YMCA celebrates the end of summer

The last week of summer camp is often sad for those happy campers of the North Suburban YMCA (NSYMCA) in Northbrook. And while summer is brief, memories could be captured in snapshots at the annual camp cookout, now called “Party at the Y.”

In its second annual year, Party at the Y welcomed hundreds of people Aug. 7 who came for a free meal and fun. The NSYMCA opened its doors to the community, fostering neighborly fellowship, while giving summer campers a grand slam memory maker.

“The Y is where you belong, it’s where we all belong,” said Barb Flanagin, NSYMCA director of development.

“It’s a place where you can come if you’re a member, if you’re not a member, just to come visit, just to come for the picnic and check us out and see what we’ve got to offer,” she added.

The NSYMCA is a volunteer-led, non-profit organization serving 15 North Shore communities.

The list includes Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Northbrook, Northfield, Riverwoods, Winnetka and Wheeling.

The summer picnic quickly became a much-loved tradition after it was introduced to thank camp families.

“This is fun, we’re a fun place and we decided this (camp picnic) should be just open to the whole community,” Flanagin said.

Sari Glazebrook, a lifelong Northbrook resident, serves as NSYMCA membership and family life director.

“What we hope to accomplish today is reaching not only our camp community but the community at large and just reminding them that we are home,” said Glazebrook.

“Growing up in Northbrook…being in Indian Princesses, learning how to swim in that pool, my children learned how to swim in this pool, everybody has a soft spot for the Y, everybody has a story,” Glazebrook said.

The picnic featured giant inflatables and human hamster balls that you could best if you dared. Music by Markette & Hutch offered rolling background drama.

Aidan Rico, 12, of Northfield and a Sunset Ridge School seventh-grader, had to work to find steady footing despite having experience navigating those hamster balls. His big smile was visible from inside the clear inflatable.

“I’m a camper but I usually help out,” Rico said. “I think this summer has gone really well.”

Rico’s camp counselors couldn’t say enough about him as an appreciated helping hand.

Counselors realized the Thursday camp picnic was a bittersweet milestone.

“It’s a sad moment but it’s also a proud moment,” said Anastasia Luc of Northbrook, lead Adventurer counselor.

“It’s the time of the year when we celebrate our campers and appreciate the leaders they’ve grown into during our time together,” she said.

Howard Schultz, NSYMCA executive director/CEO, greeted families on a banner sunset evening.

“I think it’s great,” said Schultz, who scanned the NSYMCA’s north lawn area.

“They’re just rolling in, hundreds and hundreds of people.

“Huge smiles,” Schultz added. “It’s just a great opportunity to be together as a community.”

An estimated 1,000 hot dogs and more than 200 brats and Italian sausages were on standby or grilled up. Frank Lenardi, NSYMCA senior director of programs and facilities was in his element.

Phil Bass of Northbrook accompanied his daughter Carly, 9, a Glenview Winkelman School fourth-grader.

“It’s really fun,” said Carly shyly, of what she liked about the picnic and summer camp.

“I went here for a long time and I think this (cookout) is the best activity that I’ve been to this year,” Carly said.

Of his favorite camp activity, Bobby Vinson, 12, of Northbrook and a Northbrook Junior High School sixth-grader, determined his slam-dunk.

“Dodgeball,” Bobby said. “’Cause they have these big shields and you could hide behind them and get nailed in the face!

“It was fun!”

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