Mayor Leffingwell, YMCA team up to encourage fitness

Sarah Lawson

YMCA East Communities Branch reached out to the community on Saturday to encourage physical activity in children and facilitate family fun.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell partnered with the YMCA to sponsor the “Let’s Move Austin Play Day.”

Leffingwell gave a brief speech at the event and expounded on the importance of physical activity. He said he liked the fact the YMCA keeps it simple by using family interaction, games and fun activities instead of video games.

“In lieu of having a regular workout regimen it is nice to come out and play,” Leffingwell said.

East Communities YMCA director Darrell Barnett said approximately 650 people attended, and volunteers made the event manageable.

“This is one of the events that would not have been possible without the number of volunteers we have had. Both Target and H-E-B helped us out through donations,” Barnett said.

Every year the YMCA raises funds for their own Partners of Youth program.

“Last year, for 2011, our goal was $975,000. We raised all of that through individual donations,” Barnett said. “Say a kid wants to learn how to swim — most kids in this neighborhood can’t afford the $55 cost of swim lessons. So, we use that money from the [Partners of Youth] campaign, make them pay $5 and the rest comes from the money we raise.”

Kids and families attending the event had a range of activities to choose from, including aquatic games, hula-hooping and recreational games.

“Hula-hooping was my favorite part. I just learned how to hula-hoop and I really think it is a new talent I have,” said elemenatry school student Mikaila Ulmer.

Barnett said elementary school student Terra Fritsche has been attending the YMCA for many years now and has been interviewed by other organizations in reference to the YMCA activities.

“She is a very big part of what we do,” Barnett said. “She is a fixture around here. She has been coming here since she was a little girl, and now we couldn’t imagine this YMCA without her.”

In the summer heat, Fritsche said the water games were her favorite.

“When you had to throw the ball at the cones to make them go in the water, and I even knocked down five,” Fritsche said. “It was fun.”