migrating canada geese in silhouette flying over lake at sunrise

First Friday Message


With nearly 30 years in the Y under my belt, I have had the pleasure of working directly for and supporting 40-50 unique Y community centers, camps, and child development centers in Virginia, Michigan, South and Central Florida, and Pennsylvania. I bring this up to say that I’ve seen just about everything in the Y.

I love the predictable randomness that makes up each day in a Y and all of the unique encounters we have with our members and program participants. Each Y has its own unique feeling, its established cadence, and definitely its unique collection of members. Early morning members – a group that I aspire to join someday! – are one of our most unique groups. They’re driven, focused, extremely goal-oriented, and no matter what time we open our Y’s, they’re ready to come in 15 minutes before that time.

The 5:00 am members at the South Oakland Y (metro Detroit area) had created a brilliant and hilarious way to maximize the efficiency of the start of the day. Like many early morning members, they often started to gather in the parking lot 10-15 minutes before the doors opened, waiting for our 20-year opener, Ms. Patti, to open the building. But, in Detroit, especially in the bitter cold of winter, the members waited in the warmth of their cars in the narrow single row parking directly in front of the building and waited for Patti to unlock the doors. Once Patti did so, the person parked closest to the door would see that and then honk the horn in their car to alert the next person and that action would continue down the line of cars…like a flock of geese!

Regardless of what community of members you align with in our Ys, it’s that combination of people and their passions that make the Y special. That’s the same thing that makes each of our communities around Central Florida so special and so welcoming.

As I thought about what I wanted to share this month, I deliberated quite a bit over how to address the violence sprouting up in Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa, and so many other places. If you’re anything like me and my household, the news permeates my day almost without relief, and the range of emotions, from anger to frustration to sadness, has been overwhelming. I also imagine that you are not looking to a YMCA CEO to weigh in on the myriad complex social issues surrounding the recent tragedies.

With that said, I will, however, share this:

We can ALL work a little harder to encourage and uplift each other, to be our brother’s (and our sister’s) keeper, to pray for and with each other in whatever faith tradition that resonates with you, and to do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our most vulnerable – our children and our elderly.

When geese fly in formation, they honk to encourage the leader to push on. When that goose tires, it falls to the rear, and the next goose assumes the lead. It’s pretty ingenious and pretty simple when you think about it. Just imagine if we could all do that in this politically divided space that we currently live in. I imagine that we would get many more things done and we could create a place equally welcoming, safe, and prosperous for all.

Until next time...

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®