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Editor's note: This commentary is part of an ongoing series of guest columns about the Southlake YMCA and its upcoming $35 million transformation to the Crown Point facility.

From generation to generation, times change, but the Southlake YMCA remains a constant asset for families to build bonds and make memories. Some of those memories are made on the sports fields, thanks to volunteer coaches, many of them dads participating alongside their own kids.

Kevin Kickert and his family joined the Y four years ago.

“The people at the Y made us want to be a part of it,” he said. “We feel like part of the community.”

Kickert and his children, Lauren, 8, and Jackson, 5, started with Saturday swim lessons. Soon, Kickert stepped up to coach soccer, basketball and T-ball. Kickert and wife Dawn have appreciated the no-pressure atmosphere.

“They’re all out there just to have a good time,” Kickert said, noting snack time often is more of a focus than the score, and scores are not even tracked. Now Kickert serves on the Southlake Y advisory board.

Bill Kolloway has worked for about 40 years in physical education and school administration. He became involved in Y sports when his son Will was 4. Now Will is 31, and Bill is nurturing the next generation with Frankie, his 3-year-old grandson.

“It’s come full circle,” Kolloway said.

Kolloway explained that families and their challenges change over time, but “the development of children has not changed. The excitement and learning is the same. You’re instilling values like teamwork.”

With the increase in single-parent families, Kolloway noted the importance of male coaches serving as positive role models.

Y participation is a family tradition for Dean Niepokoj, wife Ellen, and daughters Caroline, 20, and Isabella, 7.

“From toddlers to seniors, there’s something for everyone at the Y,” Niepokoj said, noting his mother is working with a personal trainer, and his in-laws participate in Y day trips with other active seniors.

In addition to coaching, Niepokoj chairs the Southlake advisory board and serves on the Crossroads Y corporate board. He believes in setting an example of volunteer service for his daughters, just as his own father did for him.

Both Kickert and Niepokoj are keenly aware they are creating a legacy for their own families, as well as for thousands of other Y families.

They are thrilled about the new $35 million Southlake Y opening in January 2019. It will triple in size and serve many more people through expanded programs and facilities.

Niepokoj is working on the community fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising $3.5 million locally for the new Y.

“It’s going to open up a whole new world of opportunities for families and will be a hub of healthy activity for Crown Point and south Lake County,” Kickert said.

For information on the fundraising campaign, call Pat Huber at 219-757-3739. For information on the YMCA go to www.crymca.org/southlakeycampaign.

Chris Mallers is executive director of the Southlake YMCA in Crown Point. The opinions are the writer's.

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