SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County YMCA reached a milestone Thursday night in its campaign to build a new indoor aquatics center.

More than 650 people attended a community dinner at the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center for the aquatic center project. At the ceremony, YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis announced the organization had raised 94 percent of its $16 million goal ($15.1 million) to build the aquatic center.

Reaching that goal launches the community fundraising portion of the campaign that began in spring 2015.

The proposed indoor aquatic center will be located adjacent to the YMCA building where the soccer fields currently sit. If all goes according to plan, the building will break ground next year and will likely take a couple years to build.

Sheridan Mayor John Heath kicked off the ceremony with a brief address to Sheridan. In his introduction, he said that one needs to look no further than the packed house at the M&M’s Center to see the amount of community support that has been building for the YMCA and the new aquatic center.

“Look at this,” Heath said addressing the crowd. “The community is all here. It’s amazing.”

State Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, shared stories on how the YMCA had an impact on his childhood. He also expressed thanks for the work of previous members of the YMCA who helped build the organization into the success it is today.

“These folks are building something that, yes, they will enjoy it themselves and their kids will enjoy it themselves, but they handed it on to the next generation: that’s us,” Kinskey said.

“There are people in this room that the founders of the (YMCA) have never met, and yet they were so generous with their time to make sure that the success that the future generations will have is tremendous,” Kinskey added.

Gabbie Moore, who has utilized the YMCA for most of her young life, also gave a tearful speech on what the YMCA means to her. She said learning to play soccer at the YMCA helped her come out of her shell and be a confident person.

While all the speakers received applause from the audience, none received more praise than McGinnis. Stepping up to the podium to a standing ovation, McGinnis shifted the attention to others who have contributed to the YMCA.  He talked extensively about the history of the organization in Sheridan and the influence of its past leaders as well as highlighting the efforts of current staff members.

The night culminated when McGinnis announced a donation from the Daniels Fund, a Colorado-based philanthropic organization that gave the Sheridan County YMCA $500,000 for the aquatic project. Sparky Turner, senior grants program officer for the Daniels fund in Wyoming, said that the local YMCA was well deserving of this gift.

“I believe that this is one that we can bank on,” Turner said about the aquatic center project. “This community has just been an inspiration to the rest of the state.”

The Peter Kiewit Foundation based in Omaha, Nebraska, also pledged up to a $350,000 match of community contributions.