Our local YMCA began in 1856, when a group of twenty men, set about to combat the problems of the day as young rural men flocked to Hamilton and were lured into “vice and dissipation.” This group believed that life would be improved for everyone in the community by providing healthy activities, positive influences and a welcoming place for these young men to gather. With this purpose in mind, they lay the foundation for the YMCA of Hamilton.
Many things have changed in more than 150 years. Yet at our core there remains a desire to respond to local needs in ways that strengthen the community for everyone.
Take a rich visual journey through our history in the 150th Anniversary Scrapbook
. Explore social change, including world wars and the Great Depression, through the lens of the YMCA's role in our community.
- In 1889, Hamilton YMCA at James and Jackson streets made history as the first building on the continent built specifically for YMCA work.
- YMCA Wanakita overnight camp opens in Haliburton in 1953. Today it is the largest YMCA camp in Canada providing camp experiences for children and families.
- Burlington Family YMCA (now Ron Edwards Family YMCA) opens in 1970, giving the city its first indoor pool. Nine years later we officially become Hamilton/Burlington YMCA.
- Our first Early Learning child care centre opens in 1982. School Age Child Care is added two years later. Today we offer working parents YMCA Child Care at more than 100 locations across three cities.
- YMCA Employment Services is added in 1986 in recognition of the role employment plays in the well-being of individuals and communities.
- In 2000, the YMCA moves into the community with the launch of Beyond the Bell, a program to help children at inner city schools improve their reading, math, social skills, nutrition and physical literacy.
- Flamborough Family YMCA opens in Waterdown in May, 2001.
- In 2007 the YMCA launches the first of a series of LiveWell programs for people with chronic health issues, and we begin serving the needs of immigrants through YMCA Immigrant Services.
- After merging with Brantford Family YMCA in 2008, our name is changed to YMCA of Hamilton|Burlington|Brantford.
- Les Chater Family YMCA opens on the Hamilton Mountain in 2009.
- In 2013 Y on Wheels, our mobile YMCA, brings Y programming to under-serviced neighbourhoods at their request. Y on Wheels delivers programs - from resume writing to recreation, to people of all ages 290 days per year.
The YMCA in Canada
In the mid-19th century, the industrialization of first-world economies brought young men in great numbers into cities, looking for work. In 1844, a group of people founded the YMCA in England to provide these new arrivals with a positive influence and a chance to make friends. The idea spread and the first YMCA in North America got its start in Montreal, Quebec in 1851.
Originally a place where religious teachings inspired young men to be the best they could be, we quickly expanded to serve people of all ages, faiths, backgrounds and abilities.
The YMCA in Canada has had a lasting influence on our country’s culture in many ways: three Canadian universities grew out of YMCA education programs (Carleton, York, and Concordia); and Canadian James Naismith, a YMCA staff member, created the popular game of basketball. For more information on the YMCA in Canada visit ymca.ca.