by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
December 25, 1997
Thanks to a donation from Blackfoot Telephone Corporation, Seeley Swan Branch YMCA winter programs are in full swing, with a second session to begin in January, including fitness programs, aerobics, art and youth basketball.
Blackfoot Telephone has pledged $1,000 per year for three years to help the YMCA sponsor programs here. Money donated this fall provided t-shirts, basketballs, hoops, art supplies and a puppetry program.
"This has been an investment year," Michele Holmes, YMCA volunteer, said recently. She applauded community support for all of this year's programs, indicating that since the YMCA was formed almost one year ago, it has received several major donations from local individuals and businesses.
Programs such as Swimming (held last June), Bitty Ball (basketball for 1st and 2nd grade students) and the winter walking program received more participants than expected. For example, Bitty Ball organizers expected about 20 students, and nearly 40 registered for the program the first night. The walking program, held in the old gym at the elementary school, also has exceeded enrollment expectations.
Unlike most of the programs sponsored by the YMCA here to date, the walking program caters to adults, many of them between the ages of 40 and 65. According to Terryl Bartlett, certified aerobics and fitness instructor, the men and women who are walking, stretching and exercising three mornings a week at the school are reaping benefits now that outdoor exercise opportunities are limited by ice and snow. Participants, who walk between two and three miles a day inside the school, are finding that they have more energy, fewer aches and pains, and are feeling better about themselves since they started the program.
"I really encourage them to evaluate how they feel inside," Bartlett said. She stressed that people involved in fitness programs need to commit to a minimum of three days of exercise per week in order to see results.
The Awesome Art for Kids program, taught by Feather Sherman, is another winter program that is being applauded here. Kids in grades Kindergarten through 9th, are benefitting from Sherman's enthusiasm about art.
"My goal is to encourage creativity and let them develop their own ideas," she said. "That way they can experience the sheer joy of the process."
Sherman's classes, which have been held after school at the old elementary gymnasium, have included recycled sculpture, tie-dying, and mosaics created from natural elements. Her students, she said, amaze her with their ideas. "The things they come up with could not be more creative," she said, adding that "some kids just shine" at art, where they don't necessarily excel at other subjects. Sherman looks forward to teaching more art classes in Seeley Lake and Condon, and hopes to offer more variety by including things like ceramics.
The goal of the YMCA group here is to continue to meet the needs of youth and adults in the community by hiring qualified instructors to teach programs year-round. The group plans to also hire a part-time director and set-up an office in Seeley Lake. According to Holmes, local volunteers will celebrate the success of 1997 programs during their first anniversary party, planned for early 1998. Meanwhile, theYMCA volunteers meet on the second Tuesday of every month at 11 a.m. at the Filling Station. Meetings are open to anybody interested in supporting the YMCA's community activities.