Being able to offer these types of experiential learning opportunities to our YMCA 7th Generation youth has had a tremendous impact on them. Connecting to the land, culture and history of indigenous people in a profound and meaningful way allows the youth to gain a sense of pride and self confidence in who they are. This is an essential building block for their successful transition into adulthood.

Thank you to our donors who have generously supported the Aboriginal Programs and Services department at YMCA Calgary.

  • United Way of Calgary and Area
  • The City of Calgary – Family and Community Support Services
  • MEG Energy Corp.
  • Anonymous Donor
  • The Calgary Foundation – The Moffat Family Fund
  • The Calgary Foundation – Anonymous Family Legacy Fund


To support YMCA Community programs, donate today.


Affordable Fitness in Calgary


On January 10, 2017, Saddletowne YMCA welcomed Global Calgary and host Leslie Horton to talk about affordable fitness and what YMCA Calgary has to offer. From conquering the climbing wall to spinning on the stationary bikes to an impromptu synchronized swimming duet, Leslie Horton and our staff had a fun time talking about YMCA Calgary’s fair-priced membership and classes. General Manager Tanya Connelly-Scott and Program Manager Steve Elliot were on site to discuss the value of YMCA membership and all of what the YMCA offers to those who come in our doors.


YMCA Calgary is more than just a gym, it is a community in which members and attendees feel welcome and supported with opportunities for the whole family. YMCA Calgary locations across the city are affordable and nobody is turned away due to financial need. This month is specifically cost-effective because we are waiving the joining fee for the month of January. That means you save up to $75! Not ready to join yet? We are also offering a seven-day free trial so you can try the Y for yourself! Additionally in 2017, for the second year straight, we will not be raising our membership price to make the YMCA fit into your budget even better.

Thank you so much to Global for joining us to discuss affordable fitness in Calgary!




Sheena Swierenga’s announcement of the 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Awards

The 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Awards are the result of nominations from colleagues, supervisors and staff and recipients will receive $1000 for a professional development opportunity.

Before celebrating the 3 recipients, I wanted to acknowledge all the leaders who exist at YMCA Calgary. So many of you show up and deliver quality experiences to our members and program participants and lead successful teams. This is a testament to your resiliency and passion and is what makes the YMCA a place where so many belong and thrive.

This year’s three recipients possess different qualities which make them exceptional leaders, what links them all is the profound impact they have on those they serve – members, youth and their staff teams.

Maris Vazina supports indigenous youth of Calgary by creating a place for community that nurtures self esteem, self worth and healthy relationships. The result is strong and confident young people. Maris’s greatest strength comes from her ability to walk in two worlds and to support her youth as they wear a moccasin on one foot and a shoe on the other. She has built strong relationships with elders and applied their guidance and teachings into the Y7G program. Elder Randy Bottle would humbly call her “an ally, advocate and a strong woman with a heart of pure love for her youth”

Safety is a priority across the Y and the opening of an aquatics space in a new facility provides unique challenges and opportunities for leadership. Nick Mansfield, Aquatics Director at Remington faced challenges with a consistent positive and professional attitude. His quiet leadership means that every guard stepping on deck is supported and experiences a positive work environment. Nick tirelessly creates a strong sense of community by building relationships with each lane swimmer, swim lesson participant and parent. Nick’s determination and hard work continue to lead the Aquatics department at Remington to the accolades of members.

From successfully deescalating issues to creating a space for her staff team to cooperate and collaborate, Jill Harbour has made YMAP a place where staff and approximately 300 youth a week feel a sense of respect and belonging. Jill’s unwavering determination for building and improving YMAP has led to collaborations with other organizations, staff being successful in their program delivery and ensure the broader needs of the community are met. For program participants this means a program built on the foundations of trust, judgment free conversations and organically formed relationships that honour the individual. Jill’s approach to leading YMAP has made her a role model and ambassador of building healthy communities.

I am pleased to present Maris Vanzina, Nick Mansfield and Jill Harbour with the 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Award.

Community Outreach Participants Win Holiday Contest


The Community Outreach Department runs a School Support Program in the Beltline area at Connaught School that provides after school support for kids aged 7-12. 

Program participants went out into their local community to learn about the meaning of community, how they can get involved and what are the needs of their community.

As part of the Lougheed House celebration this year, they held their annual gingerbread house contests with a fire hall theme.  Lougheed house and the Firefighters Museum of Calgary joined efforts for their Pomp and Circumstance exhibit.  This exhibit explores the history of Calgary fire brigade and how they have impacted the Calgary community.

Our participants worked hard on their gingerbread house during program and were given the opportunity to present their creation at the Lougheed House on November 18th 2016 to the local fire crew on site. 

Today, Lougheed House announced that the participants at the Connaught YMCA School Support program were named the winners of this year’s contest!  Their creation will be on display at the Lougheed House until January 29th 2017.

A big congratulations to our participants at the Connaught School Support program and their leaders; Owini and Wendy.