A different kind of Save the Y rally

Less people, more smiles.

About 30 people turned out yesterday. Some carried signs thanking Sault Ste. Marie for caring about the YMCA and showing their support. Others waived at passing horn-honking vehicles. Some did a bit of both.

The tone and tenor of Thursday’s Save the Y rally was markedly different than the one held three weeks ago in the west side of a building many feared would close its doors next week.

The Sault YMCA, back on April 22, looked so much more vulnerable than venerable back then.

A lot has transpired since the mid-April announcement by YMCA Chief Executive Officer John Haddock that due to an aging building, a $1.5 million debt and high operational costs, the Sault YMCA property was for sale and would likely close May 15.

A ‘Save Our YMCA’ was launched on Facebook, its membership seemingly growing by 100s by the hour. It’s at 3,200 members now.

A local charitable organization has come forward and offered to buy the building, – built in 1965 and in need of restoration work – for $2 million.

City Council will meet Monday night and a resolution calling for the City to contribute $505,000 to match Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation funding to enable those needed repairs. That resolution is expected to pass.

Ali Dinnie, is a gymnastics instructor at the YMCA. Dinnie started the ‘Save Our YMCA’ group.

She likely didn’t feel like doing any cartwheels back on April 22. Less than a week earlier, she worried and wondered through tears how her class of kids would deal with what looked like the permanent loss of the gym team’s fun and the gym itself.

Now, Dinnie might have some passing thoughts of a cartwheel or two, but just thoughts. She says she’s quite aware there are still figurative miles to travel before the YMCA as the Sault knows it, is truly saved.

But she’s certain of a couple of things: Sault residents stepped up and real progress has been made toward saving the Y.

“It’s fantastic,” says Dinnie of holding a celebratory rally, Thursday. “It’s really a weight lifted off my shoulders and the whole community’s to be back in a space where we can try to make plans as to how the community can help the Y.”

Dinnie has a message for the Saultites regarding how they responded to the Y’s predicament.

“Thank You to everybody. Thank You to the whole community,” Dinnie says. “Those folks that came out to support us at our first rally, at the town hall, today’s rally, for talking through our group or to their friends and their circles about why the Y is important. It really has made a difference and it helped get us to where we are today.”

Dinnie will be at Monday night’s council meeting and says she doesn’t know exactly what to expect.

“They’re going to talk more about what the next steps are for the Y from the City’s perspective,” she says. “Other than that, I’m not really sure. I’m gonna show up and see what is said and just continue to be a part of it.”

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