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A Lasting Legacy

March 23, 2022

Who is in support of building a YMCA Center here in Westfield to help build a new legacy?

The recent unanimous City Council vote in favor of funding for a Y made it obvious that Westfield is behind the endeavor. However, the decision to build a YMCA goes beyond politics: the project is about people. In light of the ongoing capital campaign, Greater Indianapolis YMCA staff met with donors Craig and Sandy Wood. They have been in support of building a center since the beginning. And they have put their money where their mouths are.

The Wood family is among the largest donors to the Campaign. As one of its biggest advocates, Craig was delighted to learn of the results from the March 14th vote. He was going to help build the legacy in Westfield. Though there is still $2 million to raise before construction begins, the City funds granted last week guarantee that a YMCA facility will be built at 851 E. 181st Street.

Where the Pews End And Legacy Begins

Wood and his wife Sandy know a thing or two about the heartbeat of the Westfield community. The beginning legacy in the community started early. Born and raised in Westfield, Craig is a third-generation member of Christ United Methodist. In fact, he and Sandy met through music there. After Craig’s mother stepped down from at least two decades of directing the church choir, Sandy took up the torch, and carried it for almost three more. But for the Wood family, membership only just begins where the pews end: Craig served on the Board of Zoning Appeals for fourteen years, as well as for four years on the Band Boosters board of directors. He is also in his seventh year on the board of the Education Foundation, his father having been among the founders.

“I grew up in a family that was active in the community and I'm intentional about continuing that legacy," Wood says. “Over the years I have given my support and time to a variety of groups around Westfield, both church and civic.”

In addition to investing spiritually and mentally, Wood has been party to the physical well-being and legacy of his community. In selling 150 acres of his farm to the City of Westfield in 2011, Wood provided over a third of the acreage necessary to support Grand Park Sports Campus. The various camps and football leagues that run in the off season have benefitted students and adults alike for years. Now the 400+ acre campus hosts 2.5 million visitors annually. Needless to say, the official home of the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp has also done wonders for the Westfield economy.

Even with such a facility in Westfield, Craig voices the need for a local center to serve the community in addition to all that Grand Park provides.

“The Y works with Body, Mind, and Spirit. It’s the only place locally that deals with all of those things combined.”

His wife Sandy states: “We’re so vested in Grand Park because it’s kind of part of who we are. So many good things are in that area that I think a Y just adds another dimension to that.”

Whether for youth, teens, or older citizens, Westfield has no place for people to come “hang out” quite like a YMCA. This is why they decided to make it a part of their legacy.

“It’s starting to become ‘that Y’ already,” says Shannon Russell of the lobby of the Ascension St Vincent YMCA in Westfield Aquatics Center. Russell, the executive director over all things YMCA there, says that people are congregating at the location even now. The full center will be built directly connected to the Ascension St Vincent YMCA in Westfield Aquatics Center, also known as the Natatorium, which is shared with Westfield Washington Schools. Russel is also head of the Y Studio at Westfield at 144 S Union Street. A small building that has been hosting virtual and in-person cycling and group exercise classes as well as personal training sessions, the Studio will be replaced by the full YMCA Center once built on to the Natatorium.

A "Mean Grandma"

Sandy Wood is among the frequenters of the Ascension St Vincent YMCA in Westfield Aquatics Center, taking along their 12-year-old grandson, Cael. “And when his mom’s not working,” Sandy adds, “she goes, too!” Cael has been visiting the center since it opened in May of last year.

“With the Aquatics Center being close,” Craig explains, grinning, “my grandson doesn’t need to keep bugging me: ‘Can we put a pool in the backyard?”

Cael is so involved, Russell quips: “He thinks he’s on staff!” Craig points out: “We got three generations of family using the facility, so when the Y itself gets put in, there will be other things we can utilize as well.” Sandy adds that she likes the fact that there will be programming for older adults. She laughs, “Even just a room for ‘old codgers’ just to go and play checkers!”

Craig shared that he’s been in focus groups discussing what Westfield needs, asking the question, “Where are kids hurting?” and seeking to establish an outlet for them. He is confident that with the establishment of a YMCA, youth in the community will have an option to steer clear of harmful or even simply sedentary activities. With a Y in town, there will be constructive and healthy alternatives and redirect the youth's legacy. This endeavor is one to which all members of the community can contribute by donating to the Capital Campaign.

Sandy brings it closer to home: “I don’t want Cael gaming for 4 hours at a time. He knows that. He has a mean grandma!”

Support Westfield Community Legacy

A Legacy That Will Be Around Forever

Another felt need in the community that will be answered by the new center is a space for worship meetings. The games and practices run at Grand Park often take place during traditional church service hours. The Y would provide an alternative for players to meet for Saturday or Sunday afternoon worship.

“In some ways it is returning what the city has invested in me by reinvesting it into the community,” Craig says of their gift toward the Capital Campaign. “The ability to do that is satisfying in two ways because it continues my family's legacy, but it also has positive results for the future of Westfield.”

That legacy will manifest in The Play & Learn Center in the new YMCA, where members can drop off their children for free while they work out. The area will be named for the Wood family, and will last for generations to come.

As Russell says, “If you give to the Y, we’re gonna be around forever.”

For more information or to donate to the Capital Campaign and help build a community legacy, please visit indymca.org/ways-to-give/capital-campaign/ or mail physical donations to 144 S Union St, Westfield, IN, 46074, Attention: Shannon Russell.

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