The Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA, a nonprofit organization serving the community, has opened the doors to its new “state-of-the-art” Team Ortho Youth and Teen Center, giving the children in the community an entertaining place to visit after school.

The ribbon cutting for the center occurs on Aug. 13 from 5:30 to 6:20 p.m., where refreshments and tasty appetizers will be given to the public.

The Team Ortho Youth and Teen Center is located in the east-wing of the Ahwatukee YMCA facilities, near the entrance of the building.

The center, accumulating more than 1,500 square feet in length, is designed to allow the youth of Ahwatukee a safe haven where they can indulge themselves with an array of fun utilities.

The center was made possible by community donations from Ahwatukee organizations like the agents at Keller Williams Sonoran Living, the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, and Dr. Ken Danyluk of Team Orthodontics, who made a substantial naming donation.

When Danyluk and his wife, Jacquie, decided to move from Canada to the Ahwatukee area they both wanted to give back to the community.

They were brain storming ideas on who they should give back to, and decided to help youths in the area by providing them with a safe place they can call their own.

“They’re really the life and blood of the community moving forward, but particularly the youth and teens they need a space to have for their own to be with their peers to learn from each other,” Danyluk said. “It kind of came back to if we can provide a space for the youth and teens in the area. The more we talked about it the more we realized the YMCA had that same concept and that’s where the two came together.”

By having a substantial donation towards getting the center completed, the Youth and Teen Center is dedicated in honor of Team Ortho’s charitable generosity.

Center for youth

While venturing into the center, the occupants have their choices of fun entertainment by having a library of reading material, an air hockey table located in the center room, HD televisions mounted on the walls where they can play Wii games, computers to surf the Internet and ’80s-inspired arcade modules.

The youths are also able to complete their studies by the juice bar, formally known as the juice caboose, along with the chance to simply unwind from a day of school while their parents get in an afternoon workout session.

Although the center hasn’t officially had its ribbon cutting ceremony, the staff at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA has allowed the eager youths to occupy the space days in advance.

Shayna Smith, a sixth-grader at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, said the new center is a place where she can go, hang out with her friends and have an enjoyable time.

Her friend, Desiree Minnis, who also attends Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, is pleased to be signed up at that center, saying she enjoys the fact they are given a certain amount of freedom.

“They treat us like adults and let us do what we want,” Minnis said. “I also love that every Friday we get a field trip to places like Yoasis or Subway and McDonald’s.”

Connie Nelson-Askew, senior executive director of the YMCA, said the center has been in the works since 2007 by doing a community needs assessment where they decided the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA facilities needed a Youth and Teen Center for kids in the age groups of 7 to 14 years old.

They slowly embarked on a capital campaign, in hopes to complete the center, and asked youth in the community what they wanted from their own personal fortress of solitude.

The staff gave the youths the opportunity to design the center by allowing them to choose the amenities they felt would offer the most entertainment.

“What we really heard from the kids in the community was they want a place where they belong in and where they can hang,” Nelson-Askew said. “They said they wanted a place where they can come, hang out with their friends, do their homework, socialize and have fun games.”

Nelson-Askew spoke on how creative space, located inside the Team Ortho Youth and Teen Center, is designed to engage youth in a creative standpoint by offering them different activities, which will change periodically.

“We’ll be offering a Teen Employment University program, where the kids who are basically in that 14- and 15-year age group who are getting ready to apply for jobs and building resumes, we give them the chance to get that hands-on experience before they go out applying for jobs,” Nelson-Askew said.

The Team Employment University program has been around, but recently the YMCA received a grant accelerating the program allowing applicants to attend leadership workshops, learn communication and interviewing skills, and applying for jobs matching their strengths, Nelson-Askew said.

The center also offers transportation program, bussing students from middle schools around the area such as Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, and Kyrene Centennial Middle School.

For more information about the after-school programs offered by the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA or the Team Ortho Youth and Teen Center, visit the member service desk located inside the facility.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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