YMCA Teen Center Featured on Good Morning America

The Downtown YMCA Teen Center – and our David Matthews Composition School – was featured on Good Morning America on Monday, November 26. A donor advised fund was established in memory of David Matthews, YMCA philanthropist and donor, by his wife Margaret to fund a program that would join David’s love of the Y and his passion for classical music – thus the David Matthews Composition School was established.

The Erie Philharmonic and the students of the Downtown YMCA have been working together for many months to create the first piece of music composed and arranged by the students of the David Matthews Composition School. Their original song, titled Our Erie, was performed by the Erie Philharmonic.

“Students from Erie composing a piece of music for our orchestra is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. The orchestra musicians are excited to perform it, and Maestro Meyer is proud to showcase their work,” Executive Director Steve Weiser says. “What makes it even more special is the audience will be 2,000 students from their school or neighboring schools. We hope to inspire the composition students to keep writing, but also the other students in the audience to create and compose music of their own.”

Matthews died unexpectedly in February 2016. He was a supporter of many organizations in the Erie region, but he was most passionate about music and the students at the Downtown YMCA. The memorials left in his name were used to create a composition school in his honor at the Y in collaboration with his wife, Margaret.

For nearly one year, the students at the Downtown Y Teen Center have been working with teaching artists to interpret and compose an original musical score for the full orchestra of the Erie Philharmonic. In addition, multi-media students have been learning about documentary film and documenting the entire year long creative process. The project culminates with a full orchestra performance and film debut.

This program is the first of its kind here in Erie, and both the YMCA and the Erie Philharmonic hope for the program to continue in future years. Weiser concludes, “the parts are printed and placed in the musicians’ folders. We cannot wait to hear live what these students have been working on. It’s going to be a very special afternoon for all involved.

The program is funded by the David Matthews Memorial Fund at the YMCA of Greater Erie with additional support by Erie Arts & Culture.

View the Good Morning America Segments:

Full Story

Live Performance 

Annual Campaign Builds a Better Us

By: Carl Wolfrom, YMCA of Greater Erie Board Chairman

Over this past year, the YMCA of Greater Erie joined a wider national and community movement to articulate more clearly the work we are doing in our community.  Our Y sits at the forefront of several key issues facing our community including chronic disease prevention, drowning prevention, high school graduation rates, nutrition awareness and early learning readiness.  And, as funding from other community sources is being directed towards other community efforts, it’s more imperative than ever that the Y garner the support of the community.

In order to leverage our efforts in combating these issues, we must clearly articulate our cause and gather support from the community.  The people of our community are facing insurmountable gaps – income, education, and well-being. You may be surprised by who is helped by the Y – your friends and neighbors, co-workers, or parishioners at church.  They’ve encountered the unexpected – and they need your help to rise above.

I’m sure that you know the Y is now- as it has always been – a place of possibility and promise for all.  What you may not know, is that we support kids, adults, seniors and families with programs that protect, teach, connect, heal, nourish and encourage.  We can’t do it alone.

We do it by teaching kids and teens new skills that build self-confidence, character values and leadership.  We do it by helping adults and families lead healthy lifestyles.  We do it by preparing our youngest for a successful start in kindergarten and beyond and by believing that all people deserve to live their life to its fullest and healthiest potential.

This got us thinking about the causes within our own community – so clearly articulated by Erie Vital Signs.  How can the Y leverage our programs and leadership within the community to make a bigger impact on these causes?  That led us to outline a framework for our annual campaign that focuses our philanthropic efforts on four main causes directly affecting our community: safe spaces, meals for kids, learning and health.

With a gift to the Y’s annual campaign, the Y will support kids, adults, seniors and families with programs that protect, teach, connect, heal, nourish and encourage. It’s how we help our community and how the “us” who live here achieve our individual and collective promise.

We can’t do it alone.  Donate or contact 452-1432 ext. 252 to learn how you can support the Y’s cause.

Time to “Waterproof” Erie Kids

Time to “Waterproof” Erie Kids through YMCA of Greater Erie Swim Programs

Programs offer a mix of fun, physical activity and safety to create a lifelong love of swimming

As the season turns from winter to spring, the YMCA of Greater Erie encourages children and parents in Erie to explore the many benefits of swimming, while also keeping safety top of mind. In Y swim programs, participants can enjoy water sports, enhance or learn new techniques, meet new friends and develop confidence, while also learning safety skills that can save lives.

It’s never too early to get children involved in swimming—it’s an important for safety reasons, but also a great way to keep active and healthy. There are so many options for parents, but the best place to start is by learning basic water safety skills that helps get kids familiar with the water that often continues with swim lessons and competitive swim programs and can even lead to a career.

As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the YMCA of Greater Erie encourages parents to take an active role in fostering a relationship between their children and swimming—beginning with water safety. Following are safety tips to practice when in and around the water:

  • Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
  • Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
  • Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.
  • Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.

In addition to learning lifesaving water safety skills, swimming is a great way to increase physical activity. Swimming also motivates children to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. It also teaches life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, so that children can learn how to work well with teammates and coaches and how to deal with winning and losing.

As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, the Y has been a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety for more than 155 years. The YMCA of Greater Erie continues to help youth and adults experience the joy and benefits of swimming, so they can be healthy, confident and secure in the water.

There are a variety of programs to choose, including those at the Y or local township recreation programs.

In addition, through the City of Erie’s Brian Lee Crosby Memorial Learn to Swim program, City of Erie youth can take free YMCA swimming lessons at Strong Vincent and East Middle Schools and Erie High School.



Erie, PA – The YMCA of Greater Erie is marking Child Abuse Prevention Month with Five Days of Action, April 16-20, 2018. Leading up to Healthy Kids Day®–a national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids–Five Days of Action focuses on preventing child sexual abuse by sharing tips on how adults can step up and speak out to prevent child sexual abuse.

During April and all year long, the Y encourages adults and organizations in the community to play a vital role in making Erie a safer place for children. By encouraging adults to step up and speak out, we can bring awareness to the issue of child sexual abuse in our communities and foster conversations around how we can all work together to prevent it from happening.

“Protecting children from sexual abuse must be the number one goal of every person who cares about the health and well-being of kids,” said Debbie Anderson, Early Learning and School-Age Enrichment Director at the Glenwood Park YMCA. “Together, we can stand up to demand that children are protected and speak out to encourage adults to make it happen in our community. It takes all of us.”

At YMCA Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, April 21 at JMC Arena, kids will be able to take part in an age-appropriate awareness activity and adults will be able to sign commitment cards to Speak Out and Step Up for the protection of children.

YMCA of Greater Erie and the YMCA Guardians for Child Protection, with support from YMCA of the USA, Darkness to Light, the Redwoods Group Foundation, and Praesidium have made materials available to help adults learn more about preventing child sexual abuse.

For more information about preventing child sexual abuse visit www.fivedaysofaction.org.





  • One in ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th
  • 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser.
  • Approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members.
  • 60% of child sexual abuse victims never tell anyone.
  • False reports are rare. Research shows that only 4 to 8% of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated.





  • You do not need to have proof that abuse is occurring to make a report, only reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means that you have witnessed maltreatment or boundary violations, either in the child or adult, or both. Or, you have received a disclosure from a child about abuse, neglect, or boundary violations towards them.
  • Child sexual abuse reports should be made to the police and/or state child protective services.
  • Contact the Darkness to Light Helpline at 866-FOR-LIGHT to have questions answered by trained counselors at no charge.

YMCA of Greater Erie Offers Free Memberships for Military Families

Erie, PA – The YMCA of Greater Erie, in partnership with the Armed Services YMCA, has made available free memberships for the families of deployed service members.

“We understand that military families are under enormous stress, and military life comes with unique challenges,” said Gerry Vandemerwe, YMCA of Greater Erie CEO.  “Deployments and frequent moves can be stressful for military and their families.”

The beginning of YMCA service in the military setting usually is associated with the year 1861, when 5,000 dedicated YMCA volunteers took to the battlefields of the Civil War alongside America’s uniformed young men. It was the year that Abraham Lincoln commended YMCA for the “benevolent undertaking for the benefit of the soldiers.” The tradition of “following the flag” has continued in every war and conflict in which the United States has been involved.

Headquarted in Springfield, Virginia, the Armed Service YMCA, through its 34 branches and affiliates supports 45 of the largest military installations and offers unique programs that are tailored to the specific needs of the military community on the local level.

“A membership to the YMCA enables the families of deployed military to spend quality time together and provides an opportunity to meet other military families who can relate to their unique situation,” said Vandemerwe.

Eligible military include Title 10 Personnel including family members of deployed National Guard and Reservists; active duty independent duty personnel and their families; wounded service members assigned to a Community Based Warrior in Transition Unit; relocated spouse/dependent children of deployed active duty personnel (the relocated spouse category supports families/spouses who relocate away from an installation/duty station while the active duty service member is deployed – all of the following criteria must be met: the service member is on active duty; the service member is DEPLOYED for a minimum of six months (on deployment orders—NOT unaccompanied orders, NOT geographic bachelors);the spouse has relocated away from the military installation where the service member is assigned (most often, back home near family).

Military families that would like to join the YMCA of Greater Erie should bring military ID and any other required documentation (usually deployment orders or military service headquarters approval letter) to the Y branch for verification.

For more information, call the local YMCA of Greater Erie branch for more information.