Back in 2003, the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA hosted a series of community forums to complete the Community Needs Assessment for our Positioning for the Future Strategic Plan. The YMCA of San Diego County invests a lot into this process every five years, including the most recent Road Map 2010 edition.

Each time, when asked, our community response at the distant top of the list was to do anything we can to address the decreased stability and influence of the family.

So much of what we do at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA does exactly that.

Today, we will begin the community distribution of $2 voucher tickets to the San Diego County Fair. In short, the process is a phenomenon. 20,000 vouchers will be gone in less than forty-eight hours with minimal publicity. Each recipient is limited to taking five tickets - one for themselves and four for kids in an effort to give families an opportunity to do something together when otherwise it might not be affordable.

So, every time I get a question like "why are your going through all this effort to distribute free tickets to individuals that might never return until they get something else free?" my reply is "the kids don't drive."

68% of the 72,000 households in my YMCA service area earn less than the $49,000 median income for the San Diego region. And I know that 37% of my YMCA households earn under $25,000 a year. There are so many families today that simply cannot afford to take their kids to the Fair or to Petco Park to see the San Diego Padres. The TAKE FIVE Tickets for Kids Program is made possible through the generosity of our friends at the San Diego County Fair, the San Diego Padres, the San Diego Chargers, the San Diego State Aztecs, the Old Globe, Mainly Mozart, and the San Diego Sports Arena.

When I add up all of the memories provided through this amazing philanthropy it is safe to say for these brief moments families are being stabilized and influenced by spending positive time together.

For me, I will never forget my working-three-jobs father loading our family in the station wagon and driving from Detroit to Frankenmuth, Michigan for an affordable, family-styled fried chicken dinner. Now I know it was about more than the chicken.

My hope is that every family that participates in the TAKE FIVE Tickets for Kids Program becomes a card carrying member of the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA with every child enrolled in some level of our skill and character development programs when they step into our lobby to pick-up tickets.

You can help by sponsoring a kid, a team, or a family in need of financial assistance.

And, if you want to take four kids to something they will never forget - I've got five tickets for you!

Michael Brunker at