Healthy Island Living, Together

By Heather Frese | Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Island communities have historically been tight-knit, with people of all ages relying on one another to share resources, weather storms and celebrate good times. On the Outer Banks the evidence of this island spirit is vibrantly visible at the YMCA where children, families and senior adults gather to work out, play and connect with one another. A multitude of programs offer everything from child care services to aquatics to group exercise classes and team sports, with new programs being developed to appeal to all age groups. As we journey through the stages of our lives, the Outer Banks Family YMCA serves as a reminder that we don’t have to walk alone. 

There’s a lot of truth to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child,” and the YMCA recognizes this with outstanding child care, youth programs and family activities. Stay and Play child care is available for children from ages 6 weeks to 7 years. “It’s more than just watching the children,” says Ryan Henderson, the Outer Banks Family YMCA’s Director of Operations. The child care is focused on intentional programming and interacting with the children through activities designed to stimulate their development while moms and dads work out. Music, arts, crafts, reading and science experiments are all part of the Stay and Play curriculum.

Outer Banks YMCA pool

For older kids, the YMCA offers a host of options, with strong youth programs in sports such as basketball, soccer and cheerleading. There’s a summer camp, as well, which recently went through an upgrade. Henderson says the camp focuses on skills and attribute development. “Each week the children could level up in certain skills, like meeting two new friends, for example.” By focusing on these attributes, the Y aims to develop younger members’ characters so they can positively impact the community in the future. 

It goes without saying that the Outer Banks is surrounded by water. Much of the island’s lifestyle is derived from aquatic roots, so the YMCA is excited to announce its participation in this legacy with the formation of its own swim team this year. “With as much water as there is around us, we wanted to provide an outlet to everyone in the community,” says Henderson. The goal is to give kids in the community the opportunity to develop a proficiency in the water by teaching them the lifelong lesson of swimming. “We’re excited about the impact with not only their comfort level with swimming but also their safety in the water,” says Henderson. He says the focus is on stroke development and a love of swimming. With an indoor pool that’s open all year and two outdoor pools open in summer, the Y is a thriving aquatic center. The outdoor pools have diving boards, slides and a play area. One pool is zero-entry, offering a space for infants to get in and play as well.

Outer Banks YMCA

To make the swim team and other programs as comprehensive as possible, the YMCA has expanded their already considerable financial aid program this year. “We just revamped our Open Doors guidelines to make it more inclusive,” says Henderson. The Y has made it easier to apply and now offers expanded levels of assistance. “It’s a broader spectrum than it used to be,” says Henderson. A charitable, nonprofit organization, the Outer Banks Family YMCA gave more than $400,000 in assistance last year.  

The family-friendly aspect of the YMCA is especially appealing to parents. “We want to be a space in the community where families can come, mom and dad can work out and children can go to Stay and Play or do a great family activity all together,” says Henderson. This year the Y is going to expand adult programming, introducing sports like pickleball, which Henderson describes as a cross between badminton and tennis. “It’s a good equalizer,” Henderson says. “Whether you’re an older adult or a young person you’re on a level playing field.” They’ll also start an adult dodge ball league this year and continue to offer basketball and soccer. Floor ball (a cross between hockey and lacrosse) is another new sport coming available for adult and youth at the Y.

Outer Banks YMCA fitness class

Active older adults also find a gathering place and plenty of programming at the YMCA. “We want to be a community service,” says Henderson. The Y serves as a meeting space for older adults, who sometimes gather just to have a cup of coffee and chat. A variety of health and fitness options are also available, such as group classes in yoga, Pilates, aquatics and chair exercises.

The Outer Banks is home to scores of visitors each year. To welcome them with the same sense of community locals experience all year, the YMCA features several different options. Daily and weekly passes are offered to use the facility, and included in the weekly pass during the summer season is a parents’ night out session available every Wednesday from 6:30-10 p.m. “It gives mom and dad a little time to go out and enjoy dinner during their vacation,” Henderson says. The same service is also offered to members once a month throughout the year. 

No man is an island, right? Living on an island is certainly testimony to this, as the positive energy Outer Bankers have for one another shines with the brightness of a lighthouse. From the excitement surrounding the Y’s new swim team to their excellent child care and wide variety of health and fitness programming available to all, the Outer Banks Family YMCA abounds with a spirit of community that unites every age group.


Outer Banks Family YMCA logoFor information on membership and activities at the Outer Banks Family YMCA 
call (252) 449-8897
or visit 


About the Author Heather Frese
Heather Frese fell in love with the Outer Banks when she was three years old. She grew up camping every summer on Hatteras Island, and her writing is deeply influenced by the history and wild beauty of the area. Her debut novel, The Baddest Girl on the Planet, won the Lee Smith Novel Prize and is set on Hatteras Island.