Kristina Butorac, Tom Taylor Family YMCA senior director of youth development, goes through some “Get Up and Move” exercises last month with a pack of energetic Evergreen Elementary School students. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

Since it opened in 2007, the Gig Harbor YMCA (now known as the Tom Taylor Family YMCA) has had a presence on the Key Peninsula, thanks largely to Longbranch resident Kristina Butorac.

Butorac is the senior director of youth development at the Gig Harbor-based Y, and is responsible for all of the organization’s outreach programming.

“We realize that for a lot of families on the Key Peninsula, it would be a financial hardship to travel to Gig Harbor to go to the Y,” Butorac said. “We needed to go outside of our walls.”

YMCA Marketing Director Kristin Stave said what’s happening on the Key is more about putting the Y’s mission in action.

“The Y isn’t just a swim gym or a place to go work out. It’s about caring for each other and creating a space for people to be cared for. Our Key Pen program is about bringing our programs to people, rather than making them come to us,” Stave said.

According to Butorac, many of the Y’s programs on the Peninsula take place in the schools.

“Out here, the schools are the hubs of the community and the more things that can happen in the school, the more likely families are to participate. So bringing the Y to the schools is a natural,” Butorac said.

The outreach began about four years ago at Evergreen Elementary when Butorac started a class called Get Up and Move, a weekly after-school program with games and physical activities. She said it is also designed to teach students to become leaders and it provides a safe place for kids to be after school.

The GUM program –– as some of the older kids call it –– has expanded to other Key Pen schools. Butorac said there’s some kind of Y programming taking place in the schools nearly every day during the school year.

She said every elementary school participates in the Y’s 5210 program that focuses on healthy every day lifestyles.

“The 5210 focuses on five servings of fruits and veggies every day, two hours or less of ‘screen time,’ one hour or more of physical activity and zero sugar-sweetened drinks every day,” Butorac said.

All Key Pen elementary schools also offer a weekly Wednesday Morning Program during the hour before school starts. It includes 30 minutes of physical activity and programming about values like caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, she said.

Evergreen Elementary has a Y club every morning from 6 to 9 a.m. in which students do crafts, play games and have homework and reading time before school starts. Evergreen also hosts a “Beyond After ‘OURS” program Wednesdays and Fridays after school.

Thursday afternoons at KPMS feature a class called Cooking Around the World. “That’s when our health educator, Kristin Cucklick goes to the school and teaches the kids about foods from different lands,” Butorac said. “The kids learn cooking skills and also how to make tasty, nutritious meals.”

Funding for the Key Pen programs comes from the Y’s annual Strong Kids campaign, a nationwide program that raises funds “to fill and meet the needs of folks who need financial assistance. For us, that’s everything that’s happening on the Key Peninsula,” Butorac said.

Lakebay resident Anne Nesbit is a big fan of what the Y is doing on the Key. Nesbit’s two children –– Matt, 11 and Grace, 8 –– both go to Key Pen schools and have participated in the Y classes.

“The Y is all about kids and health and fitness. They’re so focused on the kids,” Nesbit said. “And it doesn’t matter what your faith base is –– they’re just focused on helping kids and teaching them about eating right and exercising and empowering them to feel good about themselves.”

For information, contact Kristina Butorac at kbutorac@nullymcapk.org or call (253) 534-7871.

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