Variety Week: John R. Grubb YMCA - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Variety Week: John R. Grubb YMCA

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By Lisa Martone

DES MOINES -- It's the simple things that Ryan Westerkamp lives to see.

"Some kids won't put their head under water the first day they get here and by the time they are done with our program, they can swim part of the pool length," said Westerkamp, youth sports director at the John R. Grubb YMCA in Des Moines.

Every few weeks a class of elementary age kids graduates from the John R. Grubb YMCA's swim class. Along with tips on holding their breath under water, these kids learned life skills and how to work with others.

"Helping kids get access to sports activities, getting access to positive role models and also getting access to activities that are going to help them grow…that's what we do," explained Cameron Nicholson, executive director at the Grubb YMCA.

This swim program and many others like it are made possible by the charitable donations of Variety the Children's Charity. Each year the group donates an average of $70,000 to the YMCA. Its latest donation went to facility improvement: new lockers and new floors.

"They have invested heavily into our facility so that we have the tools to deliver these programs," said Nicholson.

The money also goes to provide services to the kids that come here, kids that if it weren't for the extra money coming in, would not be able to attend this after school program.

"Probably about 85 percent of the kids that are in our youth sports program receive some form of financial assistance," said Nicholson.

"The people that we have here at the John R. Grubb YMCA can't afford maybe some programs that they would like to be in, so dollars from other people lets these kids be involved in these programs," Westerkamp said.

The Variety Telethon begins this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on ABC5. You can donate to Variety right now by clicking on their logo in the Big Blue Box on our website at


More about The Variety Telethon

Variety, The Children's Charity Telethon for 2013 will be on March 9 & 10 at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines.

ABC5 anchors Amanda Krenz, Rachel Pierce and ABC5's Chief Meteorologist Brad Edwards will co-host the telethon this year.

Variety's first telethon in 1975 raised $150,000 and went to one grant recipient, Blank Children's Hospital.  Now 38 years later, Variety has raised over $90 million that has been granted to agencies serving children across the State of Iowa and have put over 300 Sunshine Coaches on the road transporting children to new adventures.  Thanks to the cast members, volunteers and donors who support Variety during Telethon and throughout the year, Variety is able to raise the much needed funds for Iowa's Children.

Variety, Children's Charity website:

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