Founded at the YMCA

YMCA 180 Birthday

We're celebrating a historic milestone for YMCAs across the world. On June 6, 1844, George Williams and 11 other young men held a meeting in London that led to the founding of the YMCA.

Over the past 180 years, the Y has worked to strengthen communities, creating many well-known sports, holidays and programs. Below are just a few programs that originated at the YMCA - and that are still part of our lives today!

  1. Father's Day
    Before President Richard Nixon formally recognized Father's Day in 1972, Sonora Smart Dodd originated the holiday in 1910 at the YMCA in Spokane, WA. Sonora's father, William Jackson Smart, was a widower who raised Sonora and her five siblings on his own. Sonora wanted a way to show gratitude for fathers in the same way that mothers are celebrated on Mother's Day.
  2. Summer Camp
    The YMCA opened America's oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, in 1885 at Orange Lake, New York. The goal of Camp Dudley was to provide a positive environment that encouraged the development of self-confidence, friendship and independence. Since 1885, countless children have experienced the joys of summer camp, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.
  3. Swim Lessons
    In 1909 George Corsan, a swimming enthusiast, designed the first group swimming lessons at the Detroit YMCA. Swim lessons continue to be a cornerstone service of the YMCA, teaching life-saving and confidence-building skills to people of all ages.
  4. Innovations in Sports
    You may have heard that James Naismith, a faculty member at the YMCA International Training School, invented basketball in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. But did you know that volleyball and racquetball also have roots at the Y?

    The origins of volleyball date back to the 1890s, when YMCA instructor William Morgan invented a game called “mintonette,” which became known as volleyball in 1896, at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    In 1950, Joe Sobek, a YMCA volunteer invented racquetball in Greenwich, Connecticut, as an alternative to handball and squash.
  5. English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes
    The Y has long been a place for people to learn, grow and thrive. In 1856, America's first-known English as a Second Language (ESL) class was held at the YMCA in Cincinnati, Ohio. The class was designed to help German immigrants improve their English-speaking skills.

Scan In for a Chance to Win
Join us in our branches to celebrate 180 years of the YMCA serving communities around the globe. When you scan in between June 3 and 12, 2024, you could win one of the following prizes. 

  • Free Guest Pass
  • Free 30-Minute Personal Training Session
  • Free Month of Membership
  • Free T-Shirt

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