The YMCA is coming to Waupaca thanks to a gift from Rick Johnson.
The owner of Health and Fitness Headquarters, Johnson is donating more than $1.1 million in assets to the YMCA of the Fox Cities.
“I’m gifting the business to them,” Johnson told the Waupaca County Post. “The YMCA will take over the business lock, stock and barrel.”
Health and Fitness Headquarters has two facilities in Waupaca.
The original facility is a 9,500-square-foot building on 11.5 acres of land on State Highway 22, located across from Waupaca High School.
HFH opened a second site on School Street in October 2013. That 4,700-square-foot facility has a full-service wellness center and is located adjacent to the Waupaca Recreation Center. It is currently being leased from the city of Waupaca.
All of the real estate, equipment and inventory owned by HFH will be transferred to the YMCA of the Fox Cities between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, according to Bill Breider, president and CEO of the YMCA of the Fox Cities.
“Additionally, I have made a pledge of financial assistance to help defray operating costs and to build a capital account,” Johnson said.
He plans to give the YMCA $25,000 a quarter for the next 2 1/2 years.
“I really want this thing to go. I think it’s good for the community,” Johnson said.
HFH has about 3,500 members, including a corporate membership agreement with Waupaca Foundry, the city’s largest employer.
The YMCA of the Fox Cities has about 42,000 members, with another 26,000 participants who take classes.
“I want to assure present club members that the quality of their gym memberships will not be impaired,” Johnson said. “Rather, this will open up additional opportunities for them and their family members together and with new friends. It will provide our youth with positive alternatives in sports and other activities.”
Breider said the YMCA plans to keep both facilities open and continue the programs that HFH currently offers.
“Randy O’Connell, the current general manager at Health and Fitness Headquarters, will become the program center director,” Breider said. “We have been incredibly impressed with the staff and Randy’s leadership. We hope to have a seamless transition.”
Breider said Waupaca will become a program center, affiliated with the YMCA of the Fox Cities and under the supervision of the Neenah-Menasha YMCA.
“Initially, the Waupaca YMCA center will have a program committee that will be led by Rick Johnson,” Breider said. “We will make sure the committee is very comprehensive and represents all aspects of the community.”
City Administrator Henry Veleker said local residents and community leaders have discussed having the YMCA in Waupaca for more than a dozen years.
“Four or five years ago, the city reached out to get some YMCA programming in our community. That didn’t come together. We needed to do some more work to find out what people wanted,” Veleker said.
Veleker noted that the city’s rec center is adjacent to the HFH facility, which would allow the city and the YMCA to work together to develop programs.
“The YMCA has a lot of experience with programming, especially with children,” Veleker said. “There is an opportunity for the city and the Y to partner in recreational and educational programs.”
“We want to explore what options and needs are available,” Breider said. “We want to make sure we’re providing complementary programs and not programs that compete with existing programs.”
Breider said the YMCA is looking forward to the opportunity to reach into Waupaca.
For Johnson, partnering with the YMCA helps ensure that the health and fitness opportunities he has provided in Waupaca will become a community legacy.
“This transfer and pledge is the best way for me to return to my friends, neighbors, to those who have helped me achieve success, some of the profits I’ve received in my professional life,” Johnson said. “On a more fundamental level, I believe, as most Christians do, that my property, including all the things I’m about to transfer to the YMCA, belong not to me, but to God. I am merely their manager. I am privileged and humbled to share his blessing with the broader community.”