$35K donation continues free soccer, middle school sports program at Newton YMCA – Newton Daily News

More than 480 children participated in the Newton YMCA football league last year and not a single one of them had to pay to register. The generous donation from the Monsignor McCann Community Fund made it possible for these children to play for free, and the group’s support continues to grow.

Monsignor McCann Community Fund awarded the YMCA a $35,000 grant on April 22 to not only offer a free football league for the third straight year, but also to provide a free middle school athletic program for 2023. The youth of Newton are “blessed,” says Newton YMCA CEO Lucas Hughes.

“The youth of Newton are blessed to have the Monsignor McCann Community Fund in their community,” Hughes said. “And the YMCA is grateful.”

YMCA has 60 teams – led by volunteer coaches – participating in its football league. The grant covers spring football 2023 costs for all children in Jasper County. But now, Hughes said, the grant will also help the middle school’s athletic program.

The YMCA Middle School sports program runs year-round for fifth and sixth graders and consists of four different sports: track and field, basketball, volleyball and soccer. The previous donation from the Monsignor McCann Community Fund in 2022 allowed 130 players to join the program for free.

“[Monsignor McCann Community Fund]’s vision was to bridge the gap between the fifth and sixth graders who can’t afford this travel ball or travel sport and those who just want to keep participating,” Hughes told the community fund’s board of directors was on board from the start.

Mark Thayer, president of the Monsignor McCann Community Fund, said the fund was formed following the sale of McCann Village in 2018. Run by volunteers, the nonprofit organization regularly distributes funds to local organizations that do community service or address the needs of the poor and underprivileged in Jasper County.

In addition to the $35,000 scholarship awarded to the YMCA, the fund provided $1,800 to the Central Iowa Pregnancy Center and $6,000 to the DMACC Newton campus to focus on student mental health. Typically, the group gives away $50,000 to $70,000 each year.

Thayer said some families face financial obstacles when enrolling their children in the sport. Some parents just can’t afford the fees. Since the introduction of free youth soccer, the YMCA has seen a huge increase in attendance. 181 children were registered in 2019; As of 2021, 444 children have enrolled in the program.

“It’s really great for me to see the growth of this program – nearly 500 kids this spring,” Thayer said. “I live in this neighborhood and it really warms me up to watch games that go on until 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. It’s nice to see the knowledge that kids can do this for free for their parents.”

Hughes has also noticed this growth. And he suggested it spill over into other areas. For example, enrollments in flag football — a sport that isn’t free — went from about 53 kids to 96 kids, or about 81 percent, in a year.

“When you provide an opportunity to explore the activities at the Y, they participate in more than what is given for free,” Hughes said. “…Monsignor McCann has opened a gateway to allow people who may not have the resources now to see what the Y can give to the community.”

From 2021 to 2023, the community fund has made ongoing grants to the YMCA for free youth soccer. Thayer said the fund recognizes the YMCA as “one of Newton’s best assets.” The Fund’s board also recognizes that families face several economic factors, but they do not want their children to be affected.

“I can think of no better organization in Newton addressing these economic uncertainties and challenges facing families than the YMCA,” said Thayer. “They are doing everything they can to accommodate as many people as possible. We feel comfortable supporting this organization on an annual basis.”

Hughes said the community fund showed he cares about the youth and development of the county’s up-and-coming students.

“What it tells me is that Monsignor McCann cares about youth development and just making sure they sponsor healthy living consistent with the Y’s mission,” Hughes said. “They have advocates on both sides who support not only the Y, but also the youth.”

For more information about the Monsignor McCann Community Fund, visit www.mmcfund.org. In recent years, the fund has given $20,000 to the Splash Pad project in Newton and $10,000 to The Salvation Army for their Red Kettle campaign.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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