The YMCA remains a symbol of community – even during the coronavirus pandemic. Since closing its doors March 16, members have been put on pause (meaning no fees), but that hasn’t stopped Sault Ste. Marie-based YMCA’s CEO Tracey Cooke from shifting fitness to digital platforms.
“We’ve collaborated with other Y’s to develop ‘YMCA at Home’ – a suite of virtual tools to stay connected,” says Cooke. She notes that these have been challenging times for members, since many rely on the Y for social connection and in-person community – something that social distancing measures have made near impossible.
But thanks to SSM’s YMCA Facebook page and website (www.ssmymca.ca) local residents (and even participants from other provinces) have been taking advantage of the free range of resources. These include YThrive Home Virtual Workouts (daily fitness classes for people at any level or ability), YWell Virtual Health & Wellbeing (meditation, wellness activities, and talks from mental health experts, doctors, and psychologists), YPlay Virtual Activities (ideas for games and play-based activities for families and children) and YGym (a fitness program instructed by YMCA-certified fitness instructors featuring content based on YMCA Canada’s Health & Fitness programs and Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.
“We worked really quickly to accommodate people in a time of crisis – and we want as many people to know about it as possible,” says Cooke. “You can also look for the SSM YMCA channel on Youtube or find a portal of videos on the SSM “YMCA at Home” link on its main page. It’s great because people can access them at any time.”
YGym has also partnered with the Algoma District School Board and the Huron Superior Catholic District School Board to promote positive health and wellness programs for children and youth stuck at home.
“It’s a tool they have been using in various online learning components,” she says. “But we are pleased that a whole range of demographics – from seniors to young families are benefiting from the digital tools.”
For youth, Cooke says that a great new program is coming up that is still accepting applicants.
“Our youth employment opportunity called the ‘Starting Transitions Towards Employment Program’ or STTEP for short – is a virtual program that will train youth to be ready for when the economy opens up. It’s also great to have on a resume.”
Cooke says that many young people are struggling right now. “However, this is a great chance to do something positive – if you are young and unemployed and looking for a way to gain some qualifications, this might be your perfect chance to do that.”
While the province remains suspended in a “wait and see” situation pending reopening, YMCA staff have begun to call and do wellness check-ins on their members.
“We reach out to see how people are doing because we know this is a tough time for people,” explains Cooke. “If they are stumped, we have ideas for resources or services for them to connect to.”
They have also received money from the provincial government to provide COVID Emergency Child Care relief for essential workers and others.
“We take every precaution to sanitize and distance children from each other,” says Cooke. “But fortunately we have a really large space to accommodate groupings.”
Check out the SSM YMCA Facebook page for daily updates and reach out if you need support – even if you are not currently a YMCA member.