Alternate meaning: YMCA (song)
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YMCAs in the United States and Canada use this logo. The red triangle symbolizes the YMCA mission to "build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all".

The YMCA (or Young Men's Christian Association) is an ecumenical organization offering programming based on Christian values. The YMCA mission is often stated as, "To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all." Each local YMCA oversees its own finances and governance. Within most countries, the local YMCAs are related primarily in terms of overall strategy and direction only—the organization is truly community-based and staffed and supported by volunteers and local employees. In some localities nowadays, the YMCA is almost exclusively a community sports facility, utilizing physical activities and recreation as a method of promoting positive values. YMCAs operate in 119 countries worldwide. Individual YMCA programming and mission varies from country to country as a result of the model of local governance adopted by the organization.



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First YMCA in North America in Montreal, Quebec

The YMCA movement was founded in London on June 6, 1844 by George Williams and a group of like-minded Evangelical Christians. Williams was a draper, typical of the many young men who were being drawn to big cities by the Industrial Revolution. His colleagues were similarly employed, and they were concerned by the lack of healthy activities for young men in cities such as London. The alternatives were often taverns, brothels, and other temptations to sin. The "Y" expanded to Australia in 1850. The first YMCA in North America opened in Montreal, Quebec on November 25, 1851, and the first in the United States on December 29, 1851

Today, YMCAs are present in 119 countries.

The activities of the YMCA can be divided into four categories:


The first YMCA was very much concerned with Bible study, although has generally moved on to a more holistic approach to youthwork. Around six years after its birth, an international YMCA conference in Paris decided that the objective of the organization should become "Christian discipleship developed through a programme of religious, educational, social and physical activities" (Binfield 1973:265). More recent objectives as found on the YMCA UK website include no reference to discipleship.


In the US, the YMCA "Indian Guides", "Princesses", and "Braves" programs have provided structured opportunities for fellowship, camping, and "tribal" outing activities (including craft-making and community service) for several generations of parents and kids in kindergarten through third grade.

The roots of this still vibrant program stem from similar activities dating back to 1926. Notable founders of s become today's YMCA parent/child programs include Harold Keltner, a St. Louis YMCA director, and indirectly, Joe Friday, an Ojibwa hunting guide. The two men met in the early 1920s, when Joe Friday was a speaker at a local YMCA banquet for Fathers and Sons that Harold Keltner had arranged. Today, Joe Friday and Harold Keltner are commemorated with patch awards honoring their legacy which are given out to distinguished YMCA volunteers in the program.

YMCA Indian Guides participants historically take pride in cultivating respect and honor for Native American culture. Bowing to changing political viewpoints, the official name for this program is now known nationally as "Adventure Guides," though some federations in California and North Carolina are by choice holding onto the "Indian" theme through 2009. "Trailblazers" is the YMCA's parent/child program for older kids.

Children earn patches for achieving various goals, such as completing a designated nature hike or participating in Y-sponsored events. A typical, suburban Indian Guides meeting is parodied in the Bob Hope/Lucille Ball comedy of 1960, The Facts of Life. More recently, the continued popularity of the YMCA I-Guides is seen in the 1995 Chevy Chase/Farrah Fawcett comedy, Man of the House, wherein a campout takes place complete with the dads and kids addressing one another by their Indian names (Chase is "Squatting Dog") in patch-covered vests, wearing headdresses, singing songs, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire.

Physical fitness

Basketball, volleyball, swimming pools, and racquetball were all developed by YMCA instructors. It is very common for YMCA's to have and weight rooms, along with facilities for playing various sports.

An interesting feature of the YMCA swimming pools up until the YMCA became co-ed in the early 60s was the fact that men and boys, including the swimming instructors, swam nude. The orginal reason cited for not allowing swimsuits in the pool was that the cotton or even older wool swimsuits would clog up the filtration system. At that time, male-segregated nudity was very common in the locker rooms while showering or while swimming in male-only high-school swimming classes. It was understood that there was nothing wrong or sexual about males seeing other males while naked. Females were never allowed to be present at such a setting.


Many colleges and universities owe their creation to the YMCA. Springfield College was founded in 1885 as an international training school for YMCA Professionals, while Sir George Williams University—one of the two schools that eventually became Concordia University—started from night courses offered at the Montreal YMCA.

The YMCA pioneered the concept of night school, providing educational opportunities for people with full-time employment. Many YMCAs offer ESL programs, alternative high school, day care, and summer camp programs.

American high school students have a chance to participate in YMCA Youth and Government, wherein clubs of kids representing each YMCA community convene annually in their respective state legislatures to "take over the State Capitol for a day." YMCA Youth and Government helps teens learn about and participate in civics in a real-world setting.

YMCA and the gay community

Historically, before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, some men used the local "Y" as a place to meet other men—often as a place to have anonymous sex. This practice has diminished as gay bathhouses have become more prevalent. The Village People's blockbuster recording of the Disco era, "YMCA", alludes to this. However, most Y's will not freely admit to this part of their history.

See also:

de:Christlicher Verein Junger Menschen id:YMCA ja:キリスト教青年会 nl:YMCA pl:YMCA pt:Associao Crist de Moos ru:YMCA fi:NMKY sv:KFUM


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