How are students chosen for the program?
Qualified students are invited to participate through a local YMCA branch. Invitations are extended first to Y children who may be receiving financial assistance for membership, child care or other programs. Then we work with local school guidance counselors and other community partner organizations to identify students in need. In general, students whose families qualify for the free and reduced lunch at their schools would also qualify for YMCA Bright Beginnings.
Where can I sign my child up?
Unfortunately, the Y does not accept applications from the general public. There are more than 55,000 children in the Greater Richmond and Petersburg area who would qualify for the program based on financial need. Please speak to your school’s guidance counselor to see if your child’s school is currently working with the Y for YMCA Bright Beginnings.
How old are the students who participate?
In most cases, students will be entering kindergarten through fifth grade.
How old do you have to be to volunteer?
Volunteers must be at least 16 years old to shop with a child. Volunteers age 13 and older may assist adult volunteers and help with non-shopping activities.
May I bring my children under 13 years old with me?
No. While the Y believes that families are important in building strong communities, a big part of the YMCA Bright Beginnings experience is the opportunity for a child to have one-on-one time with a caring adult volunteer.
If you are interested in a family experience, consider becoming Backpack Buddies! You and your children choose and fill a backpack that will be given to one of the children on a shopping trip. Click on the Backpack Buddy section for more information.
What do the children shop for?
Our younger students will shop for $100 worth of school clothes including shoes, socks, underwear, two fall outfits and a warm sweater or jacket. Older students also shop for school clothes and spend the same $100, but have a little more flexibility to choose what they buy based on what they like and need. For them, part of the experience is learning about budgeting and making smart spending choices.
Who pays for the clothes?
A generous gift from Altria Group, Inc., our lead sponsor, combines with hundreds of donations from individuals, businesses and civic organizations to pay for the program. We hope to raise just over $381,000 this year to help 2,200 children start school prepared for success.
If my child goes over the $100 limit, may I pay the extra amount so they don’t have to put back the clothes?
No. In order to ensure that all 2,200 children in the program have the same experience, you and your child will have to make decisions that will keep you within your budget!
What about school supplies?
Each student will receive a backpack filled with grade-appropriate school supplies before or after the trip.
What are other ways for me/my company to help?
The program serves as many children as funding allows. Monetary and backpack donations make a big difference. Fundraising and backpack drives make great team projects! Call Tito Luna at 804.474.4370 to help.
To make a secure online donation to YMCA Bright Beginnings, click the Donate button and select the YMCA Bright Beginnings campaign in the drop down menu on the donation form. If you would like your gift to serve children from a specific YMCA's community, select that branch after selecting the campaign.
To mail in your gift, please download the PDF below:
YMCA Bright Beginnings Remit Instructions
and mail it to:
YMCA of Greater Richmond
2 W. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Attention: Financial Development Department
* If you would like your gift to serve a specific community, please designate on the check the YMCA branch to which it applies.
If your organization or company would like to partner with YMCA Bright Beginnings, please contact Tito Luna, Association Community Development Director, at lunat at ymcarichmond dot org.
Many Thanks to Our Sponsors