The YMCA Partner with Youth Annual Campaign in Cherokee County has raised $33,364 so far, according to campaign Chairman Tony Perry of Woodstock.
The campaign's goal is $150,000, which will be used to pay for disadvantaged children and families to attend YMCA summer day camp, sports programs and aquatics programs and use its exercise facilities.
Last year, hundreds of donors contributed a total of $143,000 to provide those in need access to the Cherokee Outdoor YMCA at Lake Allatoona in Woodstock and the full-service G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA in Canton.
Perry said the organization decided to up the ante and challenge donors with a unique twist called Cherokee 1000.
The idea for the new program is for 1,000 individuals to give $100 each to help the YMCA raise $100,000 toward meeting its overall goal.
Returning this year to the campaign is the banner recognition program for major donors.
Individuals or businesses giving $1,000 or more will be recognized with a banner featuring their name hanging in the lobby of the YMCA facility of their choice.
Like other nonprofit organizations, the YMCA faces an elephant in the room: many of their longtime donors' inability to give as much as they have in the past - or any money at all.
Perry also said the organization faces indifference and "willingness to procrastinate" among prospective donors.
To challenge that mindset, he said, it's the YMCA's job to make people understand how important their gift is to those who stand to benefit from it.
Despite those hurdles, Perry said he believes the YMCA could realistically reach its goal.
"Everyone just has to do his or her part," he said.
One in four children at the YMCA receives some sort of financial aid to participate in activities, said Toby Bramblett, associate executive director at the YMCA in Cherokee.
And those kids aren't necessarily from poorer backgrounds, Bramblett said.
The YMCA has started reaching out to area elementary school counselors to identify children they believe could benefit from the scholarships over the past 18 months.
Bramblett said having enough funds for scholarships not only allows children to experience a "sense of camaraderie" at the YMCA, but it also alleviates the burden of parents worried about childcare during the summer break from school.
"We want to be able to take those decisions off the table for parents," he said.
The financial assistance available at the YMCA has indeed been a godsend for single parent Veronnica Blackwell of Holly Springs.
Ms. Blackwell has been a member of the YMCA for five years, and her three children - ages 11, 8, and 7 - will be attending summer camp at the YMCA for the third consecutive year.
She said she likes the values the YMCA counselors teach her children. Even said her youngest son, who she said suffered from "anger issues," has come a long way since attending camp there.
Ms. Blackwell said she hopes everyone in the community can come to understand the importance the YMCA has in a child's life and how much of a lifeline the scholarships are for many families.
"Its about investing in the life of a child that otherwise won't have the opportunity to go to camp," she said.