Illini Insider | University YMCA to celebrate 150th anniversary

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Welcome to “Illini Insider,” your regular dose of University of Illinois news from beat writer Luke Taylor. Fresh out of college himself, he’s always looking for story tips, photo ideas and social media mentions. Email him at [email protected] and he’ll give chase.

The University YMCA, one of only a handful of remaining YMCAs on college campuses, will celebrate its 150th anniversary later this month.

The organization actually turned 150 on Feb. 6, but celebrations were delayed for a more convenient time on Sept. 30.

The University Y plans to dedicate an oak tree in memory of the 150th celebration and as a look toward the future.

“That shows our dedication to the environment, but also our hope for the future that an oak should be able to live for another 300 years,” Executive Director Jim Hinterlong said.

Events are planned throughout the day from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., with plenty of food and a variety of different conversation topics to join in on.

Speakers will include Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin and her Champaign counterpart, Deb Feinen; state Sen. Paul Faraci, D-Champaign; state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana; YMCA of the USA CEO Suzanne McCormick; and UI Executive Associate Chancellor Wanda Ward.

The invitation is open to everyone — just RSVP online and show up for whatever events interest you.

“I encourage people to check us out, and if they don’t already know us, to prepare to be surprised,” Hinterlong said.

Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Hinterlong said, there were over 700 campus YMCAs across the country. Now there are six.

The University Y is also one of only two campus Ys that are run independently from their respective universities.

“It allows us to be nimble and responsive in finding ways to connect the talent and capacity on campus and in the community, and decide where to direct our energy,” Hinterlong said.

One way the University Y connects with campus is by hosting student organizations dedicated to missions like human rights, diversity and protecting the environment.

Some of those groups will be involved in the anniversary celebration, including an event in the evening inspired by the TV show “Shark Tank.”

Instead of pitching ideas for new products to convince the “sharks” to invest, the student organizations will pitch their ideas to make a positive impact on the world.

The audience will vote on which pitch deserves a $1,500 investment from the University Y.

The group is asking for five-minute pitches for plans that are “innovative, collaborative, and have potential for high-impact” related to its mission.

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