About the Y

The YMCA Legacy

1844 - Founding

The Y was founded by 22-year-old George Williams (pictured right) in London. Williams created a bible study for men seeking a safe haven from the streets. What made this organization unique was the tireless effort to meet community needs beyond rigid social class structures.

1881 - "Body Building"

Robert J. Roberts coined the term "body building" which paved the way for modern fitness regimes and group exercise.

1891 - Basketball

In Springfield, Massachusetts during December 1891, James Naismith (pictured right) was met with a challenge to come up with an indoor winter sport in two weeks. From his efforts, basketball was born.

1896 - Volleyball

Looking for another indoor sport that targetted different skills, William Morgan created a game that involved a net and one ball, creating the game of volleyball.

1909 - Swimming

The Y set out on a mission to "teach every man and boy in North America" how to swim. George Corsan traveled to Detroit and implemented new teaching methods: group swimming lessons, and out-of-water lessons to build confidence.

1950 - Racquetball

Joe Sobek was seeking an alternative to handball and squash, inventing racquetball in Greenwich, Connnecticut.

1992 - Healthy Kids Day

Noticing a change in chilren's health due to inactivity and an increase in processed foods, the Y launched the first national Healthy Kids Day to encourage healthy development of our children physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually.

1994 - Core Values

With a long-standing commitment to building character, the Y nailed down four core values to further character development: Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Caring.

The Athens Y Legacy

1857 - Our Y Was Born

The nation's third oldest YMCA was founded on March 26,1857. The Y has served the Athens community for over 150 years. The Athens Y has been in three facilities, it's third being our Hawthorne home.

1898 - Athens Y Camps

Athens YMCA's first CEO, W.T. Forbes established Athens Y Camps (pictured left) in Tallulah Falls.The camp is the fifth oldest Y Camp in the world. Children are served each summer on a beautiful 500+ acre campus.

1905 - University of Georgia Basketball

Athens Y CEO W.T. Forbes founded the University of Georgia Basketball program in the early 1900's. Forbes was the first head coach of the team and served for two seasons. W.T. Forbes son, Walter Jr., played football at the University of Georgia and lettered in 1925 and 1926.

1942 - Cobern Kelley

Cobern Kelley (pictured left with two of his mentees) was the Physical Director of the Athens YMCA from 1942 until his death in 1968. Kelley founded the Athens YMCA day camp, fondly known as Camp Kelley. YMCA staff still strive to uphold the Christian values Kelley lived by.

"One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money was in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child."

- Cobern Kelley

"Cobern Kelley never lost sight of the fact that the YMCA was a Christian [organization]. He was deeply committed to God... and he made certain the boys in his charge developed spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally."

- Darrell Huckaby, Kelley's Boys

We are proud to have the opportunity to serve the Athens community, and we hope you'll #JoinTheLegacy today.