Jessica Ledford Is Pumped for the Future of the YMCA

Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photography Provided

Jessica Ledford has been working at the YMCA since she was a teen.

“When I was going into high school, my brother, mother and I moved to a different neighborhood and my brother started playing basketball at the Y,” Ledford says. “Mom wanted her kids to be safe and she started volunteering on teen night. I met the director and started working as a sports site supervisor.”

Even as a teen, Ledford took classes offered at the Y and began developing her leadership skills.

“I took a youth-in-government program that teaches young people about the government system,” she says. “We spent the weekend at the state house and really walked through the process.”

She continued working at the YMCA in a variety of departments, from membership to marketing, throughout high school and college.

“In 2011, when the Hendricks Regional Health (HRH) YMCA was being built in 2011, I became the member involvement director under Mary Beth Carmichael’s leadership for 11 years,” Ledford says.

In the winter of 2022, she was named district vice president and executive director of the Avon location.

Just as the Y was there for Ledford’s family, she’s glad to be a part of the community service for others.

“The Y has something for everyone,” she says. “We want to meet people where they are and really provide wrap-around service for the entire family. We want to create a space for interaction and dialogue, and I’m excited about the development in Hendricks County and the community as a whole.”

Having first joined the Avon location in 2011, Ledford has watched the community grow around the facility, from new businesses to housing.

“Development can be challenging, but we see it as an opportunity,” she says. “Our demographics are changing in Hendricks County and I love the idea that someone going to Costco might see us over here and stop by. We’re a place where people can connect.”

The HRH YMCA offers swim lessons, water fitness, lap swimming, a variety of sports programs from leagues to free gym time for basketball and pickleball, and programming for active older adults, to promote senior education and socialization.The YMCA

Classes range from taekwondo to tumbling, but families with children learn the Y isn’t just for taking gymnastics. It’s so much more.

The Play & Learn/Kids Zone allows adults to drop off their children aged six weeks to 12 years, so they can join a workout or lifestyle class. The Early Learning Center is a licensed early-learning program for children aged 3 to 5.

In addition, summer day camps are available for children aged 5 to 15, and a preschool camp is available for children aged 3 to 5.

The YMCA also offers educational classes for those with questions or dealing with specific health issues.

In addition to the specialized program for cancer survivors, attendees can learn more about risk factors for diabetes and prediabetes, monitoring blood pressure, and even healthy eating choices.

While there are plenty of opportunities for every age, if Ledford had to choose one to get plugged in, it would be a group exercise class.

“Our group exercise classes have a variety of options, but it’s also an opportunity for small community connections,” Ledford says. “You have an instructor there to welcome you and show you the ropes. It gives you a sense of comfort and connection right away, and it’s a smaller space. As you start your journey, we want to get you plugged in so it’s not overwhelming.”

Exercise classes include cardio, strength, dance and cycling, with the option of engaging with a certified personal trainer or small-group training session.

In her new role, Ledford has plenty of plans for the future.The YMCA

Coming out of the pandemic, the YMCA team saw a need for reimagining their work, reassessing the needs of individuals in the community and extending their reach.

“The Hendricks County Community Foundation recently released the 2022 Needs Assessment and we’re looking at that and how we fit in,” she says. “We serve a little over 8,000 people right now and I want to see that increase. We have a great facility but I also envision us finding solutions, being a part of the conversation and elevating the voices of the community. I would love for us to find ways to reach out beyond the facility to support and serve those moving in the community outside of this building.”

One way to extend the reach is to make the Y affordable for everyone.

The YMCA is a nonprofit organization and depends on donations and fundraising, to support programming and those who may not be able to access programs without assistance.

“Last year we raised $217,000 and gave almost double that away to the community,” Ledford says. “We never want to turn anyone away and we want to offer subsidized programs like Livestrong YMCA. This is a 14-week program for cancer survivors as they walk through that journey.”

They offer opportunities throughout the year to join the community and support their mission.

Mark your calendars for the Cycle-a-Thon on May 19 and 20.

Sign up to cycle on a stationary bike for one hour or more on Friday or Saturday to raise funds for the HRH YMCA. Ledford says each session includes fun themes and a special play list to accompany the cycling. In addition, they will host a first-responder ride, encouraging first responders to get involved at no cost to them, thanks to a special donor.

In addition, the annual Golf Outing is scheduled for October 2 and the popular Gobble Gallop event will be held on November 23.The YMCA

Ledford is excited to see what the future holds. Though she expected to use her degree in psychology, she found more than she planned for at the Y.

“What I wanted to do was help people,” Ledford says. “What I’ve found is the Y gives me those opportunities to do that in a number of ways. There’s just something about the Y. It’s fulfilled me in a way I had no idea.”

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