Category: YMCA News

Black History Month Events


As we celebrate and acknowledge the diverse culture, rich heritage, and impactful accomplishments of the Black Community in February during Black History Month, we want to showcase a number of local events, seminars and resources that you can participate in, learn, and be inspired to action. This list was compiled from resources provided by Action Dignity, University of Calgary, Calgary Library and Alberta Health Services.


Violet King: A Calgary Trailblazer

Today we are sharing the history and legacy of Violet King, a Calgary born trailblazer with a unique YMCA connection. Her name is Violet King.

Violet King was born October 18, 1929, in Calgary, Alberta. A descendant of American settlers, King’s grandparents arrived in Keystone, AB (now known as Breton, AB) in 1911. King’s parents later moved to Calgary and settled into the Hillhurst – Sunnyside neighbourhood. Violet was one of four siblings and attended high school at Crescent Heights High School, knowing at a very young age that she wanted to be a criminal lawyer, as stated in her grade 12 yearbook.

(courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-5600-7760a)

Violet King went on to study law at the University of Alberta in 1948. The Faculty of Law at the U of A was male-dominated, and King was one of only three women enrolled. Violet showed a keen interest in leadership and public relations and got heavily involved with various clubs and the student union. During her undergraduate, King’s contributions were recognized, and she was awarded an Executive “A” gold ring, a prestigious honour she shares with future Alberta Premier, Peter Lougheed (1971-1985).
Life in Alberta presented several challenges for the King family. When King’s grandparents arrived in Canada, the Canadian government proposed a Ban on Black American Immigration to Canada, therefore limiting Black immigrants in the Canadian Prairies to 1,000 people in 1912. Violet’s brother, Ted, was the president of the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People from 1958 to 1961, and in 1959 he launched a legal challenge against a Calgary hotel’s discriminatory policy, bringing to light the legal loopholes innkeepers exploit to deny Black patrons lodging. In a 1955 speech at a sorority banquet in Calgary, King expressed hope that in the future greater focus would be placed on a person’s ability and less on one’s race or gender, in a way, a formal declaration of her mission and purpose.

Violet King receiving recognition from the Calgary local of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (IBSCP), June 1954.

(courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-5600-7757a)

Following her graduation, King was actively involved in supporting and promoting the rights of Black workers, using her knowledge of racial barriers faced by Black men and becoming treasurer of the labour union, the Calgary Brotherhood Council. Violet King was called to the Alberta Bar on June 2, 1954, becoming the first Black female lawyer to practise law in Canada. King practised law in Calgary for several years, working for a firm and later a judge of the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
King moved east to Ottawa where she worked with the federal department of Citizenship and Immigration, giving her the opportunity to travel the country and meet various leaders of different service and community associations. Throughout her career, she gave speeches discussing racism and her hopes for gender and race equity.
In 1963, King moved to the United States and settled in New Jersey to become the executive director of the Newark YMCA’s community branch, where she assisted Black applicants seek employment opportunities. In 1969, King moved to Chicago to become director of manpower, planning and staff development with the YMCA. In 1976, she was appointed executive director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organization Development Group, making her the first woman named to an executive position with the American national YMCA organization.
King passed away on March 30, 1982, from cancer at the age of 52. Her legacy as a trailblazer is recognized as being a strong advocate for women and racial equality, as demonstrated by her significant leadership qualities and contributions. Violet King shattered both glass ceilings and racial barriers throughout her life and her legacy is an example to us all for the work and community building we must do and continue to do for many generations to come.

On February 26, 2021, the Federal Building Plaza in Edmonton was renamed the Violet King Henry Plaza to honour her numerous contributions and legacy.

(courtesy Gabriel Mackinnon Lighting Design)

Violet King
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Violet King shattered both glass ceilings and racial barriers
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Criminal Justice Firsts: Violet King
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Plaza renamed to honour trailblazing Black Calgarian
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February is Black History Month

YMCA Calgary proudly joins people across Canada and around the world to celebrate Black History Month. The 2022 theme: “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day,” focuses on recognizing the daily contributions that Black Canadians make to Canada.
This includes acknowledging and celebrating Black YMCA staff and volunteers, and Black community members that participate in Y programming. Like Violet King, a Calgary trailblazer who became the first Black Canadian to obtain a law degree in Alberta, the first Black person admitted to the Alberta Bar and the first Black woman to practice law in Canada. She rounded out these historic achievements by later becoming the first woman named to an executive position with YMCA in the United States. We look forward to sharing this story, and many more.
Let this be an invitation to celebrate – and to learn, unpack, and take action to dismantle the anti-Black racism that exists on many levels. To effectively combat anti-Blackness, we must engage in lifelong learning and daily accompliceship.
Here are just a few ways you can get involved:

  • Attend Canada’s virtual celebration featuring performances, tributes, interviews, and more on Thursday February 17 at 7pm(ET). This event will be hosted on Facebook Live
  • Join the virtual panel discussion titled “Black in Calgary: Where have we been and where are we going,” hosted by Calgary Public Library on February 3. To register or view other Black History Month events hosted by the Calgary Public Library, click here

Your voices are valued and can bring change. As the theme encourages, let’s continue to listen and learn from each other, year-round in our shared effort to dismantle systemic racism.

2021 Canada Day Statement

While July 1st is a time of celebration and rest for many, YMCA Calgary would also like to recognize how challenging a year it has been. There has been a lot to be thankful for, but this is also a time to pause and reflect on where we have been, and where we want to be as a country.

In recent months, we have witnessed the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School, the 104 remains uncovered at the former site of the Brandon Residential School, and the 751 remains found at the former site of the Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowessess, Saskatchewan, all with the knowledge that many more discoveries are to come. In the same time period, we have also witnessed the Islamophobic attacks in London, Ontario, and a documented rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes. This is not the Canada we want to be.
We have a lot of work to do to live up to the promise of the Canada We Want. The Canada We Want is a place where oppressive and systemic barriers have been removed and replaced by opportunity. And we know a lot more work, by a lot more people and organizations, including ours, is needed to get us there.
As one of Canada’s largest service charities, the YMCA has a role to play in fostering social inclusion. Over the last year YMCA Calgary has been expanding our focus on anti-racism and addressing systemic discrimination, including creating learning opportunities for staff and volunteers and working with community partners. We will continue to invest in these efforts and engage in listening, learning, and improving, to ensure that the YMCA is a space that is safe and welcoming for everyone.
Canada continues to grow and develop as a country, and we can choose what kind of country we want to be. By fostering belonging and inclusion in our organizations and in our communities, we can be the Canada We Want.
Here’s to building that better future, while never forgetting where we’ve been.

YMCA Camp Riveredge Tipi Story

Written by: Sarena Provost, Indigenous Manager

YMCA Camp Riveredge is situated along the banks of the Elbow River, where the Blackfoot people traditionally used to hold summer ceremonies. YMCA Camp Riveredge has always had tipi’s put up every summer for a culturally safe space for morning smudging, programming, and to be used to shelter groups of campers from rain/snow. Every summer, our tipi’s are blessed by Elder Joe Spotted Bull from the Kainai Nation. In the summer of 2016, Elder Joe felt that if we were going to bless our tipi’s, they should be given a Blackfoot name to honor the traditional territory and space for camp.

The following summer in 2017, Elder Joe advised us that to be culturally appropriate and honour the Blackfoot names of the tipi’s, we need to get Blackfoot style tipi’s. So, in the early part of 2018, Camp Chief Hector YMCA, who oversees Riveredge, embarked on a consultation process with Elder Joe on the purchase of tipi’s, poles, buttons, and piquets.

We contracted Roberta Smith, tipi maker from the Piikani Nation, to make four 18ft tipis for camp. So, in the summer of 2018, YMCA Camp Riveredge welcomed the summer with 4 beautiful Blackfoot tipis that all had names, which are Pitaa (Eagle), Kiiayo (Bear), Ponohka (Elk), and A’pina (Butterfly).

Every summer, we’re thankful and honoured to have Knowledge Keepers Jaron Weasel Bear and Kyle Plain Eagle, along with their helpers from the Piikani Nation, come put up our tipis. Once the tipis are up, they are blessed by Elder Joe.

We give a hand to heart thanks to our Elder, Joe Spotted Bull, Knowledge Keepers, Jaron Weasel Bear and Kyle Plain Eagle and Tipi Maker, Roberta Smith for their continued allyship, cultural guidance, and blessing. They continue to support us to make sure YMCA Camp Riveredge is connected to the land, people, and culture of the Blackfoot Territory and Treaty #7.

This year, we’re thankful and honoured to have Elder Joe Spotted Bull’s granddaughter, Susan Spotted Bull, lead our tipi blessing for a safe and fun summer for our campers and staff. Our relationships with the people and land are a value, responsibility, and commitment we have to the importance of reconciliation.

#YLiftingSpirits Winner

Happy March!

We are happy to announce the winner of our #YLiftingSpirits challenge. We held our Y Lifting Spirits challenge to help improve the mental and physical health of our communities. It turned out to be a great success, and we cannot thank everyone enough for participating in the challenge with us and building such a fantastic digital community around it.

We asked the winner, Judy, what she thought of the challenge, and here were her answers:

What was your motivation behind joining the challenge? I mainly wanted to get active again. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work from home, but that meant a lot of sitting in front of the computer and not moving around as much. Also, with the gyms having been closed, I lost my motivation to exercise on my own at home. The Lifting Spirits Challenge seemed like a great way to get myself moving again and did exactly as stated in the name – it lifted my spirits!

What was the best part about the challenge? I loved the variety of workouts that were offered a part of the challenge! I kept meaning to check out the workouts that the YMCA offered online, but never did. The challenge gave me the incentive to get my butt in gear to finally do it.

How did participating in the challenge help your health and/or overall wellbeing? As I mentioned above, I had lost my motivation to work out in my own at home. I find I prefer classes, rather than doing my own thing, because the instructors help motivate you. The workouts that were offered by the YMCA as part of the challenge were fun and the instructors were great! They really kept me looking forward to the next one.

This isn’t your first reward with us, why do you continue to choose Hubudub and/or YMCA Calgary? I discovered Hubudub while I was at the YMCA for my oldest’s skating and swimming lessons (pre-COVID). As for the YMCA, I loved having all these different activities available in one place. I had my oldest register for almost back-to-back classes of skating and swimming on one day. Our location also has a small library. During my maternity leave with my youngest, I would register for the baby sessions where we would socialize with other parents, sing songs and listen to a book being read. The YMCA is such a great place that offers activities for the whole daily and really brings the community together.

We are now offering some activities at Shane Homes YMCA and Brookfield Residential YMCA to learn more about these please click here: Click here

3 ways that working out everyday will help mental wellness

“Stress” and “anxiety” are common words used during this time of uncertainty. It is okay that you are feeling this way – everyone is right now! The longer we are on lockdown, the more stressed and anxious we become. We must take the time to take care of our mental health and do things that make us happy. In this case, working out everyday is important for our mental health.

Here are three ways that working out will make your day better

Encourages you to be mindful and focus on one thing – It is easy to get wrapped up in the day’s events. Taking 20 to 30 minutes out of your day to do something active – a Facebook Live fitness class, a Youtube video or going for a walk will allow you to reset and forget your worries and just focus on one thing. This will help with any anxiety since it provides your brain an opportunity to disconnect from the worries and focus on how your body feels during the workout instead.
Encourages you to take some time for yourself – even if you don’t like working out there are many ways to be active instead of taking a fitness class. These include walking, hiking and playing your favourite sport. Taking 30 minutes a day gives you permission to be uninterrupted by your kids or work. It gives you time to just focus on yourself, forget about daily stressors, and just focus on your body for 30 minutes.
Encourages you to break up the day – it is very easy to get sucked into the day if it is either by work, homeschooling, or other commitments. Taking some time every day to workout will all for you to break up the day. It will help release tension and restore energy in your body. It will also increase your attention and productivity when you go back to work or pick up the kids from school.
YMCA Calgary offers Facebook Live fitness classes that are between 20-30 minutes long. You can find the video playlist through this link: Click here

Meditation for Anxiety: Developing a new practice

Hi everybody! My name is Stephen from YMCA Calgary, and I am here to chat briefly about a subject that has become increasingly important to me throughout the pandemic – meditation for anxiety. I am like millions who experience the countless physical and mental symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, such as:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Depression
    Some of these symptoms have become amplified during these uncertain and divisive times. However, meditation has emerged as one of the many tools I use to help reduce stress and bring inner peace whenever I need it most. Like anything, it takes practice, but I have found that just a few minutes a day can make a big difference in my mental and physical well-being.
    Meditation is a way for me to sort through the whirlwind of thoughts swirling in my mind at any given moment. When I feel overwhelmed or tense, taking 10 minutes to sit down with my thoughts will go a long way to providing me perspective on the stressors in my life and how I can develop skills or strategies to manage them. Meditation is also a great way to bring about self-awareness and guide my focus to the present rather than getting wrapped up in the multitude of worries about the future. Have you ever disagreed with someone and then replayed that moment over-and-over in your head? A short meditation session is a great way to reduce the negative emotions in those moments and increase your patience and tolerance.
    There are numerous ways to meditate, but the three methods that have worked well for me are guided meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. Experimenting with different methods will help you find a technique that works best for you. Combining techniques is also an excellent way to developing an overall strategy to supporting your overall well-being.
    Guided meditation: There are dozens of apps and online sources that provided a guided meditation experience for beginners and experts alike. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Buddhify are growing in popularity but do your research as some require paid memberships (which are worth every penny, in my humble opinion). You can also find guided meditations on social channels like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
    Breathing Exercises: Focusing on your breath is considered a form of meditation because it centers your mind on the now, improves the mind-body connection, and reduces anxiety. A simple exercise that anyone can do is called Box Breathing. It is simple, and here is how it’s done: sit up straight in your chair or lay down flat on your back and close your eyes. Empty your lungs in preparation for your first breath of the exercise. Begin breathing in for four seconds, and then hold for four seconds. Proceed to breathe out for four seconds and then hold for four seconds. Repeat this process for four cycles.
    Yoga: Developing a yoga practice is a terrific method of meditation that is both beneficial mentally and physically. By performing a series of yoga postures and using a controlled breath, you will build a flexible body and a calm mind. I often perform yoga first thing in the morning or the middle of a busy day because it allows me to shift my focus from what needs to be done to what I am doing at the moment. YMCA Calgary’s Facebook page has dozens of free yoga classes that you can follow from the comfort of your own home, and there are new live classes added every week! Click here
    Starting something new is always scary and is never easy, but the most challenging things in life are the things worth doing. Do not feel scared that meditation is difficult or that you have a hard time quieting your thoughts. Meditation is just a way to listen more closely to those thoughts and understand where they come from. There is a style of mediation for everyone, and I hope that this article has inspired you in some way to explore a meditation practice for yourself.

Declutter your home to give back!

I am sure you have noticed how much clutter you have at home—especially with the holidays just finishing. Nothing helps you feel like you have some control of your life then taking time to declutter your home. There are many charities and non-profits in Calgary that need everyday household items to distribute to families (and animals!) who would not have the items otherwise. We have compiled a list of different charities you can donate your items to help others:


Made by Momma

For the full wish list: Click here

  • New and gently used in-kind donations:

Baby, kids & maternity clothing

  • Baby gear
  • Toys
  • Books
  • Baby formula and baby food (unopened, not expired)
  • Diapers and baby wipes

See their weekly wish list for urgent needs #MBMWishList

Calgary Food Bank

For the full wish list: Click here

  • Canned food
  • Grains
  • Pasta sauce
  • Juice
  • Peanut butter
  • Hygiene items
  • Pet Food
  • Baby Items
  • Bags, cards, party supplies, books, art, and school supplies
  • Games, toys, cake mixes, icing, balloons, and candles.


Women in Need Society

For the full wish list: Click here

  • Clothing and shoes: Women’s, Men’s, and Children’s
  • Accessories: hats, mittens, scarves, socks, purses, wallets, jewelry, and backpacks
  • Household goods: cookware, bakeware, dinnerware, cutlery, glassware, plastic storage, and utensils
  • Small electrical appliances
  • Electronics
  • Household décor
  • Linens
  • Children’s games, toys, and books


The Children’s Cottage Society

For the full wish list (only accepting new items currently): Click here

  • Clothes for newborns and children up to 18 years old
  • Baby swings and bouncers


Calgary Flames Sports Bank

For the full wish list: Click here

  • Sleds/ Toboggans
  • Snowshoes
  • X-Country Skis – 160cm and below
  • X-Country Ski Boots – SNS & NNN Style
  • Down Hill Skis – 160cm and below
  • Ski poles
  • Hockey Helmets – certified/non-expired
  • Skates – Adult size 5-12 (for the teenagers)


Don’t have any physical goods to give? A financial donation to YMCA Calgary will support youth, children and adults to belong, grow, thrive and lead: Donate today

A YMCA Halloween

Join us for a Halloween Celebration – with outdoor activities, safe trick-or-treating and family friendly fun!

Date: Saturday, October 31
Location: Camp Riveredge and Camp Chief Hector YMCA
– Camp Riveredge – $25/Family
– Camp Chief Hector YMCA – $75/Family
– Camp Riveredge – 1-3 pm; 3-5 pm; 5-7 pm
– Camp Chief Hector YMCA – 1-7 pm
Register: or call any YMCA location