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GALLERY: Anger, hope on full display at emotional ‘Save our YMCA’ rally

‘We can't let it go down without a fight’: Supporters of the 125-year-old Sault institution gathered on the property Monday afternoon to voice concerns over impending closure

Roaring chants and honking horns erupted on the lawn in front of the YMCA this afternoon as dozens of residents came together to show their support for the soon-to-be-closed recreational and daycare facility.

Monday’s rally, organized by admins of the "Save our YMCA" Facebook page, comes in the wake of last week’s bombshell announcement that the building is for sale and all its programming will cease to exist by May 15.

Leaving behind a proud legacy in Sault Ste. Marie, the Y’s impending closure is expected to impact 169 jobs, 541 daycare spaces and around 2,800 memberships.

One of those members at today’s gathering was Alice Martineau, a local who has been attending aquatics four times a week at the McNabb Street facility for the last three years.

She had two hip surgeries within a couple months of each other and relied on the Y to recover.

“This was my rehabilitation,” she told SooToday. “Now it’s getting down to the wire of where you can go. This was a real shock and I’ve been really upset. I would be very happy for my taxes to go up just so the Y could stay here.”

Martineau’s friend Linda Hogan joined her at the afternoon rally. She signed on with the Y when she moved back to the Sault a few years ago, after having a knee replacement.

“This is the one place I can go,” Hogan said. “It’s the one place that keeps everybody fit, especially seniors. But it’s also childcare, people with disabilities, summer camps — those are the ones I feel for, not me.”

“I think [the closure] is going to affect the health of many people in the Sault,” she added.

Ann Ciaschini, a former director on the Y’s board who served for nine years before her tenure came to an end in 2020, has also been a dedicated member since her mid-20s.

Her feelings on the situation are a clash between sadness and disappointment.

“I’m very disappointed in how it could go from where it was in 2020 when I retired, to where it ended up in 2024,” she said. “They never took the advice of some of us directors to say: ‘Bring it to the people.’ What happened?”

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” she added. “This was like home to me, and it was for a lot of people.”

In the years leading up to 2020, Ciaschini said she worked incredibly hard to ensure the Y remained on track for success.

The long-time member had mentioned during last week's membership meeting that she was one of the few board members who wanted to warn the community about the facility’s financial difficulties.

But ultimately, she was outvoted.

“People have a right to know what happened,” she said. “Our memberships are what’s kept the place going, as well as the daycare and the families. It’s not like Walmart where you’re selling a product — it’s us. We’re the meat and potatoes of the place, and to not know what happened and leave everybody in a lurch is what I find irresponsible.”

Every Y supporter who spoke to SooToday on Monday agreed it will likely take a key investor, a considerable amount of money, and the right people involved to somehow stop the impending closure.

Despite the stress of the situation, the rally itself gave Alice Martineau some faith there could be brighter days ahead.

“Maybe there is hope,” she said. “All we have to do is extend the deadline to September and get some time to get a committee going. There’s always a way. We can’t let it go down without a fight.”

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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