The history of the Kokomo Family YMCA is still being written, but long before the bulldozers cleared the way for a downtown parking garage and a state-of-the-art Y facility, long before the Village People’s hit, long before any of us were born, this nonprofit began its mission to strengthen the fabric of our community.
The YMCA was born out of response to appalling conditions during England’s Industrial Revolution when textile worker George Williams began organizing a series of Bible meetings that spun into the first Young Men’s Christian Association chapter in London on June 6, 1844.
Since then, the Y has spread to more than 119 countries, with more than more than 2,700 YMCAs in 10,000 communities across U.S. Through the years, the Y has been responsible for the creation of basketball, volleyball, racquetball, group swimming lessons and Father’s Day, coined the term “body building” and currently engages 9 million youth and 13 million adults each year in the U.S.
Retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a marine missionary, noticed a need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on Dec. 29, 1851.The YMCA of Kokomo began meeting in 1875 and was active in Sunday school, teaching, and was evangelical in winning souls for the church, though it had no permanent space to call its own.
In 1910, a new building was erected at 200 N. Union St. in Kokomo. At the time of completed construction, it was the biggest and newest building in downtown Kokomo. Through the years, the Y acquired additional land, and remodeled and expanded the original building. In 1957, a second gymnasium was added, and 1965 saw the completion of our present natatorium with a 25-yard, six-lane swimming pool. The current facility houses two racquetball courts, a smaller instructional pool, a weight room, saunas, a steam room and whirlpools.
In 1956, the Y began Camp Tycony when First Congregational Christian Church leased 25 acres on the Wildcat Creek to the YMCA for 100 years. Over the years, the Y acquired additional land, facilities and equipment next to the original 25 acres, and today it is a modern camp with a large lodge, outdoor shelter, horse corral, caretaker’s house, archery and BB gun ranges, ball diamond, outdoor playground and a pond for canoeing and fishing. For more than 50 years, the camp has been an ideal location for outdoor summer day camps for the youth of the community.
In 2002, St. Joseph Hospital partnered with the Y to lease us a facility on St. Joseph Drive in which we house the Y’s Child Care Development Center, a facility that caters to full-day child care and school-age before and after-school care. The facility is approximately 10,000 square feet and is state licensed for a maximum of 141 children.
The Y continues to be guided by four core values: caring, honesty, respect, responsibility. We offer programs, services and initiatives focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, according to the unique needs of our community. The Y is accessible to all people, and financial assistance is offered to individuals and families who cannot afford membership.
The Y continues to be a hub in the community, sparking physical development, connectedness in families and offering support to members of the community who need it most.