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Kearney Family YMCA fundraising 90% complete for expansion goal project

Mary Jane Skala, Kearney Hub

More than 20 people, including youth, city officials, and board members from the Y and the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, donned hard hats and dug in when commanded.

KEARNEY — John Cochran, 102, sat in a lawn chair in front of the Kearney Family YMCA as crowds gathered Wednesday morning for the groundbreaking of the Y’s $8.8 million addition.

Cochran, who still works out regularly at the Y, was delighted to participate in the ceremony. “This makes me feel a lot younger,” he said. “I’m just getting started. I figure I have at least another 10 years to go.”

Wednesday’s event was held jointly with the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce and emceed by Derek Rusher, the chamber’s executive director.

YMCA supporters of all ages participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

The 26,000-square-foot YMCA addition, dubbed Healthier Tomorrows, will include a new fitness center, a new main entrance, a Learning Garden, and the Cafe Corner gathering area. Classrooms and after-school areas for grades 4-6 will be created upstairs.

Ray Longoria, the Y’s executive director, told the crowd that the Y is a dynamic presence in Kearney. It began in a storefront downtown in 1988, moved to its current site in 1994, was expanded in 1998, and keeps on growing.

Longoria also praised BD Construction and Wilkins Architecture Design Planning, who are the keys to the design and construction of the project.

After remarks by several other dignitaries, more than 20 people, from 102-year-old Cochran to children in the Y’s day care program, donned hard hats and did a bit of ceremonial digging. Then the smallest youngsters sang “Y-M-C-A.”

The large crowd included Jane and Pete Kotsiopulous, honorary chairs of the Healthier Tomorrows campaign; campaign co-chairmen Dave Chally and Karen Rhoads; state Sen. John Lowe, City Councilwoman Tami Moore, retired City Councilman Bob Lammers, and Buffalo County Commissioner Sherry Morrow.

Youngest participants included, in the front, Fabian Morales, left, in the elephant T-shirt, and Brooks Reynolds, in the Mickey Mouse shirt. They are enrolled in the Y’s child care program.

Fundraising for the project is 90% complete, but it has been hampered by inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since it began in 2018, the campaign price tag has climbed from $6.6 to $8.8 million. Donations still are being accepted. See kearneyymca.org for information.

The Y doors will stay open as construction continues. The project is expected to be completed in April 2023.

maryjane.skala@kearneyhub.com