Our History

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow


The Kettle Moraine YMCA started as an idea to better the lives of kids, families, and individuals. In an empty office with a telephone in the middle of the floor in downtown West Bend, our first Executive Director began developing programs that were initially held throughout the community. Swimming lessons were taught in back yard pools and at the pool at the Holiday Inn; YMCA Indian Guides, Maidens, and Princesses met in homes throughout the area; and youth football, basketball, and gymnastics were held at local schools.

It wasn’t until nine years after the conception of the Kettle Moraine YMCA that there was an actual Y building! Now, 50 years later, Y programming takes place in three facilities, six child care sites, numerous community schools, and with other community organizations!


The Kettle Moraine YMCA receives its charter as a branch of the Metropolitan Milwaukee YMCA. On May 23, the Board of Directors hires the first Executive Director, John S. Murray “Jack.”


West Park Property site is purchased for the future site of a Day Care facility and main Y office.


The Kettle Moraine YMCA Day Care facility is built on the West Park Property site. The original office moves from Hickory Street into the community’s first Child Care facility. Kettle Moraine YMCA officially separates from the Milwaukee YMCA, becoming its own Independent Association.


Two acres of land is purchased from the school district and six acres from Trinity Lutheran for a total of twelve acres at the West Washington property site.


The Board of Directors embarks on an ambitious fundraising campaign to build a full facility.


In October, the Kettle Moraine YMCA opens its doors to a full facility YMCA, featuring a gymnasium, pool, locker rooms, multipurpose room, and five racquetball courts.


The Kettle Moraine YMCA began to offer child care for kids after school as well as a Summer Day Camp.


Endowment Development program is established for the future sustainability of the Kettle Moraine YMCA.


Child Care Center on Hwy Z, in collaboration with Cedar Community, opens.


The Board of Directors embarks on the second capital campaign.


In June, a 25,000 square foot addition is officially opened featuring a second gymnasium, running track, warm water pool, whirlpool, conference room, offices and weight area.


With over 6,000 members and a jump in membership of 65% over the previous five years, the Board of Directors determined that yet another building campaign needed to be implemented.


In the fall, the third building addition opens featuring a third gymnasium, aerobics studio, expanded weight room and circuit center, and special needs locker room.


Jack Murray announces his retirement and the Board of Directors begin a national search for Kettle Moraine YMCA’s second Executive Director.


Jack Murray retires after 29 years of leadership at the Kettle Moraine YMCA, and on January 14, Jon T. Lange is installed as the second Executive Director.


The original Day Care center at 1113 West Washington moves its operation in partnership with Our Saviors Lutheran Church.


With membership over 8,000 and a jump of 35% increase over the previous seven years, it was determined that a fourth building expansion was needed.


The new addition opened in February and featured the Becker Center-a youth activity area; the Ziegler Family Lobby; The Kate Hafeman Studio; the M & I Community Meeting Room; an expanded circuit weight room.

The discussion surrounding the alarming statistics from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) concerning the national epidemic of obesity and the associated health risks related to this problem in the United States prompted the Board to research methods to best address this issue. The downtown development of River Shores, the former West Bend Company site provided another location, dedicated to better assist the new/stop-starter/beginner exerciser/or health seeker learn the behavioral skills required to make a lifestyle change.


In November, the River Shores site opened its doors as a second program site dedicated to helping people develop exercise as a habit sustainable for the rest of their lives. River Shores would be a first-of-a-kind in the nation facility used as a test site for Activate America program initiatives set forth by the YMCA of the USA. The 15,000 square foot facility features a Spirit Mind Body studio, a Wellness Studio, three coaching rooms, beginner friendly cardio and strength equipment, massage and healing suite.

YMCA Kids Connection, and after school child care program opens at 1111 West Washington, coming back to the YMCA full circle.


In September, the YMCA Kids Connection Before and After School program opens at Decorah School as an offsite offering.

The Family Center of Washington County partners with the Kettle Moraine YMCA. With common missions, the partnership was a good fit, and with a renovation to the original Day Care site, the Family Center moves to 1113 West Washington Street.

Aurora Health Care partners with the Y to offer a Parkinson’s Exercise group for those who have Parkinson’s disease. Exercise has been shown to improve function, posture, and endurance while helping to control pain associated with Parkinson’s disease.


In November, Jon Lange accepts a position with the Metropolitan Milwaukee YMCA. The Board begins a national search for a new Executive Director.


In March, Rob Johnson is installed as the third Executive Director of the Kettle Moraine YMCA.

The Child Care Program returns home to the original Day Care site at 1113 West Washington Street now called the Discovery Center. The Family Center relocated to 1517 Lang Street.

The Kettle Moraine YMCA signs on with Y-USA’s Activate America and the Healthy Community work, beginning a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would help build capacity to bring on programs like YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program and LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA.


In May, the Kettle Moraine YMCA celebrated 40 years of strengthening the community.

The Y saw the need for a larger parking lot, and after purchasing houses on Cedar Street for a number of years, five houses were torn down to make room for an additional 104 parking spaces.

The Kettle Moraine YMCA envisions the final opportunity to expand at its West Washington location with a Family Adventure Pool.


After School Child Care programming is offered to Wayne and Farmington Schools for days that there is early release from school.

In September, the Kettle Moraine YMCA launches LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA. This twelve week, small group program is designed for adult cancer survivors. The program fulfills the important need of supporting the increasing number of cancer survivors who find themselves in the transitional period between completing their cancer treatment and the shift to feeling physically and emotionally strong enough to attempt to return to their normal life or their “new normal.” The program is conducted outside of medical facilities to emphasize that LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is about health, not a disease.


Thanks in part to a generous donation from Margaret (Peg) Ziegler the Family Adventure Pool becomes a reality! The innovative aquatic addition provides an affordable, convenient, year-around play area for families. As membership is now exceeding 11,000 members, the new pool will help accommodate new families.


In October, in response to a nationwide epidemic, the Kettle Moraine YMCA launches the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. This program, based on research by the National Institutes of Health and part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a proven, community-based disease prevention resource that provides those with pre-diabetes the support they need to adopt healthy behaviors to make a lifestyle change.


With membership now reaching 12,000 members, the Y is expanding quickly and serving just under 25,000 people in programs annually.


In June, the Y partners with Holy Trinity Church in Newburg to offer child care for children 6 weeks-12 years, including before and after school care as well as summer day camp.

On October 15, the Kettle Moraine YMCA acquires Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA from the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee.


After a year of community listening sessions with members and the community, and a SEER Analytic Survey to our membership base, we were able to address the #1 identified need, which was renovating the adult locker rooms on the lower level of our West Washington Branch. With the generous donation of over $850,000 from 6 families, the Y was able to complete the renovation from April-September. In October 2015, membership grew to serve over 20,000 members between the three branches, while serving over 45,000 people in programs in 2015.


In Spring, our Y begins offering Y-USA’s Safety Around Water program to help reduce the risk of drowning and giving children confidence in and around water. 

In August, the Feith Family Ozaukee Branch received a much-needed update in the Pool area. Some of the updates included new pool mechanics, fresh paint on water features and walls, and a new fully enclosed Port Washington State Bank Pool Observation Room.

In the Fall, Feith began offering full-day child care for children 30 months – 5 years, along with 3K and 4K before and after school care. The Shirli Flack Playground was constructed right outside the child care area to ensure the children had outdoor space to play in.

The West Washington Branch collaborated with the West Bend School District and began offering 4K at the Y’s child care sites, including wrap-around care to these 4K students. 

The Kettle Moraine YMCA Association begins offering Alloy, a premier personal training system in partnership with Paradise Springs Fitness. The program offers team training, small group personal training, and private personal training options.


In March, the Y’s gymnastics team, the Dynamites, hosted the Wisconsin YMCA’s state meet for the first time at the West Bend High School with over 1,100 gymnasts competing.

In May, due to growth and lack of office space within the branches, ten key Association staff for HR, Marketing and Business Operations were moved off-site, occupying part of the Ziegler building at 215 N. Main Street in West Bend.

In Spring, the West Washington Branch was able to renovate the upstairs locker rooms due to generous donations. A Mickey & Minnie Mouse theme was added to the boys and girls locker room, which included new lockers, new tile throughout, new vanities, and paint. At the same time, the family locker room also received new lockers and vanities.

In September, our Y said goodbye to fish names for swim lessons and embraced Y-USA’s swim lesson stages that emphasized the true progression of swimming with a sense of achievement throughout the stages.

With the start of the new school year, the Feith Family Ozaukee Branch was able to add Lincoln Elementary and St. Peter’s Church as additional sites for after-school care, moving the children off-site from the Y in the afternoons.


On Tuesday, August 14, around 8:00 pm, a 6″ PVC pipe that transports water from the pools to the water heaters burst at the West Washington Branch. While the water to the building was turned off promptly, the amount of chlorinated water that sprayed out from that pipe was significant. The East Gym received the least amount of damage, with only the floors needing to be sanded, painted, and resealed. The Free Weight Center’s rubber floor was removed and replaced. There was minimal equipment damage. Both the Track Gym and the Lower Studio floors were torn out, and new flooring was laid and sealed. During this time, multiple community organizations stepped up to support the Y’s efforts during a time of need including the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, Jackson Park & Rec, Paradise Spring Fitness, and the West Bend School District.

In August and September, the locker rooms at the Feith Family Ozaukee Branch went through renovations that included new lockers, ceiling tile, flooring, and updated lighting.

With the start of the new school year, the Feith Family Ozaukee Branch acquired 4 new before & after school sites. With the purchase of Feith from the Milwaukee YMCA, the agreement stated that Kettle Moraine YMCA become the provider for the three Cedarburg schools beginning with the 2018 school year. Additionally, the program was offered at Lumen Christi, a Catholic school in Mequon.


In December 2019, the YMCA hosted a donor, staff and special guest event at the West Bend Mutual Prairie Center highlighted with a performance by a speed painter to celebrate 50 years of impact.

In January, the Y purchased Starlight Child Care Center. Renamed to Y Child Care at Trinity Lutheran, the site provides full-day child care for children 6 weeks – 5 years, along with 4K in collaboration with the West Bend School District, and before and after school care for 4K children.

The West Washington Branch begins offering before and after school care and day camp to the Holy Hill Area School District. 

In January, the West Washington large pool, small pool, and whirlpool received renovations that included a new surge tank, new lighting, and paint.

In June, due to additional growth, the Association Office was relocated to 321 N. Main Street in West Bend, in the lower level of BMO Harris Bank. Over twenty staff for HR, Marketing, Business Operations, Child Care, and School Age occupy the space.

In August, the Feith Family Ozaukee Branch celebrated 20 years of strengthening their community. The doors to our Feith Family Ozaukee Branch opened on August 22, 1999.


In March 2020 the Kettle Moraine YMCA closed its doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the “Safer at Home order”.  The next day the YMCA reopened as an ‘essential employer’ providing childcare to first responders, health care workers, and essential employees that had to continue to work.  The YMCA quickly pivoted and repurposed all of its locations following safety protocols and hosted blood collection & drive-thru food drives to support the local food pantries.  In April 2020 and again in January 2021 the YMCA was fortunate to qualify for both rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program, which allowed the YMCA to re-hire over 700 staff that had been laid off due to the pandemic.   As a result of providing essential childcare, the WI Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) provided the Y with financial support that included incentive pay for essential workers in our childcare programs. 


In February 2021 as a response to the mental health effects of COVID on students and families balancing in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning, Rob Johnson, CEO, and Aaron Schmidt, District Executive participated in a three-month ‘Mental Health at the Y” national pilot.  During the program, the Y quickly identified that Mental Health was one of the major program and support pieces that were missing.  As a result, the Y hired their first Mental Health Coordinator to begin facilitating training for staff, re-launch “It’s a Girl Thing”, a mental health program for teenage girls, begin implementation of the Second Step after school curriculum for summer day camp and after school programming for fall 2021.

In August 2021, after 5 months of lobbying, the Kettle Moraine YMCA received its largest grant ever as part of the Beyond the Classroom Program to assist Wisconsin to support increased enrollment capacity, additional learning opportunities, and increase mental health support for school-age children during the summer months of 2021 and support programming during the 2021-2022 school year through summer months of 2022.


The United Way of Washington County announced its Leadership Chairs for the 2022 Washington County Community Campaign.  The YMCA Legacy Leaders were asked to tackle this year’s task, and it included four past Presidents of the YMCA Board of Directors and our current YMCA CEO.  Kirk Emerich-YMCA Past President 2019-2021, Randy Averill-YMCA Past President 2017-2019, Kevin Steiner-YMCA Past President 2015-2017, Dr. Carey Cameron-YMCA Past President 2013-2015, and Rob Johnson, YMCA CEO and United Way of Washington County Past President 2013.  View the campaign video.

On Sept. 8th, 2022 the YMCA is continuing its efforts of recognizing leaders that have come before us.  This year the YMCA is recognizing Russ Darrow, YMCA Past President from 1985-1987 with our Party with a Purpose fundraising event.  This year, Pat Connaughton, 2021 NBA Champion of the Milwaukee Bucks will serve as our event entertainment that includes VIP meet and greets and a community conversation with questions and answers from the audience.