Y Guides Program Update 2020

Change is never easy, but it is necessary.

Nearly 100 years ago, Harold Keltner (a YMCA Director in St. Louis) and Joe Friday (an Ojibwa Indian) sat by a campfire and engaged in deep conversation. They reflected carefully on the events of history and their effect on the integrity of the family and quality of life. It was 1926.

That conversation inspired the beginning of a remarkable tradition. Together, Keltner and Friday started what is now known as Y Guides -  a program with a purpose of deepening the bond between father and child. The father-child program spread quickly across the United States in the 1950s and was founded here in the Triangle in 1968.

The long-term leadership and vision provided by Triangle staff, volunteers and stakeholders has allowed this program to become the largest of its kind in the country. This program’s success has been built on a tremendous sense of tradition and pride for program quality. In the Triangle, we are uniquely positioned to offer our participants incredible experiences with a state-wide footprint: Spring Outings on the crystal coast at Camps Sea Gull and Seafarer; Fall Outings in our own backyard at Camp Kanata; The alumni Trailblazers program that culminates with a mountaintop experience at Camp Rockmont at the end of each summer.

Through the Y Guides program and the curriculum it teaches, nearly 14,000 people play a part each year in accomplishing the mission of the YMCA; encouraging one another to be caring, honest, respectful, responsible and to have faith in God; building healthy spirits, minds and bodies; strengthening the foundations of our community by contributing in service to our families and neighbors; becoming "Pals Forever" and "Friends Always."  

The YMCA’s mission also requires us to provide a program that is inclusive and welcoming to all. We recognize that every opportunity we have to serve and interact with one another is an opportunity to be a part of change for the better. How we welcome those who are different from us, how we build common ground together and how we stand for the rights of all individuals – regardless of race, gender, age, ability, orientation, cultural background, ethnicity and faith – ensures everyone has the ability to reach their full potential with dignity. We recognize that the heart and purpose of Y Guides matches the heart and purpose of the YMCA Mission. But we also recognize that we cannot truly provide a program that promotes inclusion and a sense of belonging, while simultaneously promoting themes, imagery and nomenclature that appropriate the Native American culture. 

Just as Harold Keltner and Joe Friday did in 1926, we have taken time to carefully reflect on the events of history and their effect on the integrity of the family and quality of life. For more than 50 years, our goal has been to capture the magic and intent of Keltner and Friday’s original idea: strengthening father-child relationships through activities that allow dads to spend quality one-on-one time with their children. That overarching goal will never change. What will change are our references to and appropriation of the Native American culture.

Y Guides is committed to providing high-quality and impactful programming that does right by all in our diverse community. In the upcoming program year, you will notice some changes to the themes, images, and nomenclature that we use. We believe that you are the heart of this program and, even while some of the external qualities are changing, the heart will not. We thank you for your trust, advocacy and continued support for this incredible program.