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YMCA of the USA and Partnership for a Healthier America to Work Together to Spotlight Need to Close Gaps in Access to Safe Spaces for Outdoor Physical Activity and Recreation Among Children of Color

YMCA of the USA and Partnership for a Healthier America to Work Together to Spotlight Need to Close Gaps in Access to Safe Spaces for Outdoor Physical Activity and Recreation Among Children of Color

Y-USA & Partnership for a Healthier America to Work Together

CHICAGO (April 2)—Today, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and Partnership for a Healthier America announced a commitment to ensure that all kids, regardless of their background or their zip code have safe spaces to engage in outdoor physical activity and recreation.

Y-USA’s commitment focuses on making an impact in three areas: water safety and swim instruction, outdoor recreation and access to national parks for low-income youth and increasing state policies promote walking and biking in all communities. These existing initiatives will be bolstered through the partnership and enhanced through PHA’s mission to showcase and accelerate scalable work that improves food and/or increases physical activity.

“There is a crisis among kids of color, particularly those in low-income areas, where they do not have access to safe outdoor experiences – whether in a pool or lake, on the sidewalks in their own neighborhoods, or in a national or local park,” said YMCA of the USA President and CEO Kevin Washington. “I hope this new partnership with PHA will shine a spotlight on this crisis and the potential solutions in order to help bring more voices, volunteers and resources to close these gaps.”


  • Water Safety / Swim Instruction: In an effort to teach skills that promote a lifetime of water-based physical activity and address drowning, the nation’s leading cause of accidental deaths in children ages 1-4, Y-USA will:
    • Award 425 sub-grants to Ys to provide free swim lessons in 2019 with a goal to serve 31,250 youth.
    • Increase the number of Ys delivering water safety programs by committing to fund these programs in 50 new branches.
    • Advance a swim instruction pilot for children with “diverse-abilities” in 10 Ys with a goal of reaching 750 youth
  • Outdoor Recreation / Access to National Parks: In an effort to ensure low-income children and youth have opportunities to explore the great outdoors and experience outdoor recreational activities, Y-USA will:
    • Award 16 Ys sub-grants from the National Park Service (NPS) to reach a minimum of 5,000 underserved, diverse children and youth who may not have other opportunities to attend summer camp or visit a National Park.
  • Walking & Biking / Advancing CDC’s Active People Healthy Nation: In an effort to increase walking and biking in all communities across the country, Y-USA will:
    • Award 11 YMCA state alliances with sub-grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advance state-level strategies to improve the respective state scores in the Making Strides: State Report Cards on Support for Walking, Bicycling, and Active Kids and Communities. Strategies will be based on CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation” recommendations.
    • In partnership with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, develop a minimum of four state reports on the current reach, capacity and policy opportunities to expand Safe Routes to School programming by December 2019.

This new commitment is the Y’s second partnership with PHA. In 2011 the Y committed to becoming the healthiest child care and afterschool provider by implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. Y-USA worked to get 98% of Ys nationwide to implement those standards.

PHA will bring an outside evaluator to assess progress on the goals of the commitment and will highlight the Y’s work in organizational communications to its partners.

“If we want our kids to move more, having access to safe play is imperative,” said Nancy E. Roman, PHA President and CEO. “YMCA of the USA’s second commitment makes access to physical activity not only more accessible but affordable and equitable to underserved and at-risk American children who might not have this opportunity otherwise.”

About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.org