YMCA project receives $750,000

Dancel foundation helping to fund renovation effort


The Howard County YMCA has received $750,000 from the Dancel Family Foundation of Columbia to help fund its $11.2 million renovation project, which will more than double the facility's space.

The construction project, scheduled to begin in the fall, includes two gyms, a therapy pool and a climbing wall at the Ellicott City facility.

"It's like a miracle," said Troy Weaver, the YMCA's executive director. "It's very, very exciting to have someone step up and have someone understand the mission of the YMCA and help us move forward with our mission."

The donation from the Dancel family also has created a partnership between the YMCA and the Columbia Ravens, a youth sports organization that Bernie Dancel, chairman and CEO of the financial services company Ascend One Corp., helped form in 2003.

The Columbia Ravens organization has basketball, football and cheerleading programs.

It will provide the youth basketball program at the YMCA and cover the operating costs of the gyms, which will be called "the home of the Columbia Ravens," Dancel said.

The Columbia Ravens - which has more than 500 football players, 125 cheerleaders and 200 basketball players - is more than just "another youth sports program," said Dancel, of Clarksville, pointing to the program's recent partnership with Howard schools to provide a tutoring program.

He said he believed the YMCA and the Columbia Ravens could do more together, "and this funding was really about bringing them together so they could do more for Howard County families."

Weaver said he hopes the renovation and partnership with the Ravens will double the YMCA's membership of 7,367. He said the YMCA and the Ravens are "really, really close in our mission," pointing out that about 20 percent of the Ravens' participants are on scholarship, while about 30 percent of the children in the YMCA's summer camp also are on scholarship.

The renovation project is scheduled to be completed by January 2008 and includes five locker rooms, two community meeting rooms and a cycling center.

The YMCA has secured some of the money for the project from a $1.5 million state bond and a $2 million land sale to Howard County schools, Weaver said. The organization would like to raise about $3 million and finance the rest, Weaver said.

Dancel said he and his wife, Connie, established their foundation to help fund causes that affect children and education, and their donation to the YMCA helps to fulfill that mission.

"We are really looking for ways to provide access to services ... to all children, not just those who can afford it," Dancel said.


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