New director has long YMCA historyAlong with a fresh new sign, the YMCA in Hudson has a new executive director. Bryan Soper took over the leadership of the Y this month. And while he may be new to the Hudson area, he has been with the YMCA for 25 years.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Along with a fresh new sign, the YMCA in Hudson has a new executive director.
Bryan Soper took over the leadership of the Y, the new brand recently rolled out by the YMCA, this month. And while he may be new to the Hudson area, he has been with the YMCA for 25 years.
Soper, a native of Eau Claire, began his career as a camp counselor at Camp Manitou there. Following graduation from UW-Stout, he became a program director in Eau Claire. Since that time he has served the organization in Arizona, Nashville and in Alabama before returning to the region to serve as executive director at the Y in West St. Paul. When the position became open in Hudson, he was eager to make the move.
Soper said he learned a great deal in his postings around the country but always knew he wanted to return to Wisconsin when his two children became school-age. “My parents were both teachers and I grew up with a Wisconsin education. We wanted the same thing for our children.” The Sopers live in North Hudson and everyone seems happy with North Hudson Elementary.
Along with the nationwide name change, there have been some organizational changes. Locally the Y here will be known as the YMCA in Hudson, and it is now part of the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, not just St. Paul. Moves, Soper says, that just make sense in the overall scheme of things.
Another recent change reflects the Y’s mission: “For youth development, for healthy living, for social responsibility.” Soper said everything the Y does is connected to those ideas and that is what makes the organization so much more than a “swim and gym.”
He points to programs like the Youth and Government program that not only focuses on developing leadership skills but also fosters social responsibility.
Enrollment in Y’s swimming lessons is at an all-time high with more than 400 children in the current session. “Learning to swim isn’t only part of healthy living, but since we live on a major river, it is also a social responsibility to be sure our kids are safe in the water,” said Soper.
The Y’s membership in the Hudson area is around 5,000 from about 3,000 households. Even with the recent economic downturn, the Y has been able to sustain and add memberships. Soper says one reason is because of the organization’s commitment to offering assistance to those who need it to become members.
This week the Y kicked off its annual Y Partners campaign that annually raises money to provide memberships to those who cannot afford them. Last year the campaign provided more than $136,000 in assistance.
And it is not just about children. Soper said that assistance is available to adults as well through the Personal Pricing Plan. He recently talked with a man about becoming a member but the man didn’t think he could afford it or that he would qualify for assistance. “His wife is recovering from cancer and they have a mountain of medical expenses. We sat down and talked it over and found we could help. We know people are out of work and that circumstances change. If someone is interested in being a member but doesn’t think they can afford it, I urge them to come and talk with us.”
Soper said 25 percent of the Y’s members are receiving some sort of financial assistance.
Soper says the success of the Y in Hudson has a lot to do with the pride in the community. He believes people support the organization because they know it, too, is committed to the community and to helping its residents. “All the money we raise here stays here and that is important to all of us.”
Soper says that with 90 classes offered every week, more than 100 children in basketball and soccer programs, childcare, the swimming lessons, skate park and teen room, the Y in Hudson is so much more than a health club. “It’s a real community resource committed to the idea of total wellness. That’s the story we have to tell.”
For more information about the Y in Hudson call (715) 386-1616 or go online at www.hudsonymca.org.