Friday, January 21, 2022

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A joint press conference between the Greater Naples YMCA and the National Park Service (NPS), detailed the recent national partnership between the two organizations were announced. Naples YMCA President Paul Thein,

Acting Big Cypress National Preserve Superintendent J.D. Lee and South Florida National Parks Trust trustee, Howard Isaacson, were on hand to announce that Big Cypress National Preserve and the Naples YMCA will be partnering on transportation, programs and outings starting as soon as this Summer.  The national initiative, entitled Play. Learn. Serve Work. was announced just two weeks ago by Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a meeting in Miami. The Naples YMCA is one of the first in country to put this initiative into action.

The Naples YMCA new Camp Wyhoway was given a $100,000 matching challenge from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation to support summer camp programming this year. Funds raised from a recent YMCA event with Packer Head Coach, Mike McCarthy will be going towards this same initiative. With the additional help from NPS, the Y will be able to outfit buses, train counselors, add new programs and ultimately get kids and their families back to nature through the YMCA.

“Kids are spending nearly 60 hours a week in front of some kind of screen.  We can’t have that.  The Y is based on healthy living and youth development and it just makes sense that we jump on this national initiative and partner up with Big Cypress to get kids and families coming together and exploring our park system,” states YMCA President Paul Thein.

Secretary Jewell also announced a $5 million commitment from American Express that will support the new initiative in fifty additional cities across America. The effort is part of the Secretary’s initiative to connect millions of children and youth with opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in the outdoors.


“This is just a huge win for everyone involved.  This is a national model of two organizations coming together for the good of the community and education of our next generation on the values of nature and natural resources,” states Acting Parks Superintendent J.D. Lee.


As soon as late Spring or early Summer the YMCA plans to have camp field trips, family outings and parks-trained counselors in place to accommodate kids and families in South Florida.  Parents interested in signing kids up for Camp Wyhoway summer camp can call the Greater Naples YMCA at (239) 597-3148



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