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What We're Talking About


What is Youth Engagement?


The kind of activity in which a youth is engaged can be almost anything – recreational activities, sports, artistic endeavors, volunteer work, politics, social activism - and it can occur in almost any kind of setting. Youth engagement is the meaningful participation and sustained involvement of a young person in an activity, with a focus outside of themselves.

Using YMCA Canada’s Healthy Children and Youth Strategy as a framework, the YMCA of Western Ontario has chosen four areas of Youth Engagement to develop and implement within our association:

A Common Approach

As we Build Relationships, Create Opportunities for Play, and Advocate for Health, it’s vital that we collectively have a common approach to achieving our goals. 

The YMCA’s mission to help other’s grow in spirit, mind and body is intricately linked to how and why we want to engage with youth. Having a common language and a common approach to working with children and youth is the first step in creating a youth-focused culture. Having a common approach to working with children and youth will allow for shared understanding, learning, attitudes and philosophies around youth development. 

Program Quality & Program Integration

Our goal is to offer programs and services to all ages; to build people’s character at every stage of life, and to foster life-long YMCA membership. 

The YMCA of Western Ontario will be taking a close look at our current programs, and evaluating our Youth offerings and services. As young people become teenagers, the way they process information changes, resulting in changes in their relationships with peers, their perception of themselves, and their understanding of risk.  As an ever-present part of a young person’s life, risk-taking can be a powerful reason to get engaged, to stay engaged, and a way to explore and learn.  Risk taking can be positive or negative, and at the YMCA it’s important that programs allow for positive risk-taking and engagement in a safe, controlled, welcoming environment. 

Youth Advocacy

If we want to fully engage youth within our organization, everyone needs to become an advocate and supporter of the young citizens of our community.

Over 5% of Londoners do not speak either of Canada’s official languages, which limits their ability to participate fully in our community. The number of children and youth coming into the care of the Child Aid Society of London & Middlesex increased 70% over a six-year period. About 16% of London youth between the ages of 15-19 are dealing with depression, compared to 11% nationally. In  London, that’s over 15,000 youth.  We need to work with our youth in ways that develops their  leadership skills and gives them the support and resources to transition into adulthood.  We need to bring youth into the conversation, and listen to what they have to say.  Starting a YMCA Youth Council is just the beginning!


Whether we are partnering with parents, other YMCAs, school boards, Universities and Colleges, or community agencies, our mission, vision and Youth Strategy will position us as leaders in youth development.

As we build global citizens and embrace youth culture, the YMCA will be relying on our strong internal and external partnerships. Internally, there are many ways we can strengthen our relationships – departmental sharing and cross-departmental initiatives are going to become an exciting part of our collaborative work.  Partnering with other service providers and other organizations that work with youth with allow for greater opportunities.  

Join us at the YMCA of Western Ontario…where young people are agents of their own development. 

~Laura Hamilton, Director, Camping & Youth Engagement



Beating the Back to School Blues

With September underway, children are busy with new classmates and fall projects. It's another year of early mornings, packing lunches, catching school buses and finishing homework.

The YMCA of Western Ontario has designed fantastic programs that will beat those back to school blues, and leave a smile on your child’s face at the end of each day. 

Along with having fun at the YMCA, there are many benefits to children getting physically active and moving around after a day at school:

  • Better concentration in the classroom

  • Increase in energy levels 

  • Improved academic achievement

  • Higher self-confidence

  • Increased social skills 

  • Increased appreciation for spirit, mind and body

  • Stronger immune system

Programs Available at the YMCA to Beat the Back to School Blues!

PD Day

Just around the corner is the first PD Day of the year.  Take a trip to Outer Space and spend your day exploring the galaxy, being creative through crafts and going on a moon walk in the gym! It is an excellent way to spend your first PD Day!  Sign up for all six PD days by November 1, 2011 and only pay for five! 


Friday nights just got better! At the Woodstock YMCA and Stoney Creek Community Centre & YMCA we are offering a program from 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. every Friday night!  Come out for a swim, gym games and dinner.  Register ahead of time or drop in this Friday!

Mini Y

For those little ones who are just starting school, this program is fantastic to develop and strengthen their social and interaction skills while working on coordination and balance skills, playing with others and individuality. 

Sports Programs

Throughout the week at the Y, there are sports programs available for ages 3-13!  Sports include: basketball, soccer, T-ball, floor hockey and many more. An excellent way to strengthen your skills in each sport while having a friendly game with your friends.

Youth Combo

Youth Combo is a drop in program designed to work on skill development, teamwork and getting active while participating in games, activities and crafts in a supervised environment. 

Youth Fit

Are you between 10-13 years of age and looking to start working out? Youth Fit is designed to teach youth how to work out effectively and efficiently while also focusing on proper nutrition, the importance of stretching and the benefits of keeping in shape.

YMCA Leader Corps

Making connections, building relationships, developing leadership skills and opening doors…YMCA Leader Corps provides opportunities and experiences for 10-17 year olds that extend far beyond the walls of the YMCA!

Junior Leader Corps Participants Will:

(10-13 years old)

  • Kick off the program with a team building and outdoor leadership day at YMCA Spencer Lodge

  • Meet new friends

  • Learn leadership skills and build developmental assets

  • Discover how to be a volunteer through special events and activities

  • Practice communication skills and develop problem solving skills

  • Celebrate the program completion at YMCA Camp Queen Elizabeth

Senior Leader Corps Participants Will:

(14-17 years old)

  • Kick off the program with a  high-ropes initiatives day at YMCA Spencer Lodge

  • Gain up to 20hrs of volunteer service through YMCA and community opportunities

  • Learn valuable leadership skills and competencies to become more employable

  • Use creativity to plan and organize fundraising initiatives and special group events

  • Develop and practice facilitation skills and gain confidence  in leadership abilities

  • Celebrate the program completion at YMCA Camp Queen Elizabeth

While school may be back in, the fun doesn’t stop!  Be sure to come by and see all the exciting and fantastic activities the YMCA offers to help beat the back to school blues!

~Jenna Smith, Manager, Children, Youth & Family   


Treasure Forever: Our Favourite Summer Camp Memories!

Summer might be over, but the day camp memories continue to last! How could campers forget the songs they learned, the activities they completed, or the friends they made?

They can’t!

We can’t forget about it either, particularly since we started a new program structure this year and loved it! It is based on the YMCA Healthy Child Development framework - building relationships, advocating for health and creating opportunities to play. Using these principals as our guide, we created appropriate activity groups focused on the ages of our campers. With fun names like Scampers, Rovers, Trailblazers, Explorers and Mavericks, who knew it was fun and educational!?

We understand that as our campers grow in age, they also grow in skill and experience. So, at our Fanshawe Conservation Area site, while the Scampers (3 and 4 year olds) were involved in waterfront experiences focused on safety, the Mavericks (11 and 12 year olds) were learning proper canoe strokes and manoeuvres.

We’re pretty sure we’re on to something good with our new programming focus. Here is some of the feedback we received from camper moms about their experience with YMCA day camps this summer.

“Sean has had a few struggles during the year and he really needed to do and be somewhere where he could spend some time with some male role models, meet new peers, make friends, revisit things that he likes to do but had been distant from (kayaking, sailing, teambuilding), and enjoy and reconnect with the outdoors and all it does to rejuvenate us!  I am so very appreciative that you and the YMCA were able to give this to him.  Thank-you for giving this experience to Sean and to me – to see my son so happy and joyous, rejuvenated, refresh and recharged, bringing new people and experiences into his life that I am sure he will remember and treasure forever!” Letter from a camper mom, July  2011.

“When Sarah came home from camp today, she couldn’t stop talking about her 2 new friends.  She tried canoeing for the first time in her life, and she was thrilled to have her new friend Dana in the boat with her.  It sounds like they laughed a lot and got a little wet, and at the end of the day she knew how to hold a paddle and how to make the canoe go in a straight line.  For a quiet and shy kid, she has somehow blossomed into a cheerful and caring girl.  Thank you to all of the YMCA staff who have transformed Sarah into a leader.” Email from a camper mom, August 2011

Do you ever wonder why some children seem to grow up with ease and thrive in spite of difficult circumstances, while others seem to struggle? The Search Institute has found 40 factors that are essential to young people’s success.  They call these 40 factors Developmental Assets, and YMCA Day Camp has been working hard all summer at camp to build these assets into our campers.  The assets are both external and internal; they are opportunities, skills, relationships, values, and self-perceptions that all young need in their lives.  Research shows that all young people, regardless of gender, age, family composition, race, or ethnicity, can benefit from having more assets.  Camp environments are the perfect place for asset building to flourish. 

With school now back in, the YMCA of Western Ontario is proud to send off more than 4400 campers with new assets under their belt. These are our future leaders and innovators!

With the end of another summer upon us, the YMCA of Western Ontario takes great pride in our contributions to building our region’s Strong Kids, Strong Families, and Strong Communities

See you next June!

~Chris Wick, Manager of Day Camps ~Laura Hamilton, Director, Camping & Youth Engagement


Fall Fever: Joining your YMCA

Yes, fall is almost here. The heat of the summer is disappearing, the kids are waiting for their first day back to school, and you’re thinking about how to add routine back in your life.  Except that ‘routine’ for you doesn’t mean something boring. You want a routine that is going to be flexible and fun. One that will help you reach your health, fitness and recreation goals.

Oh yeah, and you’d love this new routine to include your entire family! The YMCA is the perfect place for all of you - where else can everyone do their activities such as swimming lessons, group classes and recreational sports all at the same time? A family memberships lets you do all of these things, without having to drive all over the city!

And that's not the only membership option; at the YMCA we have a variety of memberships including  adult, family, child, youth, student and more. Wondering what makes YMCA memberships so special?

  • They have swimming. I’m not talking just jump in and go for a quick dip (although you can do that too!). I’m talking about aquatics programs. Swimming lessons for the whole family, Aquafit classes, family swims, lane swimming, water polo, water walking and more!
  • Access to tons of drop-in programs for pre-schoolers, children, youth, adults and families.
  • Group fitness classes. Think you don’t have the motivation to stick to a routine by yourself? Group fitness classes are taught by certified instructors. With classes like Boot Camp, Cardio Wave, Group Ride, Pilates Fit, Tai Chi and Zumba there is something for everyone!
  • Memberships include supervised child minding. This means you can feel good about taking time for yourself, and the kids can come along while you work out!

Your membership benefits don’t end there. Discounts of specialty programs, state-of-the-art fitness equipment, friendly staff…I can go on and on. Instead of listening to me, I thought you’d like to hear from current members.

Recently, we asked “why do you love your Y membership?”:

“Close to home, friendly staff, my kids love it, and the library!”  -Roger H. (40 yrs old)

“All the programs you guys offer and all the great facilities.”  -Cody B. (26 yrs old)

"I love my membership because the YMCA gives me the chance to be active and keep in shape in a social place. It also gives me more confidence in my weight and keeps me young and fresh. It pushes me to have a healthy lifestyle."  -Tatum F. (13 yrs old)

“I love the friendly staff for the Zumba classes and the staff that watch the kids in the Treehouse." - Lisa D. (34 yrs old)

"The low price, friendly staff, clean new equipment and good hours." - Jordan G.

"The Y gives me the opportunity to stay in shape and also communicate with new people outside of my group of friends."  - Christian K. (17 yrs old)

"I love my Y membership because the Y is awesome and cheap for the whole family." -Alex K. (15 yrs old)

"It gives me quality time with the family while staying fit and having fun. Easy payment plan." -Vincent G. (40 yrs old)

"The Y is a family affair! There is something for everyone...at the same time. The staff are friendly and the posters in the gym are inspiring. Great core values: caring, responsibility, respect, and honesty...LOVE IT!" - Susan F. (Mother)

Worried about affording a membership?  At the Y we are proud to say that we never turn anyone away.  We are a registered charity and offer assisted memberships to those who may not be able to afford the full fee. Please contact your local branch to learn more about our Membership Assistance Program.

No matter what your situation, a Y membership fits your lifestyle. Visit health & fitness for more information, and to see all of the membership options. While you are there, check out our program schedules, registration information, volunteer applications and more.

See you in the fall!

~Andrea Nelson, Manager of Membership Sales and Service


10 Classes in 10 Days

It’s the start of a new week and I’m feeling great about the next 10 days. What’s so special about them you ask? Well I’m going to take advantage of the range of fabulous fitness classes offered by the YMCA, and challenge myself to experience 10 of them over the next 10 days!


To start things off, I choose a group class that will get me energized for the week: Group Power. This 60 minute barbell program focused on strengthening all of my major muscles, but with an awesome instructor and great music! Each body part is trained through one track and the shoulder’s track was really tough but I feel great for finishing!


I woke up feeling the class from yesterday throughout my body, but excited for a new challenge! Since my arms got the harder work-out yesterday, I decided to join the Group Ride class today, which is a 60 minute cycling program. The theme was ‘make legs’ and my legs are feeling great after climbing mountains, rolling over hills and chasing the rest of the pack!


After two days of intensity, I’m opting to participate in the Group Active class where the instructor mixes up some step and resistance training. With about 12 people in the class, everyone has lots of room to really move. This class was great for today since it was a little lighter intensity - something I was hoping for after going all out the last two days!


After only three days of different work-outs, I’m feeling stronger and more confident. All of the instructors are friendly and welcoming, and I’ve met some of our Y members who are just starting their new work-out routines. Today I decided to go back to the Group Ride class, and it was just as I remembered! I love the intervals and feel incredible after working so hard for an hour.


Well I’ve reached my half-way point of 10 classes in 10 days, so I decided to step it up and try boot camp. Let me tell you, it IS as hard as it sounds, with pushups and burpees, but I feel awesome post- work-out!


Zumba was a great choice for my sixth day of YMCA classes. Not familiar with Zumba? Well, it’s a fusion of high energy and motivating music with unique, Latin inspired moves and combos. It’s fun and it’s easy to do - what a way to start the weekend!


After lots of intensity, I choose something a little different for Sunday afternoon. Yoga! My body is thanking me, it really needed this stretch. During the class, we did a series of sun salutations and spent time working on our breathing. I feel stronger and more relaxed that I have in a really long time!


Well it’s day eight and I’m feeling fabulous. Not only have I had some terrific work-outs over the last week, but I’ve adopted a new routine and I’ve met great people along the way. Today I decided to go back to Group Power, and I’m glad I did! Although I knew what to expect, it didn’t make it any easier. I love the ab work at the end as it really works my core.


Today I wanted to try something different, so I went for Kettle Bell. Terrific for the glutes, it’s very challenging, and I loved it! Kettle Bell is often noted as one of the most effective and efficient pieces of strength training equipment, and this class helps members increase strength, power, speed, coordination and stability. I love the small group sizes and the attention the instructors give to all members in order to increase motivation and make any form corrections.


It’s hard to believe that 10 days have gone by, and I’ve participated in 10 classes. Today I finished the challenge with the group active class. The theme was ‘make arms’ so I was happy to give my legs a rest after yesterday!

I love the variety of classes at the YMCA and I always participated in them, but I surprised even myself with how great I felt after the challenge. It highlighted how important it is to continually challenge yourself and try new things!

I’m not stopping my challenge here – come join me for Group Power tomorrow!

~Alicia Clow-Ennis, Manager of Adult Health and Wellness (Centre Branch)

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