By Wendy Holdren
While it’s easy to be star-struck by the two country musicians, Jake Owen and Kellie Pickler, headlining the Friends of Coal Auto Fair, the real reason behind the event is to help support the YMCA of Southern West Virginia.
Proceeds from the Friends of Coal Auto Fair will benefit the Y’s youth programs, such as pre-school, after-school and summer day camp, as well as the maintenance of the Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex.
This year’s event is being held July 18-20 and CEO Jay Rist said the growth of the auto fair continues to support the Y, which is a nonprofit organization.
While some people believe the Y has a lot of money, Rist said that’s really not the case — the Y must raise money and apply for grants, just like any other nonprofit.
Tickets are extremely affordable to the auto fair: Admission onto the fair grounds is only $2 and general admission concert tickets are $29.95. Children 6 and under get in free with a paying adult.
Those dollars add up, though, and are used toward the purchase of new soccer goals at the sports complex, kickboards and floaties for swim lessons at the Y’s pool, and toward other youth programs.
“It helps us with our overhead operating costs,” Aquatics Director Daniel Phoebus said.
He said all ages are benefited from the proceeds; sponges and toys for the infant and pre-school swim classes can be purchased, and kickboards and floatation devices can be purchased for older kids to learn different swim strokes.
Phoebus said so much interest has been generated for the swim lessons that the pre-school class is currently full and a new adult swim class is being added in the next few weeks.
“If you don’t know how to swim, and say you’re on a boat and you fall in, you’re helpless. Swimming is just a good skill to have.”
He said it’s a skill you never know when you’re going to need, especially for parents.
“If your kid falls in a pool, you’re going to need to know how to jump in and rescue them.”
Other youth programs that are supported by proceeds from the Friends of Coal Auto Fair include summer day camp, pre-school and the after-school.
Child Care Director Kim Buckhannon said these programs really benefit the children in the community.
Without the after-school program, she said many kids would be left without a place to go until their parents are off work.
Kids can stay until 6 p.m. and will be provided with a snack.
“With pre-school, we help with school-readiness. We prepare kids who are going into kindergarten.”
But the day camp program is a particular favorite of hers, as she attended the program herself when she was 3 or 4 years old.
“I can still remember my instructors,” Buckhannon reminisced. “I remember swimming and getting swim lessons.”
She said the kids in day camp make memories that will last a lifetime and they also make a ton of friends.
“We get them out and keep them active. We get them away from the TV and away from electronic devices. They’re out and about in the community and outside nearly every single day.”
The kids get to take several field trips, some for educational purposes and some just for fun.
“I’m proud of the program. We do everything we can to keep it strong and active and keep families involved.”
Even kids from low-income families can join in on the fun through scholarships.
Rist encourages everyone to come out to the auto fair, not only to have a great time, but to reinvest their money into their community.
For more information, visit www.friendsofcoalautofair.com.
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