Almanac: YMCA

Almanac: YMCA 02:12

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: December 29, 1851, 162 years ago today . . . the day a helping hand reached out in Boston. 

The Young Men's Christian Association debuted in America.

Retired sea captain and lay preacher Thomas Sullivan modeled his vision after the original YMCA in London, founded just a few years earlier.

He wanted to provide a home away from home for young sailors who, he feared, might be led astray by the vices of the big city, such as gambling, drinking and prostitution.

The organization was formally instituted at the Old South Church in Boston, just in time for the New Year.  Its stated goal: to "meet the young stranger as he enters our city, take him by the hand . . . and in every way throw around him good influences, so that he may feel that he is not a stranger."

The YMCA offered opportunities for Bible study, socializing and exercise.

In fact, the game of basketball was actually invented at the "Y" in 1891, by Canadian-born teacher and coach Dr. James Naismith.

From its founding, the YMCA expanded its outreach, providing relief for soldiers in every conflict since the Civil War; supporting new waves of immigrants arriving to work in the factories of the Industrial Revolution; and eventually welcoming people of all faiths.

Today, the "Y" operates worldwide, and is a gathering spot for more than 21 million Americans in 10,000 neighborhoods across the country.

In 2010, President Obama joined other "Y" volunteers sprucing up the walls at a Washington, D.C., middle school.

The YMCA is so much a part of the American landscape, it even inspired a pop song -- and spoof -- recorded by the Village People.

Quite a feather in the cap of a Yankee from Boston.

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