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Mission Statement

The mission of the Brainerd Family YMCA is to enhance lives in the Brainerd Lakes Area by connecting individuals and families with opportunities based on Christian values that build a healthy spirit, mind & body.

Brainerd Family YMCA's History - Since 1889



The Brainerd Family YMCA continues to be a community hub, providing programs and services which help develop strong and resilient youth, support healthy living and wellness, and to also create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.  Through partnerships with Crow Wing Energized, Crow Wing County Community Services, Brainerd Public Schools, and many others, the Y has worked to expand collaborative efforts as well as develop supportive programs and classes for everyone, including the most vulnerable among us.  New programs in the area of community wellness such as Healthy Weight and Your Child, the National Diabetes Prevention Program, STEM, and Summer Learning Loss Prevention, and safety around water education in our youth programs now complement other programs the Y is known for such as swim team, land and water fitness programs, licensed day care, and youth sports.  This program growth supports our belief that the Y is so much more.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Y continued to provide essential services and even expanded its role in the community.  During this period, the Y partnered with The Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes to help distribute nutritious meal packets to families in the community.  Concurrently, the Y gained certification through CACFP to help address local food inequities.  Recognizing the need for affordable and quality child care, the Y provided further focus in this program area.  Later, during the summer of 2020, Camp Vanasek became a part of the YMCA and is now owned and operated through the YMCA providing life changing experiences to youth in our community each summer.

The future of the Brainerd Family YMCA is bright.  Recognizing that he original building design does not meet the programming needs of the future, the Board of Directors has begun exploratory conversations with key institutional and philanthropic partners about what our community's needs are long term.  The Y model of the future leads with programming.  These needs are being assessed to help determine what the facility needs are and what footprint the organization might have throughout our community.  Currently, the Y is working through a Capital Planning and Development process and has hired a professional consulting firm to help assess the existing facility assets and performance, look at market demand and assess various locations, determine a scope of improvements, then formulate a real estate and facility development program.  After this phase, the Y will move through funding, design, construction, and operations phases-ultimately expanding the breadth and depth of impact that our community needs to build OUR future YMCA.


In 2002, the YMCA finished completion of a new aquatic center, fitness studio, babysitting area, new lobby and administrative offices, youth programs area/multi-purpose lounge, locker rooms, family changing rooms, general renovation of the existing facility and the expansion of the parking lot.


In 1998, a 1,300 square foot Wellness Center was built at the site of the original daycare play yard on the west side of the facility.  Driven by membership and program growth, along with an aging facility prompted staff and board to kick off what led to be a successful $4.5 million dollar capital campaign in 1999, the largest this area has ever witnessed.


As the community needs grew, the board of directors entered the second phase of fundraising in 1968. A community fund drive was inaugurated to obtain funds to build an addition of a gym, handball courts and additional locker rooms. Some $330,000 was pledged and construction began.  It was completed in the summer of 1970. This new addition included a 106 foot x 72 foot gymnasium, two regulation handball courts, an entrance and lobby, exercise area for girls and women and a future locker room for boys and men.  All of this helped make Brainerd "one of the great places to live".


In 1953, Brainerd resident Louis Hostager passed away and left $200,000 to be used for the construction of a new YMCA. With this initial gift and through additional donations, $315,000 was raised to build the first phase of the new facility which was completed in 1962.

The new YMCA included the first Olympic size swimming pool in the City of Brainerd. The Brainerd High School swim team used the pool for several years at 6 AM for practice. The philosophy of primarily serving boys and men also began to evolve.  Programs and services were developed for the entire family, making it a true family YMCA.

Late 1800's

Looking for a "wholesome place to spend  their leisure time", the Northern Pacific Railroad proposed establishing a YMCA in Brainerd in 1885.  By 1889, the first site of the Brainerd YMCA was built on the corner of 6th and Front Street.  Tis building included two reading rooms, a lounge and a gymnasium area.  This was one of the first, if not the first gymnasium in Brainerd. It served the Brainerd Community until 1946 when it was torn down. Plans were immediately made to start raising funds for a new building

The Y Movement's Beginning

The YMCA was founded in London in 1844 by George Williams and a small group of his friends to help young people find a positive foundation for their lives The YMCA came to America in Boston in 1851, and quickly spread throughout the United States.