Greater La Grange YMCA makes a splash with two new pools
Will Thuma of La Grange said he's feeling more comfortable in the water as he progresses in his beginning swim class. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:32AM
LA GRANGE — The Greater La Grange YMCA is continuing its creative community outreach with the addition of two pools to its list of several satellite facilities.
Swim lessons, water fitness classes and open swim sessions are now offered at the William Tell Holiday Inn pool in Countryside and Riverside Brookfield High School in Riverside, in addition to existing programs at the Hyatt Lodge pool at McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook.
“We were ecstatic when they agreed and were happy to be a part of our locations,” said Bridgette Letizia, executive director. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to provide swim lessons to the community.”
In April, YMCA officials were scrambling to find a replacement for The Chalet pool in Burr Ridge, closed by the Pleasant Dale Park District, because the fitness facility was losing at least $200,000 a year.
“We were a little bit shocked,” Letizia said. “We started looking right away for some community partners and to identify people who believe in what we do.
“Last year, over 2,000 kids participated in Y swim programs,” she said. “We knew if we didn’t find a place, a lot of kids wouldn’t learn how to swim.”
Letizia said she and Deb Strus, aquatic program director, approached several facilities and were grateful for the response.
“The Hyatt Lodge pool is so beautiful, and people are really happy with it,” she said. “We also wanted some other locations in towns for our members.”
The high school pool at 160 Ridgewood Road, Riverside, is the main training facility for the YMCA’s Special Olympics swim program in addition to swim lessons there and at the Holiday Inn, 6201 Joliet Road, Countryside.
The YMCA has been in temporary quarters without a pool since 2007 at 1100 E. 31st St. in LaGrange Park. Formerly known as the Rich Port YMCA, its main facility at 31 E. Ogden Ave. in La Grange, closed in 2006 due to its age and need for modifications.
“The facility here is great, but the majority of our programs happen outside of these four walls,” Letizia said. “We are the Y without walls.”
The YMCA’s summer day camp is offered at Countryside Park in Countryside, basketball camps and classes are offered at the Max in McCook, and other programs are held at parks in Brookfield, Letizia said.
“We’re kind of all over; we’ve taken it to the streets,” she said. “Our community partnerships always are evolving and strengthening, and we’re identifying and looking for other opportunities to service the community.”
For example, a new afterschool program was developed this year at the Willow Springs Elementary School in Willow Springs, offering safe, fun activities and homework help. That program may not have come about had the YMCA remained at a single, central location, she said.
“We’re running more programs now than at the old facility,” said Charlene Vickery of La Grange, who serves on the YMCA board of directors. “The Y is not about bricks and mortar, but about the quality of programming.”
Membership has remained constant despite the development of satellite facilities splitting off from a central location, Letizia said.
“We have almost 1,200 families in the Y Guides program for Indian Guides and Princesses,” she said.
When and whether the YMCA will develop a permanent site, as well as the future of its former location remain undecided, the director said.
“Right now, we have a small group of Greater La Grange YMCA Board members, community leaders and Y staff assessing the availability of financial resources to support the building of a new facility in La Grange,” she said. “We plan to keep the community posted when there is news to share.”
Letizia said the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago still owns the former Rich Port site.
“We would like to remain in the community, and that’s why a small group is assessing the availability of financial resources,” she said.