The holiday represents just one of many historic “firsts” in how the Y serves communities in innovative and effective ways
More than a century ago, Sonora Louis Smart Dodd aspired to create a holiday to honor fathers. The daughter of a single father and Civil War veteran was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon and wondered why there was no holiday for fathers. After securing support from ministers in Spokane, Wash., her idea came to fruition with the first Father's Day celebration at the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.
On Sunday, June 17, the Westport Weston Family Y joins the nation in celebrating Father’s Day and recognizing the impact fathers and adult male role models make in children’s lives. Nationally, one out of three children lives in a home without their biological father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And, societal factors such as unemployment, work-life balance or a lack of resources can affect fathers’ ability to seek support in strengthening their parenting skills and more fully engaging in the lives of their children. The Family Y remains dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for fathers to further involve themselves in the well-being and development of their children.
Studies show that children with close relationships with their fathers and other adult male role models have more self-confidence and exhibit less depression, perform better academically and engage in significantly less drug and alcohol use.
“As a nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y believes that strong family bonds are a foundation of strong communities, and we work to help all families to learn, grow and thrive,” said Rob Reeves, Family Y CEO and the father of two daughters, Victoria and Courtney. “Father’s Day reminds us why it’s important to recognize fathers and provide them with the support they need to be the best parents and caregivers they can be.”
There are a variety of programs at the Family Y that foster understanding and companionship between children and their fathers – and moms – such as Adventure Gym, parent-toddler swim classes, youth sports teams, which offer volunteer coaching opportunities for parents, and other recreational and fitness activities for the whole family. The Family Y’s special events – from First Night and Healthy Kids Day to Summer Sundays at Mahackeno to Fall Family Fiesta, all provide additional opportunities for “quality time.” An annual highlight of the Family Y’s Early Learning Programs is the Father-Daughter Dance in early February.
More surprising “firsts and foremosts” from the Y
YMCAs in the U.S. have a proud history of serving the people in their communities in a variety of innovative and effective ways.
The term "bodybuilding" was first used in 1881 by Robert Roberts, a member of the staff at the Boston YMCA. He also developed the exercise classes that led to today’s fitness workouts.
Millions of people have been introduced to sports at YMCAs. Many of the sports people play were introduced at YMCAs, too:
* Volleyball was invented at the Holyoke YMCA (Mass.) in 1895 by William Morgan, an instructor at the Y who felt that basketball was too strenuous for businessmen. Morgan blended elements of basketball, tennis and handball into the game and called it "mintonette." The name "volleyball" was first used in 1896 during an exhibition at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., to better describe how the ball went back and forth over the net.
* Racquetball was invented in 1950 at the Greenwich YMCA (Conn.) by Joe Sobeck, a member who couldn’t find other squash players of his caliber and who did not care for handball. He tried paddleball and platform tennis and came up with the idea of using a strung racquet similar to a platform tennis paddle (not a sawed-off tennis racquet, as some say) to allow a greater variety of shots.
* Softball was given its name by motion of Walter Hakanson of the Denver YMCA in 1926 at a meeting of the Colorado Amateur Softball Association (CASA), itself a result of YMCA staff efforts. Softball had been played for many years prior to 1926, under such names as kittenball, softball and even sissyball. In 1926, however, the YMCA state secretary, Homer Hoisington, noticed both the sport’s popularity and its need for standardized rules.
* Yes, it was at the International YMCA Training School in December 1891 that James Naismith invented the game of basketball, doing so at the demand of Luther Gulick, the director of the school. Gulick needed a game to occupy a "class of incorrigibles" -- 18 future YMCA directors who, more interested in rugby and football, didn’t care for leapfrog, tumbling and other activities they were forced to do during the winter. Gulick gave Naismith two weeks to come up with a game to occupy them. Naismith decided that the new game had to be physically active and simple to understand. It could not be rough, so no contact could be allowed. The ball could be passed but not carried. Goals at each end of the court would lend a degree of difficulty and give skill and science a role. Elevating the goal would eliminate rushes that could injure players, a problem in football and rugby. Introducing the game of "basket ball" at the next gym class (Naismith did meet Gulick’s deadline), Naismith posted 13 rules on the wall and taught the game to the incorrigibles. The men loved it and proceeded to introduce "basket ball" to their home towns over Christmas break. Naismith’s invention spread like wildfire.
The Y made its impact on aquatics with the first reported Y “swimming bath” built at the Brooklyn Central YMCA in 1885. It is hard to overestimate the effect the YMCA movement has had on swimming and aquatics in general. A Springfield College student, George Goss, wrote the first American book on lifesaving in 1913 as a thesis. It was a YMCA national board member (then the YMCA International Committee), William Ball, who in the early 1900s encouraged the Red Cross to include lifesaving instruction in its disaster and wartime services programs.
To learn more about programs and activities available at the Westport Weston Family Y, call 203-226-8981 or visit westporty.org.