CHICAGO, April 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the resource office for the nation's YMCAs, has received a $500,000 grant from The Sierra Club Foundation to provide thousands of military youth and their family members with outdoor camp experiences at YMCA day camps, overnight camps and family camps from April 2011 through March 2012. This announcement comes on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama's call this morning for greater support for military families.
The grant is part of the Sierra Club's Military Families Outdoors initiative. Both Y-USA and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) have a long history of working with the military to provide essential programs and services to military personnel and their family members, including active duty military, National Guard and Reserves.
For the past three years, The Sierra Club Foundation has supported ASYMCA camping programs, which provide camp opportunities and conservation programs to military families at no cost. This year, participating YMCAs will "match" the funding from The Sierra Club Foundation, increasing by 40 percent the number of youth and family members to whom they provide camping experiences free of charge.
S. Frank Gallo, national executive director of the ASYMCA, said these opportunities can be especially important for military families: "Research suggests that time spent outdoors can reduce stress and other negative health factors in children. Outdoor experiences such as swimming, hiking and environmental education with other children in similar situations can give youth from military families one more tool to help cope with the stress of deployment."
"At the Y, strengthening community is our cause, and we're proud to partner with Sierra Club to provide supportive environments where military youth and families can learn, grow and thrive," said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of Y-USA. "Y camps are very special communities. Through this initiative, more military kids can spend time outdoors with their families, engage in healthy activities and strengthen their awareness of environmental and conservation issues."
Through this partnership, Sierra Club's Military Families Outdoors initiative will also work with the Y to demonstrate how time spent in the great outdoors benefits men and women in uniform and their families. Together, Sierra Club and the Y will educate decision-makers and the public about the unique circumstances faced by our military children and families and the power of nature to improve their health and well-being, restore their spirit and bring families back together following a deployment.
"Today's military families are enduring unprecedented hardships as our service men and women take on multiple deployments in defense of our nation," said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. "Sierra Club believes strongly that the men and women who put their lives on the line defending our treasured lands, waterways and communities—and their children—should have every opportunity to enjoy the country they have worked so hard to protect. We are confident that The Sierra Club Foundation's grant to the Y will help thousands of military children and their family members better cope with the stress of deployment by experiencing the healing power of the great outdoors."
"We are grateful to Sierra Club Foundation donors who made this grant possible. Because of their generosity, we can connect thousands of servicemen and women, veterans and their children to the outdoors," stated Peter Martin, executive director of The Sierra Club Foundation. "At a time when our men and women in uniform face unprecedented hardship, we are honored to be able to lend a hand in the best way we know how—by giving them the chance to find solace, peace and support in nature."
About the Sierra Club
Since 1892, Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. It is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States, founded by America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, John Muir. The purposes of the Sierra Club are to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment. Sierra Club is working to connect military children and families with the healing powers of our natural heritage through its Veteran and Military Family Initiative. www.sierraclub.org and www.sierraclub.org/military.
About The Sierra Club Foundation
The mission of The Sierra Club Foundation is to help educate, inspire and empower humanity to preserve the natural and human environment. As a public charity, The Sierra Club Foundation relies on the generosity of thousands of individuals and foundations nationwide to help us achieve our mission. The Foundation provides critical resources to the Sierra Club and other nonprofit organizations for charitable programs that protect and restore the environment.
About the Y
The Y is one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,687 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net
SOURCE YMCA of the USA