2019 YMCA Gather 'Round Recap

On May 16th, 2019, the YMCA of Austin celebrated 66 years as an organization at our annual celebration dinner, Gather ‘Round.

YMCA board members, staff, volunteers, and community partners gathered to celebrate the important work of the YMCA in the greater Austin community in 2018. We recognized outstanding members of the Y family, inducted new members in to the Jeff Bomer Legacy of Giving Circle, and honored the life of YMCA staff member, Bakari Henderson.

Guests enjoyed an art gallery consisting entirely of pieces created by artists in the Y community. Each piece reflected on the question: What does the Y mean to you? One artist, Emy Leviege, shares her story:

“I am a local artist and member of the YMCA.  Five years ago, after nearly 20 years living in Austin, I decided to take swimming lessons at our local YMCA (TownLake).  Before then I had never learned to swim due to my fear of the water.  I decided to face my fears and enroll in adult lessons.  My YMCA teacher was patient and the environment felt safe.  I was learning to swim!  Seeing my success and the joy from these classes, my son chose to get involved with the YMCA as well.  He took lifeguard classes and ended up working for the YMCA pool as a lifeguard for the next year.  He learned so much during this time, including the importance of helping others and honoring your commitments.  In fact, he enjoyed his time as a lifeguard so much that he went on to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.  I am so proud of him!  I’m proud of myself too.  After conquering my fears of the water and learning to swim, I was able to take my newfound confidence and courage and begin engaging in other YMCA offerings like exercising, yoga, and painting.  Painting was always a passion of mine so I took some classes to improve my technique.  Once again, enrolling in the YMCA classes changed my life.  For the first time in my life I have an art exhibition open to the public!  It has been up at the YMCA for three months and I’ve sold several paintings and gained lifelong supporters in the process. The exhibition has taught me a lot about myself and my art, empowering me to pursue this lifelong dream of mine to be an artist.  Because of my loving family and all the support I receive from the YMCA, I am able to do what I love – painting.”


In keeping with the artistic theme, Mercedez Rex Designs led guests in a DIY marbling activity to create custom colorful silk pocket squares.


The VIP reception was hosted by Seton Ascension for all the night’s awardees and sponsors. Guests were treated to appetizers and cocktails with beautiful views of Lady Bird Lake and the Austin skyline.



Gather ‘Round was hosted by East Communities YMCA board members Estephanie Oliveras and Trenzio Turner. A huge thank you goes to these committed volunteers for leading us in a wonderful evening of showcasing awardees and the impact of the YMCA on our community in 2018.


Delta Airlines was the presenting sponsor of Gather ‘Round. Ira Mercado-Dixon spoke on Delta’s commitment to strengthening the Austin community through support of organizations like the YMCA. We are incredibly grateful to Delta for making this evening possible.


2018 Awards

Bakari Henderson was a North Austin YMCA staff member, college graduate, entrepreneur, and leader. In July 2017, Bakari was murdered while on vacation in Greece. You can learn more about his story in this video.

In honor of his life and service to the YMCA, the Emerging Leader Award has been renamed to “The Bakari Henderson Emerging Leader Award.” This year’s Bakari Henderson Emerging Leader Award winners are:

Ravon Davis-Conway, Northwest Family YMCA

Ravon serves on the aquatics team at the Northwest Y. Ravon is incredibly caring and intuitive to the needs of the community including his fellow staff members and YMCA participants. He continually works to unify the aquatics department through words of affirmation, coaching, and team-building activities. Ravon is also a collegiate Track & Field athlete at Concordia University. He is an integral part of the Aquatics Staff here at the Northwest Y.

Bryssa Rodriguez-Muro, Texas Youth & Government

Bryssa, a senior at Del Valle High School, has been a participant in the YMCA Youth in Government Program for the past four years. Brysaa has ranked in the top 10 at YG State and qualified for Nationals two years in a row. Bryssa can regularly be found working with her classmates to help them excel, as well as supporting the YMCA in various ways including volutneering at the East Communities Y. This summer she represented the YMCA of Austin as an outstanding teen leader in a nationwide JCPenney campaign- highlighting her passion as a young lady and leader in her family and community. Her compassion and joy are infectious and you can’t help but want to be a part of what she’s doing when you are around her.


The Will W. Miller Award is presented to persons of high character and commitment whose leadership and vision have made only the most significant and long-lasting contributions to the YMCA of Austin. This year’s Will W. Miller Award winners are:

Dorothee Auldridge

Dorothee has served in virtually every capacity at the Springs Family YMCA, from board chair to Annual Campaign chair, before moving on to the Metro Board. She has served as Association Annual Campaign Chair, Board Secretary and as a member of the Executive Committee and Engagement and Policies Committee. As a former Y staff member, Dorothee understands the value of volunteers and the vital role they play in guiding program and policy decisions. She also perfectly balances the role of branch volunteer and Metro board volunteer- always advocating for the branch and bringing high-level perspective gained from her engaged role at Metro. The Springs Family YMCA and the YMCA of Austin have an incredible amount of appreciation and admiration for her, and her service to the Y movement.

Ellie Falcao

Ellie began her Y involvement as a board member with the Program Services branch in 2014, following up soon after as the branch’s Annual Campaign chair in 2016. As a mother of twin nine-year-olds, Ellie understands the struggle to get kids out from behind their screens and into nature. She toured the grounds of Camp Moody and vowed, then and there, to transform her family to outdoor enthusiasts. When the opportunity arose to join the larger mission of setting up YMCA Camp Moody for success, she went all-in. As Capital Campaign Co-Chair, she is helping spearhead the camp’s $18 million fundraising initiative and has enjoyed seeing the tangible impact of her volunteer efforts.

“I didn’t want to be on a board in name only,” Ellie says. “I wanted to get my hands dirty and affect the organization in a better way.” In this regard, she is clearly succeeding.


Program Volunteer of the Year: Kayla Elliott

Kayla joined the Program Services YMCA board in March 2014 and immediately began helping with the Youth and Government Program. Kayla provides leadership and direction to teen participants, volunteers, and advisors. She works tirelessly during the District and State conferences, and is always willing to solve problems to ensure a high-quality and fair experience for all involved. Kayla is trusted by her fellow volunteers, respected by teens, and invaluable to the Y staff.

Member of the Year: Yvonne Mansour

Yvonne is an avid Pickleball player at the Hays Communities YMCA. Seeing a need in the community for a fun and active sport for retirees, Yvonne organized the Pickleball group, which is hosting its 2nd Annual Buda Pickleball Tournament this year. Yvonne makes a point to ensure that all who come to play on any given day at the Hays Y are welcomed and feel that they belong. She lives out the Y mission by being a welcoming, genuine, and nurturing leader.

Philanthropist of the Year: Shelley Washington

Shelley is a member of the Townlake YMCA who, for the second year in a row, secured over $10,000 to the Annual Campaign. Shelley is a tireless champion and advocate of the youth swim program, ensuring that the Y will always be able to provide life-saving skills to all children and adults in our community. When Shelley shares the Y story, her passion and dedication is contagious, inspiring others to support our cause.

Community Partner of the Year: JE Dunn Construction

JE Dunn Construction has been a crucial partner of the YMCA of Austin since being the general contractors of the North Austin YMCA starting in 2010. Through building physical spaces, JE Dunn allows us to extend our reach across the Greater Austin area and serve a wider range of people, which is crucial to advancing the mission of the Y and helping our communities. JE Dunn has worked on the YMCA Camp Moody project for over 5 years now, and has generously supported and advocated for the success of the project. JE Dunn truly cares about their community and the people they serve.

Gerald T. Olson Distinguished Service Award: Amanda Rickman

Amanda has beena member of the Hays Communities YMCA since 2011 and has served on the board for three years. In her tenure, she has chaired the branch Annual Campaign twice, and currently serves as the branch board chair as well as the YMCA of Austin association co-chair for the Annual Campaign. Amanda never shys away from a challenge, working hard to advance the mission of the YMCA in Buda and beyond.


Hear from the awardees themselves in this video.



The Giving Circle was created last year in honor of longtime YMCA volunteer, Edwin “Jeff” Bomer (1936-2017) known by his peers as the backbone of the organization and a guiding leader who served for more than 40 years. This award recognizes incredible philanthropic contributions to the YMCA of Austin. Supporters who have donated $100,000 or more cumulatively over the years are inducted as they reach that threshold. We are humbled by this generosity.


The Avery Family

Bob and Rita Digneo

Moody Foundation

Yonge Family Foundation


2018 Impact by the Numbers

  • 700 children’s horizons were expanded through YMCA Camp Moody outdoor STEM education.
  • 2,036 youth received Safety Aquatics and Fitness Education through YMCA Project S.A.F.E.
  • 99,000 people strengthened themselves, their families, and their community through Y membership.
  • $2.6 million in financial assistance was distributed to community members in need.
  • 44,400 bodies and minds nourished with free meals in Y Camps and Afterschool.
  • 1,345 people engaged and developed as staff members of the Y.


More statistics and stories of impact are available at:



See the full Gather ‘Round photo album here.


Sarah Villarreal
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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