SIDNEY — A free swimming lesson as a child was the start of a love of water for a Sidney Fire & Emergency Services firefighter.
And that lesson, taught by the YMCA in Dayton, has led Lt. Dallas Davis to be one of the captains of the annual Community Partners Campaign, which was kicked off Thursday with a luncheon at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA.
Davis, who is the water rescue training officer with the fire department, has been a member of the local YMCA for 11 years. He has been a volunteer on the campaign for seven years.
He was asked to give his testimonial by David O’Leary, operations director, a few days ago.
“Yesterday I had training in the afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m.,” said Davis. “I thought as soon as I get home, I’ll work on my speech.”
But as they say, the best laid plans, and that didn’t happen for Davis.
“A guy on the shift went home sick and I was asked to work overtime,” he said. “I thought sure, I can work on it after supper.”
After a couple of medical calls, supper was over at 7:45 p.m. Then came the alarm for a structure fire.
“I thought that’s not me, so I can work on my speech,” said Davis.
Again, plans changed when he was told someone was needed to investigate the cause of the fire. So out to the fire on Millcreek Road Davis went.
“I got home about 11:15 -11:45 p.m.,” said Davis. “I was back at work this morning. On the way here, my wife asked if I’d wrote my speech. I told her I was going to just wing it.”
And wing it he did.
“I grew up in Dayton and my parents were divorced,” said Davis. “I lived with my single mom. When I was five-years-old, I took a swimming lesson with my friend. It was a one-day lesson.”
His friend, said Davis, was going to take more lessons. Davis went home and told his mom he wanted to take the lessons too.
“She told me ‘we just can’t afford it.’ I told my friend and he said, ‘no, you can join. You don’t have to pay anything.’”
And thus began Davis’s experience with the YMCA.
The water rescue team for the fire department, said Davis, has three “positions” on the rescue boat — awareness, operation and technicians. The technicians are the firefighters who are trained to swim in all types of water during a rescue. That’s the position Davis holds in addition to being the team’s trainer.
“Where did all the water training start? It started right here at a YMCA,” said Davis.
The department’s water rescue team use the Sidney YMCA as a training facility, he said. All members of the team are in the process of being trained to be technicians.
“It’s awesome that they let us do the training here,” said Davis. “We’re helping the entire community.”
Elizabeth Grace, director of the Y Child Development Center, gave testimonials of two mothers whose children attended the center.
“Never underestimate your ability to make someone else’s life better even if you never know it,” said Grace. “We may never see how our gifts impact lives.”
Grace told the story of Faith, a toddler who attended the center until a few weeks ago. She had seen a difference in Faith’s attendance at the center and called the child’s mother.
“Her mother was fighting breast cancer for the second time,” said Grace. “She was a single mom and was living from pay check to pay check.”
The cancer treatments had left Christina, Faith’s mother, weak and unable to work.
“Her mom desperately needed the support of the YMCA,” said Grace. “We were able to award Faith a scholarship until her mom could go back to work fulltime.
“I wish I could say her mom was in recovery,” she said. “Unfortunately Christina lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away two weeks ago.”
Another mother, Chelsea Wise, said Grace, was able to finish her college education thanks to a scholarship for her son to attend the center. She’s now traveling to West Carrolton Schools everyday and knows that her son is in a safe environment and is being cared for each day while she’s at work.
Board President Dean Weinert, told those in attendance that the campaign is “an important part of what we do.”
“We need this just to survive as a Y,” said Weinert. “You all know how important the YMCA is to the community.”
This year’s campaign chair is Jerry Vanderhorst.
“The YMCA is very important to us,” said Vanderhorst of the volunteers, board members, staff members and friends of the Y who were present for the kickoff. “Every dollar put into the campaign goes to the YMCA.”
Those funds help with childcare, scholarships and programming at the YMCA, said Vanderhorst.
This is the 13th campaign Vanderhorst has been involved with and his third time as either a chair or co-chair of it.
“Why do we have the campaign?” said Ed Thomas, YMCA executive director. “It allows us all to imagine more for the children and adults in the community. Strengthening the community is our cause. The YMCA is here to help them learn, grow and thrive.”
The local YMCA has been in operation for 46 years in Shelby County. The first YMCA was established 172 years ago.
“The Y nurtures everyone’s potential,” said Thomas. “We have a local presence and a global reach. Whatever you give to the campaign, 100 percent of it is invested in the people who need the Y.”
Thomas cited several programs to reach the community: the free swim lessons, which were attended by 300 children “and may have a future Dallas Davis among them”; the diabetes program that is changing lives; the special needs cheerleaders, who perform in front of large groups; and the child development program of which one out of every two children is given financial assistance to attend the program.
O’Leary concluded the event by thanking those who came. YMCA staff member Pam Fultz was given a special shout out.
“She makes things go,” said O’Leary. “In the months heading up to this event, she involved in training. She’s a key staff person.”
The campaign goal for this year is $115,000, said Thomas.
“It’s $5,000 less than last year,” he said. “We looked at the economic situation and went down just a little.
“Our needs are always increasing, but the dollars don’t always increase. We hope that we are successful in reaching our goal.”