Impact Story May 2018


Impact Story: Jennifer Dunn

Every publication, press release and Facebook post is created by her to draw people in. She’s the woman behind the scenes who has promoted the YMCA’s cause since 2005. She’s also reaching out to help shine a light into the dark issues that we face collectively as a community. Her name is Jennifer Dunn and she serves as Marketing Director and Community Outreach for the YMCA of Western Stark County.

Her role in rallying support to assist others began in 2014. Jen recalls a young woman whom was a past employee at the Y and a mother to a beautiful baby girl named Kenzie. Courtney was in need of equipment that could assist with her daughter Kenzie’s care after being diagnosed with HIE and cerebral palsy. Seeing this and wanting to help in some way, Jen came up with an idea. That’s when the annual Towpath Trail Y Miles That Matter 5K Family Fun Run/Walk was born.

It was decided that all of the funds earned from the 5K would be equally divided between the YMCA Annual Campaign and Kenzie’s family. “We pulled it off in just over one month,” Jen proclaims. Pretty impressive for all that went into planning and preparing for an event that grew so rapidly. Over 200 people showed up that day to show their support. “I’ll always remember that first one,” Jen shares. “Kenzie will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Since then, there’s been a total of three other families that have been reached through the Miles That Matter run with plans for the next one taking place this September to help assist a little boy that faces multiple illnesses.

The 5K Family Fun Runs not only bring families together for fitness, but also bring awareness to two causes. The YMCA Annual Campaign is a sustaining fundraising campaign that provides scholarship dollars for kids, families and individuals in need of YMCA of Western Stark County programs. By also helping a community member in need, we have brought awareness to HIE, cerebral palsy, breast cancer, brain cancer, KGB Syndrome, and now hydrocephalus, Chiari malformation, and epilepsy.

In addition, because of the growing support that has developed from Miles That Matter, a similar annual 5K event was created last year at the Massillon Family YMCA for families in that community as well: Run For A Reason. The first one raised awareness and funds for a little girl and her family. This June, one of our own Y employees will be our special guest as we support her family during her fight against breast cancer.

Prior to working at the Y, Jen was the Senior Customer Service Representative for a textbook company working full time when her daughter, Abigail, was born. Around that time, the Towpath Trail Y was being built and Jen felt led to become a part of it.

She knew it was a good choice for her family as well because she could bring Abigail with her to work and use Child Watch during her time in the office. “She’s all grown up now but I’m still here,” she adds with a laugh.

Jen explains what it’s like to work at the Y, “We have a caring, dedicated and determined team,” she emphasizes, “and they’re not just my coworkers, they’re my friends.” Whenever there’s an event or program being developed, everyone steps in to help. “We know we can’t accomplish things as one person but we all work together to accomplish all of our goals.”

Along with that, Jen describes her absolute favorite part of the job - meeting with individuals and families in the community and finding ways that the YMCA can bridge the gaps of today’s issues. By that, it could be a teenager that’s struggling in school and needs a place of belonging. Or maybe offering a family night where everyone is welcome to enjoy a free evening of food and fellowship.

Jen has recently begun working with local school districts to offer full scholarships to at-risk teens. “My biggest goal is community outreach with schools,” she says. Jen’s spent this past year specifically working with local family support specialists at the schools to help aid in the devastating suicide contagion.

Along with offering at-risk teens free or reduced Y memberships, recently being developed is a program where the school employees of all four local school districts including Perry, Fairless, Tuslaw and Massillon, can take time to relax after their workday and find a sense of peace. The Y will offer a free yoga class every week held on-site that is open to all school employees in each district.

To show our appreciation for their dedication to our students, we are also offering them a reduced rate on a Y membership so they have a place to go for self-care and stress relief. “There’s always new goals we’re working towards,” Jen adds. “As a team, we all come up with those ideas in knowing that together, we can accomplish them.”

And through these efforts, there’s an impact being made on each life that’s being reached by programs and ideas put into action. For example, Jen was given the task of finding 14 at risk-teens to offer free memberships to. After those were quickly dispensed, more and more calls have been coming in from the schools with additional names of teens who could benefit from Y memberships. “I can’t turn them away,” she stresses, “So I say ‘sure’ let's figure it out.”

For many of them, it’s changed their life completely. Parents and counselors are calling with updates excitedly explaining how the children are becoming happier, healthier and feeling more confident. Some of the teens help set up group exercise equipment for classes or events and are encouraged by the staff and members they’re around. They’re feeling like they’re truly a part of something, perhaps for the first time ever. “It makes you feel good coming to work and knowing you can make a difference in somebody’s life,” Jen states, “That’s what I like most about my job, when you can see the results of someone that you’ve helped.”

And that’s what this organization is about. Jen describes the Y as this: “A place where people can come together and be themselves and know that the people around them are there to support them.”

Through Jen’s heart for the community, she and the Y team will continue to reach as many people as possible by putting Christian principles into practice and making sure that no one is ever turned away. She concludes, “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”


For where two or three gather in My name, I am there among them.

Matthew 18:20


Written by Kaitlyn Meister


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