Taking Care Of Our Roots

Years ago, garden guru Bill Beckett spoke of the importance of good roots. If you wanted anything to grow, you had to feed and nurture the roots. If you were patient and attentive, your reward just might be a patch of sunflowers or a garden full of delicious tomatoes.

The same can be said of raising children. You can’t expect them to thrive if they aren’t cared for and protected. And that is one tough job in these times of both parents working to make ends meet. An even greater challenge is finding ways to pull their eyes away from devices. Exercise of the body and mind are crucial to a healthy child.

When I recall the years our son spent at the YMCA in Elm Grove — from summer day camp days through visits home from college — I often think some of his best “roots” took hold there and grew. From the time he was old enough to bounce a basketball, the YMCA was the place to go and learn about sports, friendships and respect.

Many of the people he met have remained lifelong friends. It didn’t matter they came from various backgrounds, they were just kids enjoying the same things. That says something about how a place can have a lasting effect on one’s life.

We also were fortunate to have met some good leaders at the Y who gave our son the fundamentals of sportsmanship and fair play on the court and in life. Bryan Gaus was one of those guys. He was program director at the Y when our son first began his membership there. Gaus is one of those guys who you knew you could trust from the start. He did not disappoint.

In addition to his work at the Y, Gaus was and is still a local basketball official. It was his work ethic and guidance that most likely influenced our son to also take on officiating duties when he still lived in Wheeling. While Gaus went on to pursue a career in law enforcement, I believe there are many parents who also appreciate the time he spent with their kids at the YMCA.

If you have young children, introduce them to swimming or sports with the help of Y program coordinators who know their way around kids. The team there is always looking for ways to improve what they do and offer programs suited to today’s families and individuals. If you’ve never visited, stop in or call the YMCA in Elm Grove and the staff would be happy to show you around. And if you have some ideas for improving the offerings there, let them know.

Each year, the YMCA honors a person or group for their contributions to youth in the Ohio Valley. Before there were Lights of the Valley, there were sparks — people like Bryan Gaus. Thanks to all of them.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.