Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Naples YMCA Gold Garden Gala Celebrates 50 Years

Jim Naismith Jr., grandson of the inventor of basketball, served as one of the evening's speakers at the 2017 Greater Naples YMCA Gold Garden Gala on Saturday night. Basketball was invented by Jim’s grandfather at the YMCA in 1891 and today Jim serves on the Board of Trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“naplesThe Greater Naples YMCA held their first Gold Garden Gala this weekend at the Naples Botanical Gardens, and it was a “smashing success,” in the words of Greater Naples YMCA CEO Paul Thein.

The gala replaced ‘Sneaker Ball,’ the Y’s traditional annual fundraising event.

“It’s our 50th Anniversary and we wanted to do something big,” Thein said. “The venue, the guest list and the support we received, it was all more than I could have imagined.”

The Y filled the garden, bringing together professional athletes, community leaders and members, all with a passion for the Y.

Speakers included former NFL athlete Matt Birk, local news reporter Amy Oshier, Naples Mayor Bill Barnett and Paralympic Gold Medalist Michelle Konkoly. Former NFL player Winston Justice and his wife Dania.

The night had two goals: to raise money for the pool to receive much-needed love and updating, the a celebration of the Y’s 50th anniversary in Collier County. The Naples YMCA opened its doors in 1967 and has been growing ever since.

The on-campus pool is in need of new linings, a cement and a rubber lining, to keep the pool from leaking.

“The pool is one of the most-utilized assets at the Y, hosting members, children’s swim lessons, local swim teams, visiting college swim teams and professional swimmers. After the fire in 2013, a lot of our campus was renovated and upgraded but the pool wasn’t touched,” Thein said. “Our main goal from the Gala was to raise enough to make sure the pool got the renovations it needed.”

The Y met their goal, and then some.

“We are lucky to receive as much support as we do from the community, members and philanthropists, but the money should never overshadow what we’re doing here. Every event we host, whether it’s a Gala or a 5k run, is for our members and our programs,” Thein said. “The Gala was in celebration of our 50 year anniversary and the members that made that possible. Without them we wouldn’t be here.”

In 2016, the Y granted $1.1 million in scholarships to families who wanted to be part of the why but couldn’t afford it.

“This campus is incredible and the programs are great, but what’s the point if it’s not accessible to the community?” Thein said.

Approximately 300 people attended the Gala Saturday evening.

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