Eight YMCA's from all over northern Indiana participated in the 20th Annual YMCA Summer Day Camp Olympics. Hammond, Hobart, Southlake (Crown Point), Portage, Duneland, Valpo, LaPorte, and the Michiana (South Bend) YMCA's came together in Portage on July 15, 2010 to have some fun competing in non-competitive "Olympics" activities . Over 450 kids took over Trumble Field at Willowcreek Middle School leaping, running, and just plain goofing off in varying track and field events. The weather was hot and muggy, but the kids didn't seem to mind at all as they were cheering on their fellow YMCAers. "We get to meet the other YMCA's and meet the other kids from the YMCA's and kind of see what they do at their camp," said Nancy Simpson, Marketing Director for the Portage Township YMCA.
Rick Lewis, Sports and Team Director at the Duneland Family YMCA said, "I truly believe that we need to do more of these types of things. This is the type of stuff that bridges gaps." Or perhaps brings more of a sense of pride to one's area and particular YMCA branch as the individual YMCA's shouted out organized cheers for their respective squads. Nonetheless, it gives kids a chance to have a blast while building relationships with the people around them. Lauren Nandernack, Day Camp Coordinator from the Southlake YMCA, also commented that she was glad that this year was non-competitive and there weren't first, second, and third place awards for events but rather that it was about participation. "It's all about good sportsmanship instead of being competitive with each other, " said Nandernack. "That's my favorite part about it."
Later on in the day, a true Olympian by the name of Bill Mulliken showed up to surprise the kids and talk to them about his experiences swimming in the Olympics as well as being able to attain to the highest mark of an athlete, winning a gold medal. Mulliken competed for the U.S. in the 1960 Rome Olympics and finished ahead of everybody else in the 200-meter breaststroke. "I like kids," Mulliken added, as an 8-year old girl approached him and told him that she'd never met a gold medalist before. "These kids are all the age of my grandchildren. I want to encourage people to get into this sport [swimming], because it really is a wonderful sport."
Apparently, the vast audience of kids took Mulliken's encouragment literally as they headed over to Portage High School East to compete in swimming events. This was the part of the day that I was most wanting to join in! Some of the YMCA kids looked a little nervous as they got in their position for the race in the pool, but once they got accustomed to their surroundings as well as the other competitors in the pool with them, they dove right in. One of the kids, Hannah Oozano from the YMCA of Michiana, outfitted in her latest swim apparel confessed before the race that she was indeed nervous. "I'm not really good at backstroke, and I have to do 25-meter backstroke and I'm really scared," Oozano said rather sheepishly. I assured her that she would do fine. And, she did, because she gave it her best. And, I think when it comes down to it, putting forth your best effort is what defines a true Olympian anyways.
To see a really exciting video, click here!