The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

The Elvik Family

Growing Strong Together at the Y


John Elvik fondly recalls carrying his twin babies into the La Crosse YMCA, where he would play a game of noon basketball. Today his boys, Derek and Brandon, are 14 years old, and his other son, Drew, is 16. The family has grown up together at the Y, with the boys acquiring many life-building skills at the Y and especially the Teen Center. 


Drew being selected to attend the International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, marks a highlight of the family's successes at the Y. In early August Drew, along with five others from the La Crosse Y, joined 13,000 other young adults from throughout the world. There's no doubt John feels proud of his oldest son, who worked hard fundraising with others from the Teen Center's Leadership Club to take the life-changing trip. 


A free, community drop-in site, the Teen Center offers a cool place to hang out with friends, to chill out and to take in some awesome activities, the Elvik boys say. "It's helping to shape us into positive, good young men," says Drew, as his siblings nod in agreement. 


Drew and John have spoken publicly about the Y and the Teen Center, open to all kids in eigth- through twelfth-grades, at Strong Kids Campaign promotionals events. The Elviks are grateful for benefiting from the Strong Kids program, which provides financial assistance for memberships, for the past 10 years. 


"I believe in the Y," says John, who works full-time in maintence at the Y. "It's a great organization, and so it comes naturally for us to speak highly about it." 


John continues to enjoy playing noon basketball and swimming in the pool. His boys also like to work out in the gym and the pool. 


In the summer months and after school hours, Drew, Derek and Brandon are never bored at the Teen Center, which is always staffed by positive, caring adults trained to work with adolescents. The center is well-known in the community as a "safe place for teens to learn, grow and thrive." Like so many other teens at the center, the boys have received help with homework and have expressed creativity through music and art. 


Along with the Leadership Club, Drew says he and his siblings and friends can play computer games and listen to music. They've enjoyed learning how to make a deal.


Brandon enjoys playing instruments, such as the flute and drums, in the music room, as well as learning about canines in the Puppy Club. In the Next program, Derek is developing skills for his future, from using a checking account and the public bus routes to writing a resume and completing a job application.


John never worries about his active sons when he knows they're at the Teen Center, being a part of something positive, learning new skills and making new friends. The center provides opportunities to learn social responsibility, to obtain volunteer experiences and simply to have fun!


"The Teen Center has helped my sons to become very well-rounded," John says. "I'm very grateful for the Y." 


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2013