by ELDON KORSON
The Wolverine World Wide (WWW) headquarters in Rockford was seeing some night life last Friday evening, Jan. 21, at the third annual WWW Family YMCA charity auction for their Strong Kids campaign. Servers slipped between a mass of attendees in a wing of the main building’s lower level assembled not for the free food, but to raise $39,000 toward a goal of $130,000 this year for the overarching program. The money will go to fund YMCA scholarships helping kids in the Rockford and Belmont areas find many ways to get healthier and have a good time. They can become Y members and participate in programs like family nights, water safety and youth leadership, and day camps to “build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
Why? The value and necessity of these scholarship donations, event organizer and Strong Kids campaign chair Dave Powers said, is in getting kids off the couch. In his day, kids skinned knees and ate dirt, but today they watch JONAS and Shake it Up. Video games on the Nintendo Wii, he said, are better, but not good enough. Helping kids use the Y facilities is meant to keep them happy and healthy, socializing with peers, learning skills, and living a healthy lifestyle while fighting the rising scale of obesity.
The tables in the lobby were packed with items for a silent auction. A “home and auto” table featured such items as a ready-for-roughness kids’ wagon from State Farm Insurance; an electric grill for “barbies” in the backyard from Ace Hardware; oils, lubes and filters from Mason Street Garage for enhanced efficiency; and wooden artistic accent pieces by Raymond DeBoer and Bill Frost. An entertainment and sports table bore things like a family pass from Frederik Meijer Gardens to reacquaint with the green stuff, and gift cards from Burton Chiropractic for when kids fall off their wagons. A “personal items” table offered a makeover with items including Hush Puppies shoes, CAT footwear, and gift cards from Wolverine World Wide; clothes and jewelry by Nancy Hager; and rings and a manicure and pedicure set from Laura Karston.
A later live auction was held in a huge conference hall packed with reserved tables for the almost 250 attendees. Up for bid were an all-sports pass for a four-person family to watch the Rams win nearly everything, cooking school at Reds on the River to dominate potlucks, four tickets to a U2 concert at Breslin Center from Rockford Construction, four hours of backhoe use from Jim Dykema for extreme yard makeovers, bartender services for one event from Brianna Gohlke-Clausen, and four tickets for a suite at a Red Wings game from Rockford Construction.
Randy and Bonnie Warner, whose daughter Megan is a health and wellness director at the Y, spoke for themselves and many other volunteers, stating, “It’s a great cause. It makes us feel good to do it—to give back to the community. It’s a great group of fun, caring, committed people.”
Acknowledgements for the entire event went to Premiere Food Services and Martha’s Vineyard for food and drinks, Tony Gates from WLAV for service as emcee of the silent auction, and Jason Lamoreaux of Lamoreaux Auction and Appraisal LLC for conducting the live auction.
“We really need to thank everyone for doing this,” said Powers, regarding all the staff, donators and bidders. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
Founded in 1844 in London, the Young Men’s Christian Association provides camps, after-school programs, and skill classes to millions of children in the U.S. It supports in the fight against health problems like obesity and chronic diseases, and gives job training, housing and opportunities to needy families on top of use of their facilities.
“We need to bring this awareness to the community. The need is there,” Powers said, citing 1,600 kids needing service in the area.
If you would like to contribute to the Strong Kids program, visit www.grymca.org and click on the “donate now” button beneath the Strong Kids logo.