YMCA program changes children's lives

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - 9-year old Ezra Phillips, the little fella we saw desperately trying to reach the top of the playground bars is just like any other child at the Prattville YMCA.

"I'm very happy," he said.

Happy and energetic primarily because the 'Y's' Coach A Child Campaign is paying half of his child care and half of his share of the 'Y' membership.

Nothing short of a Godsend, according to his mom Carrie Black-Phillips.

"It's made a tremendous difference. He's made a lot of good friends and it's Christian-based," said Black-Phillips.

You see, Ezra Phillips comes from a single-family home, and the Coach A Child program is like a scholarship, offering a free-ride or partial access to 'Y' programs, a campaign designed to help children overcome an unfortunate bounce in life.

"These are people who are unable to afford a program or membership, so what we do is we have a 3-part fundraiser program; a golf tournament, a membership drive, and later this month former Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Gene Stallings will be the guest speaker for the third leg of the annual fundraiser," said YMCA Branch Executive Keith Cantrell.

"I've been swimming 3 times," said an excited Ezra Phillips.

Coach A Child seems to be a gift that keeps on giving. Cantrell has seen what it does to a child in terms of physical development, self-esteem and even academics.

One story stands out above the rest.

"We had another child who was struggling in school and now that he's here his grades went up and got in less trouble," said Cantrell.

"I think everything's been impacted. He's grown spiritually," said Black-Phillips of her son Ezra.

YMCA leaders say they estimate hundreds of children have changed for the better over 7 years thanks to the Coach A Child campaign.

"I like playing at the 'Y' with my friends," said Phillips.

If history is any guide then Ezra Phillips is on his way.

The Prattville YMCA has a goal of raising $80,000 this year to keep funding the Coach A Child program.

Coach Stallings will speak at the east Prattville 'Y' on August 19th at 6:30. Tickets are still on sale as of this report.

Email Bryan Henry at bhenry@wsfa.com if you know of someone or an organization that's making a difference.

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