Better Makers: YMCA of Metro Chicago Raises $1.1 Million for Research-Based Programming

“The Y has turned me into the man I am today,” said Jelani Davis, a 606Art program graduate.

On Oct. 24, over 450 Chicagoans gathered at Morgan Manufacturing to support the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s mission to propel children, families, and communities toward a positive future.

Serving over 200,000 members a year, the Y fosters academic readiness, character development, violence prevention, and fitness and healthy living.

The 6th annual YMCA Recognition Dinner raised $1.1 million to continue providing youth and families access to their transformative, research-based community programming.

The Y’s 606Art program integrates the principles of art therapy and trauma-informed care, providing teens a healthy outlet to process and heal from trauma. The 16-week art therapy program serves at-risk youth from Chicago’s South and West sides, ages 12-18. Through learned art forms, participants build a foundation for teamwork and trust, culminating with a community art project and exhibit.

“The 606Art program has kept me off the streets and given me the opportunity to better myself,” Davis said. “I’ve become more hardworking, patient, and calm. John Vergara, program creator and mentor, has never given up on me. He is like the father I never had.”

Chicago First Lady Amy Eshleman joined program participants, alumni, and families in honoring the nonprofit’s work in Chicago communities.

Ashley Smith, mother of four, shared her experience participating in the Y’s Child Care and Education program. “My sons, Jeremiah and Jesiah, learn different things from each of their teachers,” Smith said. “The curriculum promotes academic and social development. I began to see a huge change with how the boys interacted with each other and with other kids, including their siblings. They began to speak more fluently and used their words more effectively in sentences.”

Awards were given to key partners and supporters for their steadfast commitment to helping deliver the Y’s mission: Samuel K. Skinner, Leader Award; ComEd, Partner Award; and Donald Gralen, Volunteer Award.

The 2019 co-chairs included John P. Amboian, Nuveen Investments; Charles N. Besser, Intersport; A. Steven Crown, Henry Crown & Co.; Sharon R. Fairley, University of Chicago Law School; Peter B. McNitt, formerly of BMO Harris Bank; Stanley Nitzberg, Mid-America Real Estate Group; Andrew Reyes, Great Lakes Coca-Cola; Stephen Reyes, Reyes Beer Division; and Pat Ryan, Ryan Specialty Group.

YMCA of Metro Chicago: Katie Trchka, Elmhurst YMCA
Katie Trchka, Master of Ceremonies and Youth Program Manager at Elmhurst YMCA, led the evening’s program. Trchka sported her Adventure Guides and Princesses vest from childhood.
YMCA of Metro Chicago: Vaishak Mittur, Cailyn Mittur, 606Art, McCormick YMCA
YMCA of Metro Chicago Board of Managers member Vaishak Mittur (left) and spouse Cailyn Mittur (right), joined by a painted mannequin by 606Art program participants.
YMCA of Metro Chicago: Richard H. Malone
YMCA of Metro Chicago President and CEO Richard H. Malone delivers the welcome address at the 2019 Recognition Dinner.
YMCA of Metro Chicago: Samuel K. Skinner
Samuel K. Skinner accepting the Leader Award in honor of his many years of civic leadership and service to the YMCA, the city of Chicago, and the United States.
YMCA of Metro Chicago: Urban Warriors
Impact: The annual YMCA of Metro Chicago Recognition Dinner supports programs like Urban Warriors. The 16-week program pairs youth from Chicago’s South and West sides with combat veteran mentors to heal past trauma and learn to harness the power of mental and emotional well-being. (Photo courtesy of YMCA of Metro Chicago.)

Emily Stone earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work has been published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.