The Siskiyou YMCA Ugly Sweater Christmas Run
● By Gary VanDeWalker
Gaudy for a Cause
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos courtesy of Siskiyou Family YMCA
The weather outside may be frightful, but the ugly sweaters running through Yreka on Dec. 17 are delightful. The mass of sweaters is worn by the participants in the annual Ugly Sweater Christmas Run, sponsored by the Siskiyou YMCA in Yreka. The assorted colors of knitted acrylics and wools are part of an effort to raise money to fund scholarships for various Y activities throughout the year.
Race coordinator Noelle Collier, the energetic health and wellness director at the Y, became involved with the local Y five years ago as a director of the girls’ basketball camp. Last May, she was chosen for her current position, becoming part of an organization she loved in her youth. “Both my husband and I are from Yreka. We are raising our two kids here and have a huge connection to Yreka and Siskiyou County,” Collier says. “Being born and raised here gives me an extra insight in the Y and what it provides for my hometown, knowing how much it can bring to the kids and families in our community.”
The Siskiyou YMCA began in 1990 when the former Coca-Cola warehouse was purchased by Leah McConnell and donated to the city of Yreka for the development of a recreational center for the community. Lacking resources to develop the property, the city invited the YMCA to create and operate the recreational program for the area. McConnell responded with a donation and endowment of $500,000, while the community raised an additional $400,000, allowing the Y to begin operation in 1994.
In 2015, the Y served more than 4,400 people in Siskiyou County. “In Yreka, we don’t have a city recreation department. The Siskiyou YMCA fills that void by partnering with other groups as well as YMCA programs and classes,” Collier says. “We have something for all ages and keep families active, as well as offering a place to come and use the weight room and youth activity center.”
The Christmas run is an extension of the Y’s commitment to education and opportunity to live a healthy way of life. “I really enjoy my job,” Collier says. “We help people become healthy and build a lifestyle. It changes each day and provides a place for me to have events and fun ways to educate.”
As a local, Collier gives back to the community which has given much to her. “What I have learned since coming on as the health and wellness director is what it provides for members of all ages,” Collier says. “We have large senior fitness classes and programs. I have a master’s degree in sports management and kinesiology, so working at a YMCA is not out of my range.”
Proceeds from the Ugly Sweater Run fund scholarships for those needing help to participate in the Y’s activities. The Y’s pledge is that no one will ever be turned away because of inability to pay for a program or membership. Last year’s race had more than 150 runners, with a target for 200 this year. Registration can be done online.
Collier’s enthusiasm for her work spills over into all she does. “The Ugly Sweater Run is a great example of providing the community with an event that is fun and positive put on by the Y,” Collier says. “I was not always sure I would be able to work in my hometown. Doing what I love is a big bonus.”
Check-in, 9 am; 2K and 5K events, 10 am
Race registration, $25