YK Delta Lifesavers receive a Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

In Bethel on Aug. 14, 2018, Paul Hollie of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield; Shane Iverson, general manager of KYUK public radio station; Nancy McKinstry of Stavros Niarchos Foundation; Michelle DeWitt of Bethel Community Services Foundation; Kevin Murphy of ExxonMobil Foundation; and Dr. Richard Besser, president of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, experienced the tundra. All but DeWitt and Iverson were on the 2018 Grantmakers Tour. Photo courtesy of BCSF

by BCSF Staff

While Bethel residents were enjoying their holiday treats from the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza fundraiser hosted last month by the YK Delta Lifesavers, the CEO of the largest health-focused foundation in the nation was authorizing a generous check that would top off the funds raised by Lifesavers by a significant amount. The Bethel-based Lifesavers group, which supports swimming opportunities for all community members at the YK Fitness Center, received a $20,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President’s Grant Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation.

Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) visited Bethel in August 2018 as a participant with the annual Grantmaker Education Tour organized and hosted by Rasmuson Foundation.

“We are thrilled to be able to help support the work of the YK Delta Lifesavers,” Dr. Besser said. “Having a pool in Bethel does a number of things: it saves lives by giving people the opportunity to learn how to swim; it promotes physical health by giving people a place to exercise; and it builds social and emotional health by providing a place for a community to come together. When we think about what it means to build a culture of health in America, the pool in Bethel provides a shining example.”

Each year, several philanthropic organizations based in the Lower 48 are invited to participate in the tour across Alaska and expand their knowledge about the unique strengths, opportunities and challenges facing Alaskans. Bethel Community Services Foundation, along with community partners Yuut Elitnaurviat and YKHC, hosted the group. As part of their day in Bethel, tour participants were introduced to several local nonprofits, projects and community leaders. The visit included a brief tour of the YK Fitness Center facilitated by Bev Hoffman of the YK Delta Lifesavers.

“This generous donation just warms my heart. Donations keep the Lifesaver Endowment Fund growing and allows us to offer beginning swim lessons at reduced rates every Saturday and so much more,” says Hoffman. The Lifesavers’ history in Bethel goes back to 1991, when a group of parents started fundraising efforts to help support the costs of a swimming pool in Bethel. In 2008, the Lifesavers placed their savings in an endowed fund at Bethel Community Services Foundation, which now totals more than $250,000. Grants from this fund support Half-Price Admission Saturdays at the YK Fitness Center and swimming lessons and programs for youth and others throughout the YK Delta. To contribute to the lifesaver fund, visit bcsfoundation.org, click on the Donate tab and select the YK Delta Lifesavers Fund.