Ymca vs. American Family Fitness

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Young Men’s Christian Association
American Family Fitness

Melissa R. Davis

ENG 215

Professor Heather Curran

May 22, 2007

To lead a healthy lifestyle, it is always good to maintain a fitness regimen. American Family Fitness and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) both offer many exercise options to stay in shape. American Family Fitness is introduced as a fitness center for Richmond, Virginia since 1988 for people to become “Fit as You Want to be” (About American Family Fitness, 2007). The YMCA, however, is superior based on their mission to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all (Wikipedia: YMCA, 2007). To know that the YMCA is better, it is important to look at their history first. “George Williams, born on a farm in 1821, came to London twenty years later as a sales assistant in a draper’s shop, a forerunner of today’s department store. He and a group of fellow drapers organized the first YMCA to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets.” (History, 2007) The idea proved to be popular everywhere because this organization got young men, in the big cities, off the unhealthy streets and into a place where they could stay. The YMCA also taught these men Christian principles, so they could be better people. The first YMCA in North America opened in Montreal, Quebec on November 25, 1851 and then, in the same year, another opened in the United States on December 29 in Boston, Massachusetts (YMCA, 2007). The idea, however, was unusual then because it crossed the rigid lines that separated the different churches and social classes in England (A Brief History of the YMCA Movement, 2007).

The YMCA was always known for contributing to the United States during challenging wartimes. During the Civil War, membership shrunk to one-third its size when members marched off to battle. As a result, the fifteen remaining YMCAs formed the U.S. Christian Commission to assist the troops and prisoners of war. They even gave more than one million Bibles to the fighting men (History, 2007). The YMCA also helped with World War II. The National Council of the YMCAs joined with others around the world to assist prisoners of war in thirty-six nations (History, 2007). For entertainment, it also helped form the United Service Organization (USO), which sent in performers from around the world for the soldiers to enjoy (History, 2007). “Y’s worked with displaced persons and refugees as well, and sent both workers and money abroad after the war to help rebuild damaged YMCA buildings.” (History, 2007) The donations contributed to the soldiers show their support for the United States it also shows their excitement in helping these American soldiers know God.

The YMCA is a world-wide, largely nonsectarian and apolitical, social movement with a special focus on community development and youth involvement. YMCAs in the United States and Canada use a red triangle logo to represent their mission. The three sides of the triangle symbolize the mission statement to “build a healthy spirit, mind, and body” (YMCA, 2007). The first YMCA was concerned with Bible study, now the organization has moved on to a more integral approach to youth work. “Around six years after its birth, an international YMCA conference in Paris decided that the objective of the organization should become ‘Christian discipleship developed through a program of religious, educational, social and physical activities’ (YMCA, 2007). This discipleship represents the YMCAs mission to bring people to the Lord by staying fit.

To promote their Christian principles, the YMCA had many programs for people of all ages to enjoy. For children, there are summer camps that they can attend. The first residential camp in North America began in 1889, when Big Cove YMCA Camp was established in Merigomish, Nova Scotia. However, the first summer camp named “Kamp Kanawana”...
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