Ballard student giving YMCA membership

Published 7:23 am Friday, April 21, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Austa Paturalski enjoys the excitement of the YMCA just like every other kid.
She has taken gymnastics and basketball lessons at the Niles-Buchanan location and said she loves swimming in the pool for parties.
Now, the 11-year-old wants another family to share some of the same experiences. That's why she is donating a 6-month YMCA family membership.
Austa, a fifth grader at Ballard Elementary, won the membership at the school's annual Spring Fling held Friday, March 24. Part of the evening's activities included a raffle, which Austa said she signed up for in hopes of winning the board game Guess Who?
When the time came to draw for the game, Austa said she waited closely by the prizes. Winning the game, she said, took some wishing and a little bit of luck.
Another surprise came shortly after Austa returned home. Her mother, Barbara, had found a second prize from the raffle. In her hand was a letter with the YMCA logo and signature of Executive Director Bret Hendrie stating the holder of the document and his or her family was entitled to a free 6-month family general membership to the local ‘Y'.
Austa said she remembered being surprised by the discovery and thought her mom was joking with her.
Part of the shock was because neither Barbara or Austa could remember winning anything like it before.
Instead of keeping the prize, Austa decided to pass it on to a family that would love to be a part of the YMCA, but may not be able to join.
It is the policy of the ‘Y' to assist anyone who wants to join the club with a method to pay the fees, regardless of their financial status.
Even so, Hendrie was glad to hear of the girl's intentions.
But, Austa still needed an outlet to distribute the membership and she wrote a letter to the Niles Daily Star asking the paper to find a worthy recipient. Barbara said the Paturalskis remembered the Star adopting Salvation Army families during the holidays and figured the paper had the resources to help find a candidate for the membership.
Austa finished the letter with a thank you, and, by saying, “I hope this makes someone smile.”
The Star graciously accepted the opportunity to assist the young philanthropist and has proposed a way to choose the recipient of the membership.
Any area families with young children who would like a membership to the Niles-Buchanan YMCA are encouraged to write the Star. Applicants should include in the letter the names and ages of the children and a brief description of how the membership could benefit their family. Anyone in the family can submit the essay.
Letters should be sent to Andy Hamilton at the Niles Daily Star, 217 N. Fourth St., Niles, MI, 49120 and should be submitted by Friday, April 28. Two winners will be selected from the applicants, as the Star will also donate a 6-month family membership.