Every parent knows know how difficult it is to find safe, reliable childcare. For many parents of Northwest Indiana, the Valparaiso YMCA offers just that. For some, however, affording childcare can put a major strain on the budget. The Valparaiso Family YMCA recognizes how all children deserve a safe, welcoming place to stay, which is why they work so hard to raise the funds to make this possible. On Saturday evening, members of the community gathered at Jewels and Jeans YBash, a night of bedazzled fun that raises funds for YMCA programs.
“I have three little ones of my own, so I know how expensive childcare can be and how hard it is to find somewhere that you feel comfortable with, safe with, and that you can afford,” Courtney Williams, volunteer at the YMCA, said. “I feel like the YMCA is a place where you can drop your kids off and you can feel happy that they’re there.”
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Hundreds gathered on Saturday evening, dressed in their best jean jackets and sporting their favorite gems. The money raised will help to contribute to numerous YMCA programs, including benefiting families that could not otherwise be able to pay for services offered by the Y.
“This event helps fund kids going to camp, children at daycare, the Silver Sneakers program, the people who can’t afford a membership, and various other programs that the Y offers,” Susie Wireman, Co-Chair of Jewels and Jeans, said.
“My favorite use of these funds has to be helping out single parents with their kids and childcare,” Robert Wanek, CEO of Valparaiso Family YMCA, said. “Occasionally, I’ll get a note from a single mom who said they needed help getting childcare and that they couldn’t financially afford it while pursuing their education. Once they get back on their feet and they have a job, they thank us for taking care of their kids during that time. It chokes us up when we hear of single parents who want to help themselves and who need a bit of help along the way.”
The event marked 18 years of the Jewels and Jeans event for the YMCA. The event returned to The Market, a historic venue in Valparaiso with a history of being a working farm since the early 1900s.
“We’ve very excited about this year being back at The Market. We haven’t been here for many years, so we are excited that it’s here again,” Wireman said. “It’s going to be a bit more intimate than we’re used to at the expo, but we’re excited because it’s the first year we are doing the live auction, which is going to be very cool.”
The evening included live auctions of a variety of exciting prizes. Highlights included a one-year prime parking spot in the front of the YMCA, dinner for ten at a home by Executive Chef Jason Rudy, a Lowell Wireman and Garner Tullis backyard barbeque for up to 30 guests, a Disney vacation for four, catering for 30 people from Wagner’s Ribs, and one month of free advertising on Lamar digital billboards in Northwest Indiana.
“This is the single biggest fundraiser of the year,” Williams said. “This helps a lot of people, whether they are the elderly, a single mom, or someone in the community who might be down for the time being. The YMCA always steps in to help them out.”
The event would not be possible without the dedicated and passionate volunteers who support the YMCA mission.
“We have new groups of volunteers that keep working and get energized by doing this,” Wanek said. “They spend probably six months pulling this all together. The whole idea is that it should be a fun night where you don’t feel like you have to wear anything fancy.”
Dressed in their favorite denim, hundreds of members of Northwest Indiana enjoyed the hearty hors d’oeuvres, top shelf selection, entertainment from the live band 28 Days, and an interactive photo booth.
“This event is one of the more fun events of the year,” Williams said. “If someone hasn’t been here, they should try to check it out next year.”
For more information on the Valparaiso Family YMCA, please visit valpoymca.org.