For the last decade, the Mankato Family YMCA has hosted a multitude of youth socials for kids in the community. But on Saturday, March 18, the Y combined resources to host YPalooza — its largest individual youth social event.
Dustin Slaughter, the youth activities and summer camp director at the Mankato Family YMCA, said the organization recently decided to hold one large event for children each semester instead of doing many socials throughout the year.
“The socials have transformed in various ways,” said Slaughter. “I have been involved with them since 2017. We used to do one youth social each month. However, as time has passed our attendance would vary based on the time of year. After reviewing our trends, we decided this idea is a better direction to head. I am excited about this new idea and the excitement surrounding it.”
Slaughter said the inaugural YPalooza featured several structured activities and attractions for attendees. Namely, there were two giant inflatables for kids to bounce, joust and fly in. A day and nighttime Nerf War was also held in the Y’s spacious Aerobic Studio.
“The beloved game of gaga ball made an appearance as well,” said Slaughter. “Glow-in-the-dark dodgeball, basketball and football were held in our Red Gym. The kids had the option to utilize our swimming pool for open swim. We gave away prizes for the lucky individuals who participated in our carnival, which had a variety of games where youth can earn tickets.”
The Y’s Pepsi Rec Room was open for children who liked to play pool, air hockey, fuse ball or ping pong. Finally, the event had concessions for purchase and prizes given away throughout the night.
A youth social at the Y is $15 and is open to both members and nonmembers in grades 2-5. Slaughter said this structure allows youth who have not been to the YMCA or those who don’t typically enter through the doors to come for a night and see what the facility has to offer.
“By having a successful program such as youth socials, it gives our YMCA exposure to the general public for all our other programs such as summer camp, after school adventures or even youth sports,” said Slaughter. “Our connection to the youth in our community is the gateway for growth and development of young youth leaders.”
Event Goals and Tips
Slaughter said his personal hope for YPalooza is to impact as many youths in the community as possible. His stated objective for the event was to have over 200 children within the YMCA walls enjoying themselves.
“My goal for any and all events and programs we are host is that the environment is safe, inclusive and memorable,” said Slaughter. “My advice for other entities wanting to serve youth is to build relationships with any and all kids who come into your space.”
He said once that initial relationship is built, ask questions like what interests them, what kind of activities they wish they could do, what their hobbies are, etc. Then, make their dreams and interests a reality.
“Take what the kids want and make it come alive,” said Slaughter. “I am a firm believer the atmosphere is just as important, if not more important, than the actual activities happening. If the kids feel like it’s different, uplifting, bright and positive — it’s an automatic win.”
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