The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Ken Dahl

Lifelong Supporter of the YMCA Mission and Core Values


At age 97, Ken Dahl can feel proud that his first major accomplishment to raise money for a new YMCA building in the 1970s was just the beginning of a lifetime of service to an organization he respects and loves.


His buddies first attracted him to the YMCA, where he especially enjoyed swimming and playing basketball with friends. Already as a young man, Ken strongly believed in the YMCA mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.


With Ken's commitment to the YMCA, he was asked to lead efforts to raise money for a new facility, the current building located on the corner of West Avenue and Main Street.


He describes the huge fund raising project as "hard work." But Ken has never been afraid of hard work or challenges. His family celebrated 100 years in business for Dahl Automotive Company in 2011. Ken, now retired, started selling Fords with his father in 1937. Ken accomplished securing funds for a new YMCA the old-fashioned way: He went door-to-door in person, asking other business owners to pitch in. A lifelong La Crosse resident, he knows many people and he's a talented salesman. His efforts were successful: $1.5 million was collected to construct a beautiful facility.


It's one of Ken's favorite memories, helping to raise money for the YMCA building. He's proud that all of the money was publicly donated without tax dollars. Even the beautiful property in an ideal central location was donated. He enjoyed working with Ted Griffin, the executive director of the YMCA, at the time of the building project.


He has given decades of his time and talent, including serving two terms as board president, but that's not enough for him. Desiring to help preserve the Y's positive heritage for future generations, it was the natural next step for him to be recognized in the YMCA Heritage Club. The La Crosse Area Family YMCA established the YMCA Heritage Club to recognize individuals and families who have made an outright gift or have designated a gift through their estate to benefit the YMCA Endowment Fund on behalf of the YMCA, one of the branches, or a Y program


Today, it gives him fulfillment and satisfaction to know that community members, of all ages, incomes, abilities, and backgrounds, will continue to reap rewards from the Y for generations to come - at two Y branches. He's proud that the Y provides a place for children of all ages during the day and evening hours. "It helps to keep young people after school out of trouble from having nothing else to do," Ken says. "It fills a gap and provides positive experiences."


Along with his strong support for the Y mission, he's always been a great believer in the organization's core values: honesty, respect, responsibility, and caring. "Children are better citizens for spending time at the Y," Ken says.


And he knows the positive effects the Y has on lives first-hand from his own experiences as a boy and then as a young man raising his daughter and three sons. He enjoyed taking his family to the Y. "I had fun," he says with a smile. "You get to be a kid again."


By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2012