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Nearly 75 percent of U.S. kids ages 7-24 are ineligible for military service because of health problems, obesity, criminal background, or educational deficiency. This should be a serious concern to everyone.

For many years I have believed that greater participation in organized sports is a partial answer. Fremont has many sports facilities, volunteer coaches, and business sponsors. But we do not reach many of our kids and particularly those most in need.

When the YMCA accepted the $4.2 million gift from Evelyn Sidner they agreed that the YMCA would provide all additional expenses required for construction. Early in the rink operation the YMCA determined that the ice rink should be operated the same as all other programs. But only the rink is closed five months of the year, and most significantly in the summer months when our kids have time to play or practice and opportunity for development programs. Midland hockey team members taught and interested some of our youngest boys and girls in hockey but April 21 the door to their interest and activity was closed. Why?

Our community YMCA refuses to release information concerning the rink. However, the Foundation annual reports detail the amounts it distributed from four endowments as $153,488 in 2017 and $149,416 in 2016. In addition, in 2017 the city granted $4,500 (a privately sponsored and financed Secret Santa program for kids had been terminated by the YMCA). Additionally the rink obtains revenue from concessions, equipment rentals, banners, public and team skating, party room rental, broom ball, and curling. In 2016, aside from endowments the Foundation distributed the expense of compressor repair and $29,856 for other rink repairs.

The rink does not share in membership fees, United Fund donations, or May Trust distributions.

In the 7 months, the rink is used for practice and games by Midland’s hockey teams, a high school team, at least one select travel team, age designated teams, and figure skaters at the rink. These all pay for ice time.

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Evelyn Sidner contributed over $6 million for the rink and two endowments with the intent and belief, as shared by the donor of the other two endowments, that the rink would be open year around. One of her endowments requires that all kids in the Fremont area under age 15 not be charged for ice time. Since the rink is closed during the months when these kids could most effectively use the free time and have involvement with organized programs, her gifts and intent have been sadly dishonored. Is this acceptable? During the initial fundraising the availability of the rink in the hot summer months was emphasized. What has changed?

In know of no reason the rink should not be open 12 months a year. It is my hope that others might share my concern and express their concerns with the leaders of the Fremont YMCA.

Neil Schilke is the Sidner trustee/donor.

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