Mike Watt

Board Chair

Thanks Niagara,

The YMCA of Niagara Board of Directors is very grateful for the commitment and support of our dedicated staff, volunteers, donors, members, participants, clients, and community partners.

This past year, we consulted with and listened to stakeholders in each program and service area to understand their expectations and aspirations for our YMCA. We also spent some time reflecting on our unique capacity to improve the health, education, and wellbeing of people in our community. The culmination of this process can be found in the pages of our new Strategic Plan—Foundations for the Future—which we proudly launched in the fall. This year continues to require change and adaptation as we all emerge from the pandemic, and we expect our transformation will continue. As Niagara’s largest provider of not-for-profit Licensed Child Care, we are enthusiastic to participate in the Canada-Wide Early Learning & Child Care (CWELCC) Agreement which is designed to ensure more high-quality childcare is available and more affordable to local families. This is just one example of how we are working in new ways to meet the needs of those we serve and serve beside.

Our work to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in our Strategic Plan is already well underway, and we are making great strides in re-growing programs including Health and Fitness, Summer Day Camp, and Employment and Immigrant services. We will continue to explore new models and locations for service delivery in St. Catharines and in Niagara Falls, because our commitment to advancing the health and wellbeing of every community we serve has not wavered. The return of so many people to in-person programs and services this fall has been gratifying.

As you will observe in this year’s Annual Report—Inspiring Momentum—we are in motion, scaling up and realizing new opportunities for growth and sustainability. The connection and engagement of the people on our teams, and in our communities, inspires our Board and propels us forward. I invite you to read on and see for yourself all the ways our YMCA continues to have a positive impact on the lives of individuals and on our community. Thank you for being part of our story and for your enduring support!

Continue Reading >>

Christian Wulff

Interim CEO

We are Inspiring Momentum,

This past year has been transformative for our YMCA of Niagara. The Association successfully navigated the complexities of the prolonged pandemic while adapting our programs and services to meet the changing needs of our community. We were pleased to have launched our two-year strategic plan—Foundations for the Future—which charts our course through 2024. Our YMCA is well-positioned to rebound, and we anticipate growth and an increased impact in the communities we serve every day. 

As one of the largest charitable employers in the Niagara Region and having recently been recognized by Forbes as one of Canada’s Best Employers, the YMCA of Niagara takes great pride in being an organisation that provides all staff with the opportunity to develop and fulfil their potential. This is a testament to the dedication of all staff, members, volunteers and donors who make the YMCA of Niagara a place where everyone can belong, grow, thrive and lead.

We are grateful to be one of the largest providers of Licensed Child Care, multi-site employment and newcomer services, award-winning summer camps, and recreational programming for Niagara residents. Although some of our physical footprints have changed in the past year, our commitment to families remains the same and we will continue to innovate our services to meet the needs of the community. We continue to provide financial assistance to hundreds of participants, and we celebrate the accomplishments of many in our YMCA success stories. 

To our partners, supporters, donors, volunteers, and community members: we want to extend a special thank you to each one of you. Your continued support as we welcomed returning members, new members, and families to our YMCAs was instrumental in our success. Thank you for being part of our YMCA movement as we strive for a healthier community for all.  

Let’s work together on Inspiring Momentum for the future.

Continue Reading >>

YMCA Volunteer

& Staff Leadership

Board of Directors

Senior Management

Health, Fitness and Aquatics

Our Health, Fitness and Aquatics department reopened their doors to in-person activities and provided vital programs and services that allowed members to meet new friends, achieve their fitness goals and improve their health and wellness.

Despite hesitation from the community, 7,914 people attended HFA programs and services in 2022

Over $54,247 in financial assistance was given for our fitness programs in 2022

Our YMCA of Niagara staff led 12 virtual videos which were used as content for Y@Home across Canada

2,100 children and youth participated in swim lessons and recreational programs

The Best Part
About The Y?

Back in 1993, Judy was raising two children and trying to make ends meet as a single mother.  

Her mother gifted the family a membership to the Y in St. Catharines, and they have been members ever since. That gift translated into a brief assisted membership and then into full membership as she became more financially stable.

She loved the community there and made friends that she has to this day! In fact, she even met her husband at the YMCA 28 years ago… they were both looking for fitness and community and found love!

When she first joined, it quickly became apparent that her youngest was not a usual child and the first few months at the Y were painful for everyone. He was uncooperative and he didn’t like anyone. It was hard for her to enjoy any programming either, as she invariably had to go and attend to him.

The Y child caregivers recognized her son was high functioning autistic and was later diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome, which was not very well-known back then. The Y caregivers then made plans to help Judy with her predicament. They figured out who he trusted, and Judy adjusted her attendance so that they could make it work. … And it did! She was extremely grateful.

Fast forward a few years, and the Y’s popular spin classes started up… Judy attended every class that she could. Her son was older then and didn’t need as much care. One time, at the last-minute, she was asked to lead a class that was full due to a staff absence. After that she was ‘grandmothered’ in!

For Judy it was a “win-win”—she was given a spin bike and could play her favourite rock music… And more importantly, she was finally able to pay it back to the organization that helped her with her child during a time when she was financially struggling. She still volunteer teaches to this day to give back to the community and the people she has met over the years at the Y. 

It doesn’t matter to her where the Y is located in Niagara, they are ALL welcoming, fun places. The Y continues to help her through some tough times. For instance, during the social isolation of the pandemic, she embraced the online Y community and made some new friends who encouraged her to return to teaching at the Niagara West YMCA when they reopened in Grimsby. She was so worried that she wouldn’t fit in, but the staff and members were so open and welcoming, and accepting of her tattooed rock-metal spin instructor style. In her opinion, the best part that has never changed about the YMCA is acceptance.

Read Judy's Full Story >>

Making Accessiblity
A Reality

Dan first came to the Port Colborne YMCA after having an accident at the local beach. He had injured his feet and was told by his doctor at the time that open water swimming was no longer advisable.

A friend took Dan to a local gym on King St. About 20 minutes into the guided tour, Dan asked if he could swim there, and the tour guide told him the best place for swimming was the YMCA. Once his injuries started to mend, his doctor also suggested that he visit the YMCA and explore swimming in their indoor pool, and even offered to buy him a membership.

Dan then toured the Port Colborne YMCA with his friend and decided to take on a Five-Day Free Trial to see if it would be a good fit for him. He also learned on that tour that, at the YMCA, financial assistance was provided to people who require it. Four days into his trial, he joined… and that was seven years ago!

Dan enjoys the pool a lot. He swims with a lifebelt and says that he doesn’t know if there will be a day when he no longer needs the belt, but he is never going to stop trying. In his first year, Dan thought the pool would close for the winter, but he was overjoyed to discover that the Y is open all through the year and that he could even go swimming there in the middle of a blizzard! Dan also enjoys walking the track and using the weight and cardio machines. He needs a little assistance with these activities as he is blind. The Y staff help him use these amenities on some days, and on other days, he brings a friend.

Dan says the Y has really done a lot for him. He feels that regular exercise is critical for good health and well-being, and he thinks everyone should try and set goals for themselves to achieve and work toward. He says there is no shortage of people at the Y who offer to assist him, and he especially likes the freedom his membership gives him. When he walks through the door, he knows that he can do whatever feels comfortable doing that day.

Recently, Dan was sidelined with a surgery, however he assures us he is on the mend and has even shared some specific personal goals that he would like to achieve by January 1. He is working hard towards these goals and is confident he will get there. He wants people to know that participation in a regular program with even modest goals is very important and that the YMCA is truly accessible for everyone to stay fit and healthy.

Read Dan's Full Story >>

Licensed Child Care

The YMCA continued to offer Licensed Child Care services for our families across 47 centres throughout the last months of the pandemic, while also opening a new full day preschool centre in Niagara Falls, and anticipating another to open in Thorold this fall. YMCA Child Care continues to serve more children with fun, safe and quality programming lead by dedicated YMCA Educators. We look forward to the benefits that will be experienced by parents through the YMCA’s enrollment in the Canada-Wide Early Learning & Child Care (CWELCC) plan.

We provided childcare to
over 1,755 children
(infant to 12 years)

270 Educators adapted to the changing needs and continued to provide a high-quality experience for children

We have 47 Licensed Child Care locations for families across the Niagara Region

A Successful Graduation

Sam started at St. Ann’s Catholic School in Junior Kindergarten and was enrolled in YMCA of Niagara Before and After School Child Care. His transition into the structure was not easy, especially in the beginning, as staff struggled with some behavioural challenges. Sam had difficulty focusing, and seemed overwhelmed and distracted, which meant he would act in disruptive ways. This would sometimes result in some conflict with other children. One of the staff members realized that loud noises and commotion seemed specifically to upset Sam, and so she gave him a pair of earmuffs to wear that muted the noise. To ensure he did not feel singled out, she wore a pair too.

Over the course of the year, many YMCA staff worked patiently and consistently to find ways to help Sam be more comfortable and successful both inside and outside of the program. This included modelling calm and positive behaviours, taking extra time and care to help Sam settle at the start and end of each day, and always gently re-directing him. They engaged him as a “helper” for the other children to collect or hand out books or toys, and by having him be part of the process, the staff found ways to hold his attention and engagement.

It has been several years now, and Sam is graduating out of the Licensed Child Care program. His mother attributes his success to the caring staff like Miss Ashley and Miss Robynn. She adds that being engaged as a “helper” in child care inspired Sam to explore more leadership and become a Counsellor in Training for YMCA Summer Camp.

Sam has come a long way, and he looks forward to staying connected to the YMCA in new ways through Summer Day Camp and other programs.

Read Sam's Full Story >>

Modeling A
Positive Experience

Hannah was born with some complications in 2012. She was only 27 weeks in gestation and had to use a gastric tube for the first few years of her life. Hannah also faced many challenges like ADD and MDD, and she struggled to keep pace with other children her age.

In 2015, Hannah came to YMCA Before and After School Care at Father Hennepin Catholic School. As a ‘November baby’, she was starting Junior Kindergarten at the age of 3. Both her mother, Melissa, and grandmother, Jennifer, would take turns bringing Hannah to the YMCA and picking her up afterwards.

Jennifer says, “From Day 1, the YMCA staff were just awesome. Miss Marissa has always been there for us. Transitions can sometimes be hard with Hannah. She suffers from some separation anxiety and Miss Marissa always made sure these experiences were positive. Pick-up can be difficult on some days too, because while Hannah wants to come home, she often does not want to leave the Y! She can be a bit of a flight risk. The YMCA staff really know how to help her prepare for these transitions, getting ready early to put on her coat and boots, and gradually ease her into the next thing.

“Even when Hannah has bad days at school, Miss Marissa finds a way to turn them around. She models a positive experience and creates a great end to the day. All the staff over the years, especially Miss Cindy and Miss Andie, have helped our family in so many ways.”

Jennifer feels they never would have had the same level of care with any other provider. She notes that the YMCA’s curriculum structure, both before and after school, is excellent, with outdoor play, crafts, snacks, besides organized systems to drop-off and pick-up—all of which are just exceptional.

When families ask her for advice around where to go for childcare or if they should hire a nanny, Jennifer tells them to go the YMCA. She feels blessed to have had these experiences.

Hannah is now in Grade 5 and so will be leaving licensed childcare, but she has been to YMCA Summer Camp, and we hope she will find herself in some of our health, fitness and recreation programs as she enters this next phase of her youth.

Read Hannah's Full Story >>

Community Impact

The dedicated Community Programs team provided youth with safe, friendly spaces where they could interact with their peers, make new friends and be physically active. Programs like YMCA Youth Action, YMCA Beyond the BellTM, and others allowed them to play, learn and, most importantly, be themselves

27 youth improved academically
through the YMCA
Beyond the BellTM program

We had 689 Youth Outreach participants
attend Youth Action Evenings, Saturday
Nights, and Fun & Games programs

We had 689 Youth Outreach participants attend Youth Action Evenings, Saturday Nights, and Fun & Games programs

52 youth improved their skills by taking part
in Youth Action Sports Academy
this past summer

52 Youth improved their skills by taking part in the Youth Action Sports Academy this past summer

The Y Helped Me Start My Journey In Life

My name is Jerrell, I am 21 years old, and I am on a path to become a high school Physical Education teacher. It hasn’t always been easy for myself and my mom; but I give full credit to my mom, who has been a constant rock in my world, and also to the YMCA of Niagara, who helped shape me into the person I am today.
When I was 7, my mom got me a YMCA membership to help me learn to swim and to socialize. When I turned 10, my mom—still juggling the responsibilities of a working single mom—signed me up for Leaders Corp with Courtney. While in this program, I learned the six core YMCA values: CARING, HEALTH, HONESTY, INCLUSIVENESS, RESPECT, and RESPONSIBILITY.
These core values helped guide me through many difficult situations in life. The program also helped build my self-confidence and form life-long friendships.
Throughout senior grade school, and by high school, I realized that I truly enjoyed working with children and youth. I started to volunteer for Youth Action to gain my community hours and graduate. From this experience, as well as coaching some elementary school basketball, I realized that working with children and youth is my passion. And so, knowing my long-term objectives, I applied to the Child and Youth Studies program at Niagara College.
I continued to volunteer once a week at Youth Action Friday Nights in St. Catharines while attending college as a full-time student. This is where I met Steve, the Youth Action program manager.
One evening, Steve tapped me on the shoulder and asked to speak privately in his office. He had been watching me interact with the teens and offered me a paid part-time job as Youth Action Leader. He said I was a natural with the kids. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to tell my mom!
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit shortly afterwards, and all the programs moved to a virtual space as the YMCA closed its doors due to COVID-19. I helped Steve where I could with the online weekly sessions knowing that it made a difference in the lives of youth who were feeling isolated from all the lockdowns.
In the meantime, my graduation date at Niagara College was fast approaching as I completed my three-year program in two years by continuing my education through two summers. I enjoyed the program so much that I decided to apply to Brock University’s child and youth program to obtain my bachelor’s in Child and Youth Care. My goal remained becoming a teacher through Brock University, and so I consulted their student advisors and found out that I could gain my bachelor’s degree and merge into the Consecutive Education program to fulfill my goal of becoming a Physical Education Teacher. I just wasn’t sure what age group I preferred. I got an acceptance letter from Brock on my birthday!
That summer, the YMCA of Niagara opened its doors again to in-person programming. Youth Action launched a fun active program called Youth Action Sports Academy. Many teens, including myself, had missed two years of physical activity and socialization with all the lockdowns. The Y offered free coaching of basic skills in tennis, soccer, baseball, and basketball. Steve asked me to coach two of the sports programs, baseball and basketball. With the help of Canadian Tire Jumpstart, we were able to also provide the sports equipment to the kids for free!
I really enjoyed this experience, as well as my part-time Youth Action Leader position, and it felt good to pull the teens out of their shells and get them active again. I felt like I was making a real difference in their lives. It reinforced my thoughts that I want to teach Physical Education at the high school level. It also gave me that extra push I needed to keep going with my studies at Brock University and to work towards my goal.
Today, I continue to help with Youth Action whenever needed, as well as maintain my weekly shift coaching basketball, working part-time in retail, and completing full-time studies at Brock University.
In closing, I just want to say, “Thanks Mama for fully supporting me, my dreams, goals and aspirations throughout my life, and for introducing me to the YMCA of Niagara at a young age to help start my journey in life.”
Read Jerrell's Full Story >>

The EarlyON team continued to meet the needs of young children and their families in a variety of ways: virtual programs and workshops, in person interactive play sessions and parent education programs, outdoor programming, and outreach through videos and social media posts.

The dedicated EarlyON team served
1,384 individual children and 825 parents
and caregivers resulting in 13,706
in person visits overall

The dedicated EarlyON team served 1,384 individual children and 825 parents and caregivers resulting in 13,706 in person visits overall

300 activity bags filled with
child appropriate materials, books,
were distributed to families for free
during the course of the year

300 activity bags filled with child appropriate materials, books, games and resources were distributed to families for free during the course of the year

Early spring, we successfully opened our new EarlyON Centre at St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School in St. Catharines

Early spring, we successfully opened our new EarlyON Centre at St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School in St. Catharines


A Caring And
Welcoming Space

My family and I love the EarlyON Centre at Thorold a lot!

The staff are very caring about my son, Mason, and my parents feel very welcomed too. We feel the centre provides them with a positive and a very valuable learning environment. They learn some English from the EarlyON educators as well.

My parents love Mason and care about his development in every domain. We appreciate that the kids have such a great opportunity to learn and play at the EarlyON Centre. So, they are willing to take a long walk to get there each morning.

I told my parents they can use a language translation app on their phone to communicate with the staff, and it has worked well for them as the centre has Wi-Fi connectivity. I believe they have begun to communicate with the translator a lot over the past few weeks during their visits to the centre.

They are happy to do whatever is good for Mason. And Mason can both learn something new and enjoy outdoor walks with his grandparents.

Employment & Immigrant Services

The YMCA Employment & Immigrant Services teams increased programming to advance its supports to employers, job seekers and new Canadians to meet Niagara’s labour market needs. Service enhancements included advanced mentorships, job matches, skills development and international credential recognition with local employers. YMCA Employment & Immigrant Services continues to be a leader in supporting those who are furthest from the labour market and is instrumental in supporting Immigrants as they make Niagara their new home.

The Employment Services team supported 1,853 in their journey to seek employment, launch new careers and advance their financial independence alongside our organizational partners and local employers

The Youth Gambling Awareness Program (YGAP) reached 4,172 children and youth through school presentations and informative videos on social media monthly

Our Immigrant Services team assisted over 3,503 individuals to build confidence, increase language abilities, and deepen community connections

Finding Success
And A New Home

I first connected with the YMCA Employment & Immigrant Services office in January when I was starting my job search in a new country. I am an internationally trained individual with extensive experience in business, marketing and special events planning. Four months later, what initially seemed like a dream—the desire to get back into my field here in Canada—has come true. Thanks to the team at the YMCA.

Since the beginning, the YMCA team were like my guardian angels in Canada. They held my hand from day one and walked with me all the way to my goal of getting back into a rewarding career in a new country.

The team also helped expand my understanding of the job market and labour market and changed my approach to job searching. They were with me through every step of my job search journey, showed appreciation, and placed value on my accumulated experience from other countries. They not only helped me find the right path, but also helped me focus on what I was searching for, and in the process, set me up for success.

Kelly, whom I first communicated with in Employment Services, helped submit my resume and promptly introduced me to Stephan, the Employment Coach. Stephan then helped me to develop a solid, professional, and impressive resume and cover letter as per standards.

I also completed a free Language Assessment with the YMCA’s CLARS center. Rachel, my assessor, asked me about my career goals in Canada and later connected me Iris, the Career Coach.

Calling my experience “a hidden treasure”, Iris saw my capabilities and potential right away. She helped me focus on my experience, strengths, and qualifications. Iris not only helped create a pathway but also narrowed down potential employment sectors where I could excel. We elected to focus on Event Management. For me, truthfully, this was my ultimate dream.

Iris left no stone unturned and used all accessible sources and connections with employers. And when I wasn’t being shortlisted for interviews, Iris kept encouraging, motivating, and reassuring me. It all came at a time when I was beginning to doubt my skills and abilities.

Finally, my resume found its way to Vintage Inns. I was called in for an interview right away. A few days later, I got the call saying I got the job! After just four months of working with the YMCA and interacting with my guardian angels, I was able to secure the position of Special Events Manager at The Pillar & Post Hotel, one of the most reputed, respected, and luxurious hotels in the area.

I cannot describe my happiness at getting this job: in my favourite field of business, and at a management level. At one time, it felt hopeless and unachievable. Now as I look back, it feels as if the team transformed me. I feel like a caterpillar that transformed into a butterfly that is now happily returning to its natural habitat.

Achieving my career goal within such a remarkably short period, the team at the Y exceeded all my expectations. To summarise my experience with YMCA Employment & Immigrant Services: It was simply incredible.

I had all the best interest, care and the service. The team brought out the best of me and my experience and helped to improve and develop professionally. They are a very humble, helpful, pure and honest team. They never let me feel down nor did they make me feel I was alone. Rather, they kept working with me very hard and offered support till the very end. It genuinely felt like my own family.

All said, they really made my dream come true. Thank you, YMCA Team!

Read Salwa's Full Story >>

Day Camp

This summer we provided a variety of camp programs including Nature Quest (focused on outdoor education), Move & Play (addressing physical literacy and movement) and other innovative specialty camps delivered in partnership with talented community partners.

We operated Winter Break,
March Break and Summer Day
Camps, serving nearly 1,200
individual children

We Operated Winter Holiday, March Break and Summer Day Camps serving nearly 1,200 individual children

We are thankful to the 96
Camp Staff for their tireless efforts,
engaging the campers for 9 consecutive
weeks of Summer Camp at 13 different
locations across the Niagara Region

We are thankful to
the 96 Camp Staff for their tireless efforts, engaging the campers
for 9 consecutive weeks of Summer Camp
at 13 different locations across the Niagara Region

Adventure Club, a referral-based program in collaboration with valued community partners, offered 64 children active, outdoor program experiences in the fall and spring at locations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls


Thanks to the support of 1,123 donors we raised over $202,488 this past year

Although 2021-22 has been a challenging year for many, our community and funders came together and supported the YMCA through generous giving that ensured we were able to fulfill our mission to be as accessible as possible. Through their support, we were able to provide necessary programs to serve children and families when they needed us the most. Children and youth shared lasting experiences through Adventure Club, Day Camp, and Youth Outreach.

The pandemic has taught us that when a community comes together, we are stronger. As a result, our impact on those around us is felt deeper and our reach is amplified. We also extend our gratitude to our funders who trust the YMCA in our ability to meet community needs. Thank you for making a difference and enabling us to achieve our mission.

Thank You!

A huge thank you to the Ontario Trillium Foundation
(OTF) for awarding three
grants to the YMCA of Niagara this past year, including a capital grant worth $498,000—through the Community Building Fund—to assist with the repair, renovation or retrofitting of existing sport and recreation facilities to address local community need or public health requirements identified through COVID-19.


This will help extend the life of our existing facilities for everyone in the community and maximise their use.

These retrofits ensure all members, especially those with mobility challenges and visual impairment, can safely access all program areas and exits throughout the facility. Ensuring accessibility is one way to remove potential barriers to physical activity and promote health and fitness for everyone.

Please visit our website to learn how the YMCA of Niagara assists your community at large.

Continue Reading >>

Financial Highlights

Year Ended August 31, 2022

Statement of Financial Position

Statement of Operations

Thank You

We close this year with a clear understanding that we truly are #STRONGERTOGETHER and are gaining momentum towards a brighter future.