By Outside contributor

After 18 months of fundraising and the generous contributions of more than 325 community members, businesses and organizations, the Living our Cause…Growing our Cause campaign that will create a new aquatic facility and repurpose existing spaces at the Sheridan County YMCA is in its final phase.

 “Since we started this campaign, we have thought about it as 32 ‘laps’ in the pool, each lap representing a half million dollars,” said McGinnis. “We have now completed the thirty-first lap.”

 The Y began with a $16 million goal to create a new aquatic facility that would offer not only new exercise and health opportunities, but also allow it to expand its popular preschool and afterschool programs to accommodate the more than 300 area children who are on the waiting lists. There is now less than a half million dollars left to raise to complete the campaign.

 “We’ve had an exceptional leadership team led by Rich Destefano, Brock Boedecker and Ellen Treide,” said YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis. “As we approach the finish line of realizing our goal, I would certainly say that the leadership and commitment from them has helped make this project a success. They have served as our community voice. They have worked very hard and a lot of appreciation and thanks goes to them.”

 The fundraising effort kicked off in the spring of 2015 with large financial gifts from several area foundations and individuals which gave the project credibility and momentum.

 “When major donors evaluate and look at it and decide to support it, it is a big push for the project,” said McGinnis. “It lends itself to a level of success that is easy for others to join in, participate in and feel good about.”

 Soon after, the community phase of the fundraising began and hundreds of community members have voiced their support for the project with their donations. The project even received a boost from the YMCA’s afterschool students who collected pennies and were able to donate $189.

 “Percentage-wise the last half million is not a large percentage of the total but it is significant to the project being completed,” said McGinnis. “The support from the community has been overwhelming and spectacular. Gifts from all levels really begin to add up and it helps us get across that finish line.”

 Ground breaking will begin in spring 2017 led by local companies Malone Belton and Abel Architects and Fletcher Construction, after integrating local input from citizens.

 One component of the pool design will be zero-level entry, meaning no stair-climbing will be required to enter or exit the pool. This design will benefit some of Sheridan County’s most important residents- the oldest and the youngest.

 “The ages we serve will increase at both ends,” said McGinnis. “The age groups that I think might have some challenge accessing the pool right now- preschoolers and seniors- are just really going to feel comfortable with it.”

 On Thursday, Oct. 27 and Thursday, Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., members of the public are welcome to visit the Y to view suggested designs for the entryway, aquatic center and renovation of the current pool area which will be converted to classroom and activity space for children’s programs.

McGinnis and Dan Alsup, Finance and Special Projects Director for the Y, noted that comments and suggestions from everyone are encouraged.

 “It will still have the YMCA flavor to it with the YMCA mission,” said Alsup. “Our programs are more than just teaching kids how to swim, we also teach water safety and other issues. There is always an extra element of values put into all our programming and the new building will be infused with our mission. The culture we already have of being welcoming and accessible and friendly, we think will just get bigger, better and stronger.”

 “We are not asking the community to give to a project that could happen or might happen,” added McGinnis, “They are actually going to see the dirt moving in the spring and watch it happen.”