The Down East Family YMCA will be offering free memberships to all eligible sixth-grade students in its service area. DEFY facilities include the James Russell Wiggins Center in Ellsworth (pictured), the Lawrence Family Fitness Center in Blue Hill and the Bucksport YMCA. FILE PHOTO

Sixth-graders eligible for free YMCA memberships

ELLSWORTH — Thanks to a successful fundraising campaign to support the effort, the Down East Family YMCA is offering a free year of membership to each eligible sixth-grader in the nonprofit’s service area.

DEFY serves most of Hancock County with the exception of those towns that fall under the umbrella of the Mount Desert Island YMCA. The James Russell Wiggins Center in Ellsworth, the Lawrence Family Fitness Center in Blue Hill and the Bucksport YMCA are all part of the DEFY family. Homeschooled sixth-graders in the service area are also eligible for membership.

Membership benefits include access to the Wiggins Center gym and pool during open hours (when other programming is not scheduled in the space), cardio room usage and reduced rates for youth sports . The Y is also developing a recreation program featuring activities such as cornhole and water polo that would be geared toward youth in this age range.

The new gym at the Lawrence Center is expected to open in the fall, expanding programming options in Blue Hill. The Bucksport facility offers a small fitness center as well as youth sports.

The free membership initiative was made possible by the annual campaign that wrapped up last month. In 2021, DEFY raised over $154,000 to support the program. As an organization, youth development is one of the three key areas of focus, along with healthy living and social responsibility.

Beginning Feb. 1, eligible sixth-graders may go to the YMCA and fill out an application to begin their free yearly membership.

“We have always felt that this initiative would be a great way to give back to the community we love,” said CEO Peter Farragher.

For more information, contact [email protected].

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