WASHINGTON, June 2, 2014 – Military families using fitness centers and respite day care through the Armed Services YMCA will be able to continue their memberships until March of next year, a morale, welfare and recreation program official said.
MRW program analyst Chris Wright said the Military Outreach Initiative, a five-year contract between the Defense Department and the Armed Services YMCA, was set to expire recently, but it has been extended to March 17, 2015.
The initiative originally reached out to the families of deployed Guardsmen and reservists to give them an opportunity to join a YMCA free for fitness, recreational activities and respite child care, Wright said. It began with the Guard and reserves, he explained, because their families, in most cases, didn’t live close to major military installations, where they could use base fitness and childcare facilities. The program later was extended to active-duty families.
“It provides spouses an outlet during stressful times, and an opportunity to maintain fitness, physically and mentally,” he said.
Some 2,700 YMCAs across the nation participate in the initiative, Wright said, adding that the memberships are paid through Overseas Contingency Operations funding, because the initiative is tied to readiness and deployment.
“As we continue to draw down efforts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, that requirement is beginning to decline,” he explained. “We want families to understand that as popular as it’s been, this program is beginning to draw down to prepare for the end of the contract, and [we are] looking for other opportunities.”
Other services will remain available to families of deployed service members who live in remote locations following the end of the contract next year, Wright said. For example, through the White House’s “Joining Forces” initiative, free personal training and gym memberships are being donated by members of the American Council on Exercise and the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, DOD officials said.
Additionally, Wright said, military installations offer fitness programs and child care, and families can check for opportunities through their service’s MWR program.
“We encourage families and service members to remain engaged, healthy and seek recreational and physically activities that help maintain their fitness level,” Wright said. “DOD wants people to live healthy.”