Make the impact your community needs through the YMCA

by Nicole Cormier, Special Contributor | November 1, 2019

The YMCA is an organization that evokes positive emotions for so many people of all ages across the U.S. For some, it’s the first place they played a serious game of basketball, spent time after school bonding with friends or discovered the joy of serving their community through volunteering. The Y provides a place where everyone can feel welcome, where everyone belongs — and that’s by design.

The YMCA has established itself as an essential component of a thriving community in part because of its ability to listen to the people it serves. For over 130 years, the Y has paid close attention to the needs of individual communities and put that information to work.

The YMCA’s impact in D-FW

The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas anchors 21 of North Texas’ communities through programs including teen leadership, swim outreach, diabetes prevention and more. In the D-FW area alone, 77,139 people enjoyed organized recreational activities in 2018, and over 6,000 children learned the importance of water safety through swimming programs. 6,337 kids also participated in afterschool programs, which provide a safe place to do homework, play with peers and learn other valuable skills.

These programs and so many more are made possible thanks to the hardworking people who give their time, energy and knowhow to the Y. Volunteerism is at the heart of the Y’s work in the community. In North Texas, for example, over 1,229 volunteers gave over 250,000 hours last year, working a wide variety of different jobs from manning membership desks to serving as a role model for area teens. Each and every volunteer makes an immediate and tangible impact on the community, ensuring a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

The Turkey Trot: A vital Dallas tradition

Beyond the Y’s day-to-day operations, one annual event has become a part of many family’s traditions: The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot.

The multi-event race has been part of many North Texans’ Thanksgiving Day routines for over 50 years, and more and more runners turn out each year. The very first Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot took place at the Old Fairgrounds in the early 1940s and played host to about 100 runners. Now, the Trot brings over 25,000 participants to City Hall Plaza in the heart of downtown Dallas to take part in the 5k or 3-mile fun run each Thanksgiving.

In 2011, the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot set two records. The first was for the largest Dallas Turkey Trot attendance rate ever, with 36,820 participants. The second, which even garnered a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records, was for the largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys, with 661 participants having donned turkey costumes.

The family-friendly Dallas run and walk is the largest Thanksgiving Day event of its kind in the nation and draws people from all over the country to participate. Even those who don’t actually run in the race flock to enjoy the live music, kids activities and general jubilant atmosphere.

The impact of the event far outlasts the day’s events, however. Proceeds from the Turkey Trot directly benefit the YMCA’s diverse programs, including afterschool care, which ensures that the Y can continue to foster the next generation of North Texans. The Y’s impact on the area is also reflected in its loyal and passionate volunteers.

Two such volunteers, Bill Williams and David Kelton, have dedicated countless hours to the Turkey Trot for more than 40 years. Both were once part of a YMCA running club called “The Nooners” and had a hand in shaping the race’s long tenure. In his role as the “voice of the Trot,” Kelton has announced the race since 1979 (“Nothing more fun than talking to 25,000-plus people for 4 hours,” he says. “Tiring but satisfying.”). He says he’s cherished watching multiple generations take part in this Thanksgiving Day tradition. 

“Volunteering for the Turkey Trot got into my blood and has become a family tradition for my wife, Ruth, and me,” he says. “We begin every Thanksgiving Day at the Turkey Trot with our many friends as well as our Turkey Trot family.”

Williams, who has his hands in all aspects of the race, has also seen the event grow year after year. He recognizes the race’s importance in ensuring the continuation of the various community programs the YMCA provides, as he has benefited from them in his own life.

“Some of my closest friends are not people I grew up with or went to school with, but who were Y members I either volunteered with or met at the Y,” Williams says.

Whether you take part in this enduring “Way to Begin Thanksgiving Day” or volunteer for the countless important activities that the Y provides, there’s truly no better way to be a part of Dallas’ flourishing community. Volunteer or register to race today to be a part of a program that means so much to so many. 

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