Group plans YMCA in Cayman

Following a year-and-a-half of discussions, a group of prominent residents has announced plans to establish a YMCA in the Cayman Islands.  

Saying they don’t intend to duplicate efforts by existing organisations, and don’t have grand plans for a large community centre just yet, YMCA leaders are starting to raise money for the charity and are beginning a community assessment to determine what role the YMCA will play in Cayman. 

“It is wide open. We need this input from the community. We’re not trying to be in competition with other great organisations, but hopefully the Y will work synergistically to offer what might be best needed at the moment,” said board chairman Randy Von Kanel, who is pastor of Cayman Islands Baptist Church. 

Mr. Von Kanel hopes the board of 21 community leaders will have completed the strategic process by the beginning of 2013, and will then begin to make plans about what programmes the YMCA will offer. 



Founded in London in 1844, the Young Men’s Christian Association now reaches some 58 million people in 119 countries, according to the World Alliance of YMCAs. The organisation, also known as the Y, has 11,200 locations worldwide, including nearly 2,700 in the United States and 210 in Latin America and the Caribbean. The organisation’s activities vary according to the needs of specific communities, but can include anything from athletics to afterschool programmes to social services to programmes for the elderly. 

Formally established as a STAR trust, the YMCA Cayman Islands is a nonprofit organisation with the mission to “help people reach their God-given potential by putting Christian principles into practice through programmes that build spirit, mind and body”. 

At first, the group will concentrate its efforts in Grand Cayman. 


Y in Cayman? 

People familiar with the organisation in other countries may immediately think of the Y as being a brick-and-mortar community centre with a gymnasium and swimming pool. While the group may someday build a facility like that, right now the board is focussed on creating “a Y without walls”, executive committee member Sara Mackay said. 

Ms Mackay said it seems that Cayman already has many good physical facilities in place, and that perhaps the Y’s immediate role will be to foster better coordination of existing programmes. But the direction of the group depends on what occurs during the community assessment. 

“There are lots of good programmes, Little League being one of them, swim team being another. We need to take a look and decide, well, is there enough of that already, or do we want to get involved in that? We don’t want to duplicate efforts or step on anybody’s toes. We just want to help where help is needed. The primary goal is to make Cayman a better place,” said board secretary JC Calhoun, founder of Cayman Islands Little League Association. 

The board is working on putting together a public event Saturday, 3 November, to officially launch the Y in Cayman. The YMCA Family Fun Day will feature activities for adults and children and will be an opportunity for the public to learn more about the YMCA. More information about the event will be given in the near future. 

“This is just a beginning. We are taking our time to make sure that this organisation is a lasting, strong addition to our nation for the good of our people. We’re not trying to jump out too far and say we’re going to do this that or the other. Really we’re taking our time to do this right. We really value very much everybody’s input on how to make this a great YMCA,” Mr. Von Kanel said. “We’re listening.” 


Need in Cayman 

The Cayman Ministers’ Association first pitched the idea of a local YMCA in early 2011, according to a news release. About the same time, in Tampa, Florida, Russ and Jeff Brandes, the husband and son of Mary Tibbetts-Brandes (daughter of the late Linton Tibbetts), independently broached the topic with David Jezek, present and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, Florida. 

The two efforts merged, and Mr. Jezek is acting as an adviser to the Cayman board. The Cayman YMCA has a sister relationship with the St. Petersburg YMCA. 

“This is an excellent time to launch a YMCA in Cayman, because there is a need for programmes that touch people of all ages and income groups,” Russ Brandes said in the news release. “Promoting healthy living in particular is more important than ever in Cayman, as the community has to deal with the reality that the childhood obesity rate here is even higher than in the United States.” 

Mr. Calhoun said, “Look around. We have crime problems. We have issues with youth, issues with gangs, parents who aren’t necessarily able to take care of their kids, issues of afterschool kids with time on their hands, issues with older persons.  

Just go to the Pines, look around and see people who do not have anyone to look after them. Our whole social fabric needs work. The reason I got involved is I am absolutely certain that whatever we do as a group will be done according to Christian principles.  

That is what is missing in society as far as I’m concerned.” 

YMCA Cayman board members include Mr. Von Kanel, Mr. Calhoun, Ms Mackay, Donnie Ebanks, Norman Klein, Wil Pineau, Dale Crighton, Ormond Williams, Paul Tibbetts, Sharon Roulstone, Mike Flowers, Andrew Johnson, Rhonda Kelly, Christina Rowlandson, Jackie Hansen, Ms Tibbetts-Brandes, Gary Rutty, Christina Kirkaldy, Collin Anglin, Garth Arch and Jamal Young. Ex-oficio members include Alson Ebanks, Jennifer Ahearn and Jasmina Gilpin.  


For more information call 947-1572. 

YMCA board

YMCA Cayman Islands board members take a break from a planning session. – Photo: Submitted


St. Peterburg YMCA president David Jezek with YMCA Cayman Islands board members Mary Tibbetts-Brandes and Sharon Roulstone. – Photo: Submitted

Comments are closed.