YMCA anthem is re-imagined with 'Walk off the Earth,' focusing on youth mental health

Click the arrow to watch the famed Y.M.C.A. song re-imagined for YMCA Canada's

Y Mind mental health program. This a YouTube video and you may click on "skip ad" and get right into it.

YMCA Canada and Canadian indie pop band Walk off the Earth teamed up to release a modern take on the "Y.M.C.A." anthem to raise awareness of expanded access to the free YMCA youth mental health program, Y Mind. Originally performed by the Village People in 1978, the hit song has brought crowds to the dance floor, with an enduring legacy internationally.

The re-imagined cover of the classic party anthem, performed in a more soulful and sincere tone, brings new light to the original lyrics through a mental health lens as the YMCA aims to highlight today’s need for community and open dialogue surrounding mental health.

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Official Newsletter of

The World Fellowship Of YMCA Retirees

November 2023 * View as Webpage

Notes from the chair...

By Kohei Yamada, WFYR Chair

Hello Craig,

It has been my pleasure to be working with so many of you retired YMCA staff and to meet many new acquaintances from around the world. My wife, Marlene, and I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas or whatever holiday you observe during this season. We also wish you a God blessed New Year in 2024. May God’s Light be with you all.

Every four years, YMCA Retirees in Latin America and Caribbean Region gather. This year, September 6-9, 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 62 participants from 16 countries met, along with myself and my wife, Marlene, representing WFYR.

The WFYR banner welcomes all participants to Agape, the Latin America and Caribbean YMCA conference in Buenos Aires. Flags mark the next conference in Toronto in 2026.

WFYR Chair Kohei Yamada and wife Marlene, with LACA VP Alicia Sanjurjo Zunini and Lindy Lyndeman, former U.S. World Service Worker in Costa Rica

This is a another unique event in the world as YMCA retirees gather together from various countries regardless of the distance. I wondered how this kind of gathering is possible in this area with great distances to travel. They seem to know each other and really enjoy the fellowship of the group.

The meetings included discussions, sharing favorite stories, visiting local YMCAs and, of course, having a great barbeque and lunch together. They all speak Spanish and it seemed those speaking Portuguese had no problem in communicating. We alone were from Japan but they provided a translator for us.

When I was given my time to talk, I asked them how this is possible? Many members stood up and the following comments were given. There was a “College” for YMCA staff training in the past that no longer exists. However, many of these attendees participated in that college. Therefore, they have a strong base of communication and a sense of inter-connection.

In this culture, “family” is strong. They view themselves as having two families – their biological family and their colleague family. Both are valued. Not

everyone has the financial strength to attend, so immediately after a meeting they do fundraising to help those in need for the next meeting.

Joint projects produce a feeling of “belonging “ to the Y Community.

Activities are important after retirement. Some women have created “Park Book Libraries” where they also insert flyers about the YMCA and their activities to raise YMCA awareness.

Those were a few opinions they raised and they really appreciated this fellowship even after retiring from the YMCA. They are still proud of being a part of YMCA. Because of that reason, I think fundraising is successful. Many people gave funds for this gathering without knowing who got the support nor how much.

The event is a good example of great fellowship and friendship among the YMCA retirees.



WFYR Chair, 2022-2026

Thoughts from the editors...

By Len and Joyce Wilson

As we begin to make plans for the Christmas season, our thoughts are with people all around the world experiencing the horrors of war or massive displacement of families and villages due to climate change or natural disaster. Our prayers and thoughts are with them and whenever possible we must convince leaders in our countries to seek solutions that lead to continuing peace and secure futures.

WFYR Chairman, Kohei Yamada, enjoyed the company of our friends from the Latin America Caribbean Alliance (LACA) and other areas when he attended the AGAPE conference. YMCA retirees in that area of the world continue to enjoy the fellowship they experienced in their careers and are willing to travel distances to gather. Reunions were especially warm after two years of COVID restrictions.

Your editors recently traveled to a retreat that attracted members from three chapters serving the northeast section of the U.S. A few pictures and selected comments are in this edition so readers can catch the enthusiasm and success of the event.

Your editors were able to spend some time with the new leader of YMCA Alumni. Phill Morgan combines an outstanding career in the YMCA, a series of important positions in YMCA Alumni and now, as its new President, he has plans to remain up-to-date and helpful to goals and objectives of WFYR.

This edition of BRIDGES begins a series of articles on YMCA heroes.

Readers are urged to submit recommendations and materials on Y leaders who made major contributions to the movement nationally and internationally.

This edition features background on John Wanamaker, 1838 –1922. Readers will quickly appreciate Wanamaker’s unique and lasting contributions as a YMCA professional and generous volunteer. Even though his career with the Y was brief, his contributions and leadership greatly influenced our organization.

Y retirees in the U.S. are becoming personally involved and providing financial support for three unique programs that provide national and international services related to YMCAs and members. Future editions will keep our readers updated on the results.

Photos Left to right: Volunteer members of YMCA Alumni in the U.S. come to South Dakota to work on their National Service Project; Phill Morgan is the new president of YMCA Alumni effective Jan. 1 and plans to visit all 17 chapters in the country during his term of office; members of three YMCA Alumni chapters got together at the beautiful YMCA Silver Bay Conference Center this fall. Photo below: Phill and Len hit the pickleball courts at Silver Bay.

YMCA Alumni leaders are using a substantial endowment to assist local YMCAs in other countries establish retirement funding (Global Retirement Initiative (GRI) for YMCAs unable to initiate the process. The International Service Corps (ISC) pairs Y retirees with special skills to YMCAs in other countries requesting assistance in a variety of areas.

The National Service Project has raised more than $825,000 to build safe housing units for families in need on a reservation for indigenous peoples in the U.S.. Retirees also are volunteering to spend time on a YMCA-owned site on the reservation, building the tiny home village.

COVID forced the cancellations of many WFYR activities, but also provided an impetus into ZOOM communication for local, national, and international gatherings. Y retirees around the world were invited to attend a session designed to gather attendees from South America and other Latin American countries. Thanks to our colleagues in Canada for providing technical assistance for this conference, as well as a prior session that highlighted Europe and North American Y retiree groups. 

Their newsletter, Canadian Tielines, features an inspiring account of a new adoption of the YMCA song as a way to address mental illness in youth. Please use the link provided to read the entire account, and be certain to view the video on You Tube. It is inspiring.


John Wanamaker (1838-1922)

National YMCA Hall of Fame

at Springfield College   

At the age of 19, John Wanamaker was hired by the Philadelphia YMCA, officially becoming the first corresponding secretary in the YMCA movement. The Y centered itself around making a conscious evangelistic effort to bring the youth to faith in Jesus Christ.

John initiated daily prayer meetings at noon. He also supervised the distribution of hundreds of New Testaments, enlisted and trained more than 40 young men as Sunday School teachers and secured many pledges of total abstinence.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Wanamaker helped other northern YMCA leaders who were forming the United States Christian Commission to support the enlisted men of the Union Army and Navy.

After four years with the Association, John Wanamaker decided to leave the position for a highly successful and financially rewarding career in retail. Even with his thriving businesses however, he always made time for the Y, and in 1870, John Wanamaker was elected President of the Philadelphia Association.

He continued to invest in the mission of the YMCA as a result of his business success, both nationally and internationally. He never lost sight of the promise of the Y mission to influence the lives of men in society.

Readers interested in learning more about John Wanamaker’s life and most interesting and extremely successful careers are encouraged to read John Wanamaker: King of Merchants by William Allen Zulkin, Eaglecrest Press 1993. Zulkin points out that the Philadelphia YMCA was founded in 1854 and four years later it had grown to a point where the board decided it needed a full-time employee (General Secretary) to manage its affairs. Wanamaker, at the age of twenty, was hired for the position at the remarkable (for those days) salary of $1,000 and is noted as the YMCA’s first paid professional.

Within a year he guided the association from a membership of 57 to over 2000, and his accomplishments continued to be legendary. Although he soon left the Y to start an empire in the mercantile business, he never forgot the Y, and continued to provide local and international leadership. John R. Mott always counted on his generosity for international projects, and Wanamaker provided start up funding in Calcutta, India, Seoul, Korea, Kyoto, Japan and endowed a facility in Russia. Truly… A YMCA Hero

BRIDGES readers will be learning more about John R. Mott in the next edition.

Top photos: Antonio Merino, Secretary-General Latin American Alliance of YMCAs; AGAPE participants in front of St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Buenos Aires where many activities of the event took place. Bottom photos: Argentinean delegation to Agape, including Hector García, Elba Vives, Daniel La Moglie, Luis Zamar, Marthe Prado Shaw, Anibal Pastorella and Horacio Moavro; Jerry Prado Shaw, former LACA vice president.

Celebrating life at AGAPE

By Alicia Sanjurjo

The Executive Committee of the WFYR Latin America and Caribbean Area and the group of Retired Secretaries from Argentina, with the support of the local YMCA, organized “Agape-Meeting of the Americas,”which took place from September 6-9 in Buenos Aires.

The event was gathered under the motto “We celebrate life,” and brought together Retired Secretaries of the YMCAs of Latin America and the Caribbean.                                                                    

There were 62 people from 16 countries who attended, among them Mr. Rodrigo Antonio Merino Arango, General Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Alliance of the YMCA, and Kohei Yamada, Chairman of the WFYR, with his wife Marlene.

They were days of great camaraderie, fun and reflection. The participants visited three YMCAs of Argentina headquarters, including the main building, one of its schools and the Vocational Training Center. At the Parque Branch the Board of Directors offered a lunch, the traditional Argentine “asado.”

Mr. Merino presented the topic of YMCAs in Latin America, and Kohei Yamada spoke about the WFYR.

These meetings of Retired Secretaries from Latin American and Caribbean

are held regularly, and the Executive Committee of the Area, chaired by WFYR Vice President Alicia Sanjurjo, meets by Zoom every month.

175th Founding Anniversary of the "Rheinisch-Westphälische Jünglingsbund," precursor to the CVJM Westbund,

October 8, 2023

By Gunther Ogdyk

A remarkable anniversary event took place October 8, 2023, at the CVJM Education Center Bundeshöhe to celebrate the 175th founding anniversary of the "Rheinisch-Westphälische Jünglingsbund," which served as a precursor to the CVJM Westbund. (Christlicher Verein Junger Menschen or CVJM is what the YMCA is known as in Germany.)

The event commenced with an entrance at 9:30 a.m. followed by a festive church service with the theme "On Solid Ground" at 10:30 a.m. Annette Kurschuss, the Präses of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia (EKvW) and Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), delivered an inspiring sermon. The church service featured musical performances by various choirs and bands, including the Federal Youth Brass Band.

Following the church service, a lunch buffet was served, and several events were held under the banner of "CVJM-Live." Topics included sustainability, the development of young leaders, and modern forms of proclamation. Lena Niekler moderated a panel discussion with current and former federal leaders and secretaries, as well as young federal secretaries.

The closing ceremony at 4 p.m. included well-wishes for the CVJM-Westbund and a heartfelt "Word on the Way" by Petra Krämer, accompanied by musical performances.

The event concluded at 5 p.m., marking a memorable day that celebrated the history and future of the CVJM-Westbund, with its roots tracing back to the "Rheinisch-Westphälische Jünglingsbund." Special appreciation was expressed to all participants, organizers, and contributors who made this event a success.

Ys Retired UK: Fresh starts

By Rev. Gary Graham

Our church has developed a close relationship with the Asylum Seekers and migrants who are living in a hotel about a mile away from the church. Some have come across the channel in small boats; others have come with visas to seek asylum.

As I have got to know these men I am struck by how similar the aspirations and needs of these men are so similar to those who George Williams reached out to in London in 1844. The YMCA has played a role over the years helping many to make fresh starts like post war refugees, the Vietnamese Boat people.

Time passes by, but the needs of our fellow human beings do not change and we need movements such as the YMCA as much as ever.

'Bertha' has a new UK home

Tea Cars were just one of the many ways YMCA workers brought hope, refreshment and cheer to thousands of troops on the front lines during the World Wars.Thanks to the efforts of Retired UK members Stephen Milner and David Standing, Bertha the Tea Car has a new home at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington near York. She is in need of some repair (like us all) which volunteers at the museum are hoping to carry out. Financial donations towards this work are welcome and would be a tribute to those who served in the war in such vehicles. Enjoy your new home, Bertha.

WYFR Leaders

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BRIDGES is published with the support of YMCA Alumni of the USA. Editors: Len and Joyce Wilson. Production by Craig Altschul + Associates, Tucson, Arizona, USA