Twenty-five years ago, my first-grader and I joined Indian Guides, a parent-child program run by the YMCA of Stanislaus County.
I was Swift Eagle and Jason was Eagle Boy, and once a month we'd gather with other members of the Chinook tribe to tell stories, play games, make crafts and simply enjoy time together as fathers and sons.
Three years later I re-enlisted, this time with my next son, Christopher, and together we, too, enjoyed many wonderful times together, whether racing pinewood derby cars or carving pumpkins or flying down the hill at snow camp.
And three years after that, I signed up again, this time with my daughter, Melissa. I still was Swift Eagle and we still were the mighty Chinook, but now we were in Indian Princesses, the dad-daughter arm of the YMCA program.
Those times made for special memories, many of which flooded my mind last week as I talked with our reporter and then read his stories on the financial plight and uncertain future of the YMCA of Stanislaus County.
I wish the Y weren't in trouble. And I wish we didn't have to tell this story. But it is, and we do. It's a shame that the Y is in such dire straits. But it would be an even greater shame if it were to go under, as has happened in other communities.
Thus, our intent in telling this story is not to make the YMCA look bad; rather, it is to convey the severity of the situation in hopes that problems, both external and internal, will be addressed and that the Y will be around for a long time.
When we decided to check into reports that the Y was in trouble, we knew that we would face criticism. And we did. We were accused of trying to destroy good people and a good institution.
We also anticipated that we would face obstacles in trying to report on the situation. And we did. We were told repeatedly that there was no story, because there was no problem, and that money, memberships and everything else was fine at the Y.
We knew that wasn't the case and were confident that, if we persevered, eventually the reality of the situation would come to light.
And it did. One can debate why the Y is where it is -- whether it's the result of external factors, poor management or a combination of those and more. What's not open to debate, though, is the bottom line: Our YMCA is on life support.
Today's special report came about because of reporter Garth Stapley's diligence and commitment to the truth -- and because a number of people stepped forward and provided financial records and other information documenting the Y's dramatic decline in recent years. Why did they help us? In most cases, because of a deep appreciation for the local YMCA and a heartfelt desire to prevent its demise.
I feel the same way -- both as a former Indian Guide and as the editor. And I hope that today's special report will help the YMCA not only survive but thrive for years to come.
Bee Editor Mark Vasché can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2356.