September 16, 2004
At 11 years old, Albert Torres gained confidence, met role models and learned how to work on minibikes at the Mesa Family YMCA.
Now, at 31, the Mesa native is working as a full-time assistant with the same program that attracted him to the YMCA 20 years ago — the National Youth Project Using Mini Bikes.
"I lived across the street and would come to use the pool before I was offered to be in the (minibike) club," Torres said. "My dad was handicapped and passed away when I was 13, so I needed male role models."
The after-school motivational program teaches 10- to 15-year-olds basic maintenance on little motorcycles and gives them an opportunity to ride the bikes at a local motocross racing park.
The minibike program is one of dozens of after-school, sports, aquatics and fitness activities offered at the Mesa YMCA, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.
A celebration fund-raising dinner, program, silent auction and theater production is planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 5247 E. Broadway Road. The program will take a look at where the Mesa Family YMCA has come from, where the club is now and what lies in the future.
A second Mesa YMCA facility is planned for the Arizona Health and Technology Park at Baseline and Recker roads, with groundbreaking expected in a year.
The original Mesa club was a 2,000-square-foot house on the same 10 acres at
207 N. Mesa Drive where the recently renovated 35,000-square-foot building sits, said Damon Olsen, executive director of the Mesa branch.
In the early years, the nonprofit organization was geared more toward youth, with programs such as leadership and government. Now, the biggest needs are health, fitness, after-school programs and preschool programs, Olsen said.
"We pride ourselves on having programs available from the womb to the tomb," said Olsen, whose 2-year-old daughter, Hope, is in the preschool program.
The Mesa Family YMCA offers everything from a prenatal exercise program to a Silver Sneaker program, for those 55 and older, with exercise and dance classes.
The Mesa club has a teen technology lab with 12 computers, a gymnasium with a basketball court, a high rope challenge course and rock climbing wall, a swimming pool, two racquetball courts and an outside playing field.
Although the club puts Christian principles and values to practice, YMCA, which stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, is open every day to men and women, regardless of race, age or religious affiliation, Olsen said.
Bob Quinn enjoys working out at the Mesa club at least five days a week. The retired Motorola engineer and Mesa resident mainly uses the treadmill and elliptical machine and takes a muscle fitness class.
"They’ve got good equipment here and it’s readily accessible to my house," said Quinn, 59, who joined more than a year ago with his wife, Pearl Ann.
With 2,200 members and about 100 paid staff, the Mesa club relies heavily on volunteers to serve on boards, coach sports teams and help out at the club.
One of those longtime volunteers is Bob Bloom, a board member who first sponsored an after-school junior high boys club in 1963. The retired Mesa High School American history and sociology teacher said ever since, he hasn’t wanted to quit.
"It was an obligation I enjoyed because they were good kids," said Bloom, 68, a Mesa resident who has helped with a number of activities throughout the years. "The Y is good for values and the approach they take, teaching dependability and the whole idea of working together as a team."
For information on the Mesa Family YMCA, call (480) 827- 4100 or visit
If You Go
What: Mesa Family YMCA 50th Anniversary Celebration fund-raiser, dinner, program, silent auction and Forever Plaid theater production
Where: Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 5247 E. Brown Road, Mesa
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $75 a person or $500 for a table of six; call Whitney Herrera at (480) 827-4100, Ext. 104, or purchase at the event
Money goes to: YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign, a scholarship program