The YMCA has been a part of the global community since 1844. As we celebrate our 175-year birthday and history, we can reflect on how the YMCA has impacted the lives of millions of people in spirit, mind, and body across the globe and here in our own communities.
Founded in 1844 by then 22-year-old Sir George Williams in London, England, the YMCA was a response to the rise in unhealthy social conditions caused by the Industrial Revolution. Seven years after the Y movement in the UK, the first YMCA in Canada opened in Montreal, Quebec. In 1866, Y Canada established YMCA War Services, a part of our history that is sometimes forgotten. During World Wars I and II, YMCA staff offered recreational, athletic, social, and educational services to Canadian soldiers. By 1943, nearly 70 million soldiers participated in programs delivered by the Canadian YMCA War Services.
From there, the Y went on to have a phenomenal cultural impact. We invented basketball and volleyball, became the first to recognize Father’s Day and in the 1920s, YMCA staff Moina Michael and Anna Guerin were inspired by "In Flanders Fields" to initiate the wearing of the poppy on Remembrance Day.
In 1967, the YMCA opened the first licensed child care program in Canada. The Y is now Canada's largest child care provider, setting the standard for quality child care nation-wide.
Currently, the Y is in 120 countries and serves over 58 million people annually.
Our association serves 120,000 people in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Wood Buffalo, and soon Red Deer. Our YMCA has grown tremendously since 1907, now operating five health, fitness, and aquatic centers, two (and soon to be three) community centers, 75 child care programs, and 21 community and housing programs. Our community doesn’t stop in Northern Alberta — we also have a commitment to build our global community by supporting the Ys in Ukraine and Bogota, Colombia.
Whether you are a health, fitness, and aquatics member or have children in child care, access community outreach programs or have found housing support, have been part of the YMCA for 50 years or five days, we thank you for choosing our Y and being an important part of a strong and thriving community.
Here’s to another 175 years!