YMCA name change draws mixed reactions from North Texans

The YMCA is shortening its name to "the Y," and the change got a mixed reaction Monday from North Texans.

The Young Men's Christian Association is a charity known far and wide by its initials. While the American Family Association expressed disappointment, local Y members said they see the change as a logical move because people frequently call it "the Y" already.

"It's been called 'the Y' since I was 7. Changing the name is probably appropriate," said Mike Cramer, voicing the overwhelming consensus.

Members said the change is natural, and many younger members did not know what YMCA stands for.

"I'm not going to say [the name change] is not a big deal, but it's evolved. The rebranding is a reflection of that," member David Crocker said.

The Y was founded as a small men's Bible study group in London in 1844, according to its website. The association's size and influence have grown enormously over the years, and Joel Green, a Jewish member, said he sees the name change as a journey to secularization.

"It doesn't bother me at all. I've realized [the Y] has a lot to offer," Green said.

Tyrone Morgan, volunteer coach and boot camp instructor at the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, is also indifferent to the name change but confident in the quality of the organization.

"I know they have a good foundation and mission statement," Morgan said.

Y officials say they are rebranding in an effort to better communicate that mission to the public.

While many people see it as a gym and pool, the Y is a place for bettering the mind and spirit as well as body, said Hope Caldwell, director of marketing for the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth. The website states that the Y's areas of focus are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

But not everyone says name change is good or even neutral.

"We're probably even more disappointed than the Village People," said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association. He was referring to the band that popularized the late-1970s song YMCA, which the Village People insist that they will continue performing as written.

The association is a Christian organization, and family association officials take issue with the change.

"The YMCA was founded because the founder, George Williams, realized boys need Christ to become grown men. By removing Christ or Christianity from their title, they're just taking another step away from their original mission," Fischer said.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth will carry out the name change sometime next year, Caldwell said.

HILARY COLLINS, 817-390-7416