YMCA Summer Camp: Building Memories that will Last a Lifetime

Smith Family YMCA Counselor Spotlight

“It makes my day to make their day,” DaeQuon Terry says. DaeQuon is a YMCA camp counselor at the Smith Family YMCA, where he and his co-counselor Brandon “Coach G” Gathers lead a tight-knit group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys. Together, DaeQuon and Coach G are something of a dynamic duo. For them, working at the Y is more than just a job. It’s a place where they can use their positive energy and outstanding leadership skills to do amazing work that has a lasting impact.


Walking into the Smith Family YMCA during a typical camp morning, you’ll hear the echoes of kids laughing and playing in the gym. Inside the gym, you’ll easily be able to spot DaeQuon and Coach G playing basketball with a group of energetic, smiling boys. It’s just as easy to see why these boys have so much fun shooting hoops with their counselors.

Both Coach G and DaeQuon have enjoyed long-lasting relationships with the YMCA. Prior to joining the Smith Family YMCA, Coach G taught sports at YMCAs in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington D.C. DaeQuon, on the other hand, grew up as a Joliet Y kid. At the age of five, he began regularly attending Y camps. Now, they both consider the Y a “second home.” Using their personal experiences as inspiration, they’re able to pay it forward by working as counselors in the YMCA’s summer camp program.

“In these walls, kids are safe. You get a home-based atmosphere,” said Coach G.

It’s this home-based environment and the opportunity to make a positive impact that makes the Y more than just a place of employment for DaeQuon and Coach G. The Y is where they can help kids feel like they belong, build relationships, develop character and discover their potential.

“The Y is where campers not only get to make friends but also learn real people skills,” DaeQuon said.

“If you want to make a difference in your child’s life, and help them make lifelong memories—send your child to the Y,” added Coach G.

Coach G also credits the YMCA Leadership Team for creating a positive work environment with a diverse staff that bring different skill sets to the table.

“We all come together for the kids,” said Coach G. “It’s like another family.”


Summer Camp may be ending soon, but members, and campers alike, will continue to see this dynamic duo around the Smith Y in the months to come. While also teaching physical education at Avalon Charter School in Chicago, Coach G plans to volunteer this winter as a coach in the Y’s youth basketball league.

This fall, DaeQuon will be attending Joliet Junior College in hopes of becoming a physical education teacher and basketball coach. He will also be teaming up with Coach G to volunteer as a coach in the Y’s youth basketball league.

At the Y, the lessons our campers learn from their counselors go far beyond the walls of the gym and the lines on the basketball court.  Our fantastic camp staff plays a vital part in each of our camper’s experiences at the Y. We are confident that this group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys will remember their role-model counselors for years to come, long after the last basketball swooshes through the net and camp has come to a close.

Thank you, Coach G, DaeQuon and our entire camp team for making this a fantastic summer at the Y!

Practicing Water Safety Skills with the Y’s “Go Blue” Program

Water Safety Programs

For many families, visiting a beach or pool during the summer is an easy way to cool off from the heat. Some may even visit a pool year-round. But it’s important to remember that even something as fun as a pool, or any body of water, can pose a serious threat if you or your child does not know how to swim.

As America’s most trusted swim instructor, the YMCA has been teaching kids how to swim for more than 100 years. Swim lessons at the YMCA will help your kids stay fit, healthy and strong when they spend time in the water. But, most importantly, they will gain confidence and learn vital water safety skills that will last them a lifetime.

The YMCA’s Swim Lesson Curriculum is based on a continuum that focuses on a skill-based progression that builds confidence and supports skill development for swimmers of all ages. Swim lessons are available six days a week for adults and children, as young as six-months-old. Enrolling your child in swim lessons at a young age will help them to get familiar with the water and teach them critical water safety skills. (Check out the Y’s many other aquatic programs offered this fall.)


To ensure our summer camp participants have the opportunity to develop this essential life skill, the YMCA has introduced the “Go Blue” Water Safety Program into its camp curriculum. As part of the “Go Blue” Program, campers take a mandatory swim test before entering the pool. Based on their swimming abilities, campers receive a red, yellow or blue wristband. To “Go Blue” means that swimmers have enough strength, skill, and confidence to pass the blue swim test, which includes jumping into the deep end of the pool, treading water, and swimming the length of the pool using a front crawl stroke without stopping.

To improve their swimming skills, all red and yellow wristband campers participate in 15-minute swim lessons several times each week during summer camp. Our goal is to help all non-swimmers and intermediate swimmers “Go Blue” by the end of summer.

With summer camp coming to an end later this month, we are very excited to share the results of this summer’s “Go Blue” Program. Congratulations to our summer campers and our aquatics and camp teams for a job well done!

C.W. Avery Family YMCA:

  • Red Swimmers to Yellow Swimmers: 34
  • Yellow Swimmers to Blue Swimmers: 42
  • Overall Percent of Campers Who Are Now Blue Swimmers: 74%

Galowich Family YMCA:

  • Red Swimmers to Yellow Swimmers: 14
  • Yellow Swimmers to Blue Swimmers: 12
  • Overall Percent of Campers Who Are Now Blue Swimmers: 46%

Morris Community YMCA:

  • Red Swimmers to Yellow Swimmers: 37
  • Yellow Swimmers to Blue Swimmers: 77
  • Overall Percent of Campers Who Are Now Blue Swimmers: 47%

Smith Family YMCA:

  • Red Swimmers to Yellow Swimmers: 21
  • Yellow Swimmers to Blue Swimmers: 19
  • Overall Percent of Campers Who Are Now Blue Swimmers: 52%

Registration is underway for fall swim lessons. To learn more, visit www.jolietymca.org or contact the Aquatics Director at your local YMCA branch.

Kicking Off Annual Camp Picnics with the Morris Community YMCA

Every year the Greater Joliet Area YMCA hosts commemorative picnics at each camp location to celebrate the camp season. The 2018 summer camp celebrations began with the Morris Y on Thursday, July 26 at Saratoga Elementary School. On a beautiful and sunny July afternoon, many of our campers and counselors celebrated alongside city officials, donors, volunteers and staff with lunch, fun and fellowship. The campers also had the opportunity to explore specialized farm equipment and emergency vehicles.


YMCA summer camp is a great way for children to meet new friends, have fun and explore new activities all summer long.  On behalf of our summer campers, we’d like to thank all those who joined us and made the summer camp picnic a memorable experience!

  • Morris Hospital (for donating lunch)
  • Representative David Welter
  • State Senator Sue Rezin
  • Mayor Dick Kopczick and the City of Morris
  • Grundy County Farm Bureau
  • Grundy Emergency Management
  • Morris Fire Department
  • Huntley Farms
  • University of Illinois Extension Office
  • Morris YMCA Advisory Council
  • YMCA Donors and Volunteers

Want to continue the fun during the school year?  The Y’s Kid Zone is an excellent way for your child to have fun before and after school while giving you the peace of mind knowing they are safe!

“Bear Down on Bullies”

IMG_0640In an effort to educate campers about bullying, Staley Da Bear, the official mascot of the Chicago Bears, paid a visit to the Galowich Family YMCA. Staley and an emcee led an anti-bullying demonstration known as “Bear Down on Bullies”—where campers engaged in hands-on activities to learn about the importance of respect and how to deal with and prevent bullying.

Staley had quite the sense of humor, so the kids had a blast learning about the five types of bullies: Big-mouth bully, hands-on bully, butt-out bully, cyber-bully, and all-around bully.

At the end of the presentation, the campers were presented with a player-autographed “Bear Down on Bullies” banner to display within the Y.

With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, parents are encouraged to talk with their children about bullying. For more information about bullying, including tips on how you can talk with your child, please visit www.stopbullying.gov.

Campers Volunteer at Sunny Hill Nursing Home

10582907_693766350676965_6395060137579952404_oAll summer long, a group of Galowich YMCA campers has been volunteering at Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet. Twice per month, 25 campers (in grades 6-8) and four Y staffers have visited the facility to keep the residents company and have some fun along the way.

“After their first day there, they loved it,” Youth and Family Manager Lynette Soto said, with an emphasis on the word ‘loved’. “They wanted to keep going back. They were always asking me ‘Miss Lynette, when are we going back?’”

When they returned, Miss Lynette noticed the children’s social skills were thriving more than ever.

“They would go up to residents and introduce themselves,” she said. “Their confidence went through the roof. There was no coaching by the counselors or myself. They just recognized that this was serious and this was something big that they were doing.”

In late June, the campers crafted colorful banners to decorate the facility in preparation for Independence Day. Towards the end of July, they had an outdoor party that included a variety of games and some refreshments.

“Our last time there, in August, we are putting on a show for them,” Miss Lynette said. “The kids want to do a talent show. They want to do a dance. Some kids want to do some tricks they know how to do. Some kids want to sing.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” she said.

View more photos here.

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