By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The nation's YMCA's are the largest child care provider in the country, and Oklahoma's sites are working to continue the tradition by raising money.
Most than 20,000 children play on the metro-area teams organized by the YMCA, but it's the afternoon programs that may be the most important to children and their families.
More than 500 children go to the YMCA after school, including 7-year-old Zack.
"It's good for you," Zack said. "You get good exercise from it."
Zack and his siblings have been going to the YCA since last summer. When they first began the program, their family was in desperate need.
"I also had extenuating circumstances," said Zack's mother Brandy Jewell. "I was leaving an abusive relationship. It was an emergency; I needed to get the kids in right away."
On a scholarship, the family was accepted. Through last year's Strong Kids Campaign, the local YMCA provided scholarships for nearly 10,000 children, totaling $1.45 million in financial assistance.
"It provides a Christian atmosphere," YMCA volunteer Lori Robertson said.
Kids do crafts at the YMCA, they have homework time, and sports are a big part of the program.
Zack especially enjoys soccer, which is playing time he may have been without if it weren't for the financial aid he received.
"We don't have family here," Brandy Jewell said. "I honestly don't know, honestly don't know where they would go."
The Strong Kids Campaign is the annual community fundraising effort that allows the YMCA to provide financial assistance. So far the local sites have reached 60 percent of their goal. They still have a long way to go.
The Strong Kids Campaign ends March 5.