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Special Olympics

James Davis, left, and Izimizi Finch celebrate their victories Thursday at the Special Olympics Young Athletes Play Day at the Muscatine YMCA.

One of the most enjoyable parts of working at the YMCA is the opportunity to interact with so many different members of Iowa communities. Regardless of where people grew up or what they are doing today, just about everyone has a “Y story.” Each one is a little different (including learning to swim; camps and youth sports; after-school programs; serving as volunteers and mentors; finding ways to get healthy as a family, and much more), but at its core, all experiences are reminders of the Y’s place in our community. In short, the Y understands that our collective success is rooted in our communities and our mission is to bring us together, to make us better as individuals, communities and as a nation.

It often feels like we live in a time that defines us by our differences; but the ties that bind us together — while tested — are not broken. Iowa communities are more diverse than you might think — whether it be age, gender, race, religion, ability or something else — and many of us have different backgrounds and experiences that help form our worldview. What we don’t realize (or we sometimes forget) is that understanding different points and experiences helps make us all stronger.

The 27 Associations and 54 individual Iowa YMCA sites play a huge role in strengthening communities, but also reinforce the positive, collective change we can make happen when we put aside our differences and work together for the greater good.

Regardless of where you live in our great state, I challenge all Iowans to find something you care about and make it better. If you don’t know where to start, give me call and I’ll connect you to some incredible opportunities. The YMCA is charity driven to bring people together through a lens of love, compassion and acceptance all in the name of making a better you, a better me and a better us.

Craig Hanken is Executive Director or the Iowa Alliance of YMCAs.

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