History

Here’s a glance at the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties’ rich history, and a snapshot of our many successes over the last 130+ years on behalf of the individuals and communities we are privileged to serve.

1882:  Initial meeting was held to organize a YMCA in Fargo.

1886:  On October 29, 1886, Fargo-Moorhead’s first YMCA was chartered and incorporated. Along with other Railroad YMCA’s across the US, this facility served workers on the Great Northern Railway. This “Railroad Y” was a place to meet friends, learn new skills and find caring people. Fun fact: The Fargo-Moorhead YMCA became an organization before North Dakota became a state three years later in 1889.

1903:  The YMCA’s building at the Northern Pacific Railway was sold and plans began to secure a new location. At the time, there were 411 members. Additionally, the YMCA purchased 37 acres of land on the northwest shore of Big Cormorant Lake for YMCA Camp Cormorant, one of the earliest residence camps in the U.S. Additionally, the YMCA’s building at the Northern Pacific Railway was sold and plans began to secure a new location. At the time, there were 411 members.

1905:  Community leaders raised $50,000 to build the first YMCA facility on the corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North, which served the community for 56 years and including an indoor track, pool, fitness center and youth leadership programs.

1915: By 1915, Camp Cormorant included four sleeping tents, a dining tent, a kitchen shack and a wash bench. Camp had no electricity.

1953: The 50th Anniversary of Camp Cormorant was celebrated with new cabins, new boats and the addition of ponies at camp. At that time, one week at camp cost $15 for Y members and $17 for non-members. Candy Sales helped youth pay their way.

1959: $1,000,000 was pledged to build a new facility in Fargo. Additionally, the FM Gator Swim Team was launched.

1960s: Girls were allowed to start attending certain weeks at Camp Cormorant. In addition, the Rec building and Family Camp were added.

1961:  YMCA Members raised $1,235,387 and groundbreaking on the new Fargo-Moorhead  Family YMCA was held. C. Warren Litten chaired the campaign. William Schlossman, John L. Gunkelman and Fred Scheel were in charge of special gifts. This was the first time a million dollars had been raised in the Fargo/Moorhead.

1962:  The Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA moved into their building at 400 First Avenue South in 1962 with 801 YMCA members.

1963: Our rapidly growing community organization continued to create new programs and make numerous renovations. In 1963, KinderKamp, our first preschool program was launched at the Downtown YMCA.

1970:  The YMCA kicked off a capital campaign to build an addition to the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA – including four racquetball/handball courts, a running track and a free weight area.

1971: The Heritage Club was formed, a group that believes in ensuring that the mission of our YMCA continues in the future through their estate planning and/or lifetime gifts.

1976: The first annual Rudy Harris Handball Tournament was held, in honor of Rudy Harris, executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA from 1939-1942. He positively influenced the lives of hundreds of youth and was a pioneer and leader for the sport of handball at a local, regional and national level.

1979:  The National Handball Tournament was held at the Downtown YMCA. The year before, three courts were added to the facility in order to accommodate the growing interest in handball and racquetball.

1980:  The YMCA raised over $1,080,000 for new courts, a youth room, renovation of  the women’s locker room and swimming pool.

1984:  The YMCA raised $1,065,000 to improve energy efficiency and for the major interior renovation of the program areas.

1989: Because the increasing need for childcare became more apparent, the YMCA launched our School Age Programs initially at Madison and Jefferson elementary schools in Fargo. Additionally, a facility in downtown Fargo, which became the Y on Broadway – an adult fitness center – was donated by Dr. Cal Fercho.

1990: The first Paul Howry Golf Tournament was held, in honor of Paul Howry, a man who gave generously to the YMCA in spirit, mind and body. Tournament proceeds benefit YMCA participants with mental or physical disabilities.

1990s: Many new features were added to Camp Cormorant, including a high and low ropes course and water trampoline. In addition, the beach front was expanded.

1994:  The Rudy Harris Award was initiated, given annually to those who have dedicated themselves to the advancement of handball.

1995: The Charles Bailly Award was created, in honor of Charles Bailly, a man who led with courage and always explored a better way of doing things. He served on the Y’s board and other committees.

1997:  A capital campaign raised $3,300,000 to construct a new branch facility in the West Acres area, and renovate Camp Cormorant and the Family YMCA. The Schlossman Family YMCA opened in south Fargo complete with climbing wall, childcare center, fitness space and a youth/teen center.

1999:  Larger locker rooms and a free weight area were added to Schlossman Family YMCA-West. The $1,200,000 was paid out of the YMCA’s operation budget. Y-South, a full-time child care center for ages infant through preschool opened on south University Drive in Fargo. This center has since expanded and is now located just north of the Microsoft campus.

2000:  A capital campaign raised $1,700,000 to add a childcare facility and renovate and add fitness space to the downtown YMCA including group fitness studios and expansion of the fitness center. Additionally, the Y on Broadway was sold, consolidating our downtown operation. In 2000 the YMCA served over 34,000 individuals.

2003: Camp Cormorant celebrated its Centennial, with an event-filled weekend, including the burial of a time capsule.

2004:  A state-of-the-art fitness facility, along with expanded School Age Program areas were added to Schlossman Family YMCA-West. The $1,750,000 cost is being paid for out of operations.

2005:  The YMCA opened a new full-time child care center in West Fargo at the Lodoen Community Center. The center has since expanded and moved to 13th Avenue in West Fargo.

2006:  In collaboration with Calvary United Methodist Church, the YMCA opened a full-time child care center in the Osgood neighborhood.

2008:  To reflect the expanded reach of programming, the official name of our association was changed to YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties.

2010:  The YMCA and Sanford Health partnered on plans to build a new facility in southwest Fargo.

2008-2011:  Major gifts allowed for updates at YMCA Camp Cormorant including building improvements, new cabins and a new camp fire amphitheatre. Over 1,000 children experienced a summer adventure at YMCA Camp Cormorant in 2011.

2011:  Family Wellness, a partnership between the YMCA and Sanford Health, opened in southwest Fargo. The facility has become a premier place for activity and learning to inspire healthy lifestyles. In 2011 the YMCA served over 41,000 individuals, more than 18,000 of them being youth. 

2015-2016:  A capital campaign raised $3.6 million to add construct new state-of-the art Aquatic Center at the downtown YMCA. The project was to replace the current 53-year old pools.

2019: The Camp Cormorant Welcome Center opened its doors, offering a year-round gathering location for children and families of the next generation.

What began as a Young Men’s Christian Association now includes men and women of all ages with a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. We have never forgotten our story, however, that we still remain an association which seeks to serve people and adapt with current times, cultures and needs. Today, the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties is proud to have served our area for over 130 years. With our trusted brand and longstanding history in our community, today, we are able to touch more lives than ever before. We take pride in the work we do. However, we cannot rest on past accomplishments or assume that the good work we do today will speak for itself. We are continuously and proactively calculating ways to benefit the community and grow our facilities and programs for the next generation.

For an even deeper look into the YMCA’s past, including the founding of the first YMCA by George Williams in London, England in1844, visit our national YMCA website.