Volunteering at the YMCA: Thank you Christine Burke!

Two in one day?! I know, we’re real busy. We took the whole day off today in hopes of catching up on some volunteer work and were able to squeeze in another opportunity by the day’s end.

The local YMCA does a lot for the Duluth community and we’ve been hoping to get involved for a couple of months now. They’re well known in our town for their mentor programs and KeyZone after school programs. Also, amazingly enough, because they’re a nonprofit they provide memberships to everyone regardless of an ability to pay. They have almost 10,000 members at the Duluth YMCA, a number of which benefit from reduced or free memberships.

Tonight, the YMCA hosted a “Family Night” event where community members could come and enjoy the gym free of charge. There was a bounce house, face painting and crafts, a log roll in the pool, rock climbing, and access to the entire gym.

Typically, because of the varying amount of participants in Family Night, the YMCA only has two volunteers. This gave Cooper and I a lot of opportunities to jump between roles based on needs. I started off at the craft table helping kids with Valentines Day cards while Cooper monitored the bounce house and “enforced” rules. I joked when we were choosing roles that I’m not much of a rule enforcer, leaving Cooper to be the one to tell kids to stop playing tag or pushing over their siblings. There was one kid who loved to break the rules. Each time he did a flip or ran into the walls, he would fall down then turn to look at Cooper, giving him a knowing look. As funny as I found this, I was grateful not to be in Cooper’s shoes having to tell him to stop with a straight face.

Later in the night, we both were pulled over to help at the rock climbing station. This was a huge treat for the both of us as our interest in climbing has grown a lot over the past year. We were tasked with helping kids put on harnesses and helmets, then helping them on a lower, no-ropes, bouldering wall while they waited to climb the bigger walls. I use to be intimidated by children, being the youngest in my family and not really surrounded by kids growing up, but it felt like we were both in our element talking to kids about climbing and getting them excited to get up on the wall.

Towards the end of the night there were two sisters that came in. One of them was too young to climb, so we helped keep her busy while her mom watched her other daughter climb. She would dart back and forth on the mats, intentionally sliding and falling towards the end, then giggle hysterically as she turned to look for Cooper. I left the room to grab some water at one point, only to walk back down the hall and hear a faint gleeful yell from the little girl and a much louder, mimicked yell from Cooper back at her. Spending time with her was definitely a highlight of our experience.

We volunteered at the Y in honor of Cooper’s aunt, Chris Burke. Thanks to her donation, we can feast on a 35 lb, bulk container of peanut butter for probably the entire trail (peanut butter tortillas are soon to be our staple meal). Thanks Chris for your support, we really appreciate it!

Next week we’ll be starting an ongoing volunteer position with a local organization in town. Without giving too much away, the work involves adventures, children, and being outdoors regardless of the outside temperature. Looking forward to it and to telling you all about it!

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