YMCA hopes for Casino Night full house

By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

The only thing better than winning big at the casino is that win is benefitting a special group of people. On Saturday, June 15, the YMCA of the Highland Lakes will host its second Casino Night, a fun-filled evening during which the community is invited to take the time to enjoy the company of others, fun games, prizes, great food, and supporting a great cause.

Tickets are $35 for individuals, $65 for couples, $250 for a table of eight, and $250 for a “Salute to Veterans” table of eight.

Basic tickets will give guests a $5,000 casino chip, $5 worth of “funny money” which may be used towards betting on virtual horse racing, and a barbecue dinner.

Added VIP packages are available as well, giving guests an enhanced casino experience. Details on these packages and ticket purchases may be found on tickettailor.com/events/ymcagwc.

The net proceeds of Casino Night will go towards the future construction of an addition to the YMCA facility that will be dedicated solely to area children ages 10-18. Currently, the facility is at a loss for resources for the youth in that age group, and staff have been developing a plan for their new Teen Center.

The project is expected to cost around $450,000, and though the YMCA has raised a large portion of those funds, they are still in need of donations and are reaching out to the community with an incredibly fun opportunity to help their area youth.

The goal of the Casino Night is very close to the hearts of YMCA of the Highland Lakes staff, and Executive Director Jennifer Kenson stressed the importance of adding the Teen Center to the community which has shown the organization limitless support.

“We serve an extraordinary amount of people,” Kenson said. “A family unit is an average of about three people, and we serve 850 units; that doesn't even include the vast amount of day passes we sell, especially in the summer.”

The issue with being busy in the summer lies in the amount of programs scheduled for the facility on a daily basis, and the lack of activities available for teens.

“Free play in the gym is not the case anymore,” Kenson said. “We have programmed every minute of it; they need a place to hang out.”

Not only do the staff at the YMCA wish to provide an area for free play, but they are also in need of a structured atmosphere in which to hold teenage-related programs.

“I taught an 'Adulting 101' class a while ago, where we taught basic car maintenance, budgeting, meal planning and prep, changing your car tire, oil, and windshield wipers – all the basic things my dad taught me growing up,” Kenson said. “I had parents and high school seniors and juniors coming up here asking to run it again, but unfortunately there is no space to teach it again.”

Kenson has also developed curriculum for a “honey-do-it-yourself” class, geared towards teaching teens important household maintenance.

“The honey-do-it-yourself class would cover stuff that you either learn the hard way, or maybe you can come take a class and not be stranded on the side of the road trying to change your own tire,” Kenson said.

Another helpful program the YMCA plans to host is the mentorship program, in which young adults help guide the young kids in their care and teach them valuable lessons about life.

“I've had people in my life who pushed me to do better, and these kids need that,” Kenson said.

Kenson and her staff have noticed a need for these structural programs among the community and hope to eventually implement them to fill a great need for families in the area.

“Some parents are on their own, kids feel parentless because their parents are always working, and it's of no fault to anyone, but it is a need the 'Y' could meet,” Kenson said. “We want to be a part of the community, and the sky is the limit if we could just get one more room.”

Kenson praised the community for their unending support in reaching their goal of providing for the kids and families of the area.

“Our community partners are the ones who have really made this happen,” Kenson said. “They are the ones who are taking the risk on us and it is humbling when I think of the people who have given to us.

“They have invested their literal hard-earned dollars on a risk, and they just know what we can do in other areas and that we are passionate,” Kenson added. “I want to be able to make them proud and give back to them.”

On Saturday, June 15, the community will have a chance to support the great cause of the YMCA of the Highland Lakes – and a chance to win big money – at the second annual Casino Night.

“I am really excited for the new entertainment we will have this year,” Kenson said. “We will have a color wheel game, the balloon pop, and other carnival games all in good fun.

“We will have different things this year too,” Kenson added. “This year we ordered slot machines for those who don't want to play tables, and the beautiful finish to the night is the 50/50 chip pull, where guests purchase a poker chip and at the end of the night the person with the winning chip gets half the pot.”

Kenson also added that staff made the concept of the event simple, cashing out all wins to prize drawings; the possibilities of each guest's results are endless, making for a fun, exciting night.

Casino Night begins at 6 p.m. at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes, 1601 South Water Street, Burnet. To purchase tickets, visit tickettailor.com/events/ymcagwc.

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