YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo

For Youth Development®
For Healthy Living
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Community Connections Fall Newsletter: When Y Stands for Diversity

November 13, 2017

Source: Vicky Kettner
Phone: 2693459622
Email: vkettner@kzooymca.org

Read our feature article in the Fall 2017 Community Connections newsletter, below, that is a story about a special event held at the Y in July that removed barriers to create a more inclusive environment. To download the whole newsletter, click

Muslim girls at poolside

Removing Barriers for a BETTER US

On Saturday, July 15, the Y closed its doors as it usually does at 7pm for the evening and re-opened them for a special event. That event was a programmed evening for local, relocated refugee women and their daughters for the opportunity to experience the YMCA.

The idea to host a event for women-only came to Member Services Director Andrea Heidtman after learning that many Muslim women in the community are not able to experience health and wellness facilities due to their religious beliefs. It took just a few phone calls to area refugee family sponsors and support group leaders to understand that there was a lot of support for the concept of making the Y accessible to these women and girls. "The need was real," said Andrea.
And so was the enthusiasm.

Over 50 women and girls attended this first inaugural special evening, free to explore the facilities including the tennis house, cardio room, gym, and even the pool.

The opportunity to swim was a huge hit, said Andrea. With dress and modesty limiting the opportunities to experience aquatic exercise, the women only event let them do something they otherwise could not in a public setting.

But the event was not just about the chance to splash around and hit a few balls.

Also in attendance were non-Muslim women, eager to welcome and interact with these new guests.

One of the best take-aways from the evening," Andrea said," was witnessing the sense of community and the opportunity to extend inclusivity.

"It's a proud day at the Y when we have made a whole group of people feel like they are a part of this community."

The next Ladies' Night has been scheduled for Saturday, November 25, 7:30p - 9p at Maple. All program spaces will be open, including the pool, tennis and racquetball courts, cardio and weight rooms, and the track area. For more information, please contact Aheitdman@kzooymca.org or call 269.345.9622 x 190.

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