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Kishwaukee Family YMCA kicks off annual fundraising campaign

SYCAMORE – After years of struggling with depression, an autoimmune disease and 100 pounds of extra weight, Dena McKnight thought joining the Kishwaukee Family YMCA could change her life.

But without financial assistance from the YMCA, McKnight and many members like her would never have been able to join.

The Kishwaukee Family YMCA hopes to raise $150,000 through its annual campaign to support children and adult programming and allow residents to access the organization's programs regardless of income.

Debbie Madeley, director of development at the YMCA, said 94 percent of donations will go directly to supporting programs and offering scholarships.

The YMCA provided $470,346 in financial assistance scholarships and program subsidies to low-income families and nonprofits last year.

Of the agency's annual $3.3 million budget, $263,822, or almost 8 percent, comes from contributions and grants.

McKnight visits the YMCA three times a week to participate in the multiple sclerosis/recoup class, a water class designed for people dealing with or recovering from surgery or disease. Since joining the YMCA nine years ago, McKnight has moved out of a wheelchair, shed 100 pounds and overcome challenges presented by neurosarcoidosis, a disease that attacks multiple organs.

“I think, socially, it's helped me a lot, too,” McKnight said. “Having somewhere to go, forcing myself out and having friends there who care about me is nice.”

Last year, donations helped the YMCA provide 10,000 meals to DeKalb County children and families, swim lessons for 111 children and youth scholarships for 85 children playing on YMCA teams. Of the 200 children in the Y's summer camp, 50 percent receive some financial assistance through donations, Madeley said. Donations also supported the YMCA's LIVESTRONG program, which offered 55 cancer survivors free support last year.

“For some, it's playing a sport,” Madeley said. “For some, it could be socialization and, for others, it's learning how to be healthy. Providing access is of pivotal importance to accessing that potential they have inside of them.”

How to help

To donate to the Kishwaukee Family YMCA's annual campaign, visit or call Debbie Madeley at 815-756-9577.

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