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Friday, January 22, 2021

YMCA honors Wilkie with Youth Development Wing dedication

The story goes that one afternoon in the early 1980s, Valleau Wilkie and Perry Bass were having lunch at Fort Worth Club when a waitress approached the two philanthropists to ask for help.

The waitress said the McDonald YMCA, in southeast Fort Worth, was in a bad shape financially, as it’s been running in a deficit.

“We need some help,” the waitress said.

Wilkie looked at her and said, “you got it.”

Every year since last 40 years, the Sid Richardson Foundation has funded and partnered with the YMCA of Fort Worth.

Wilkie served as the executive vice president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation. He died, aged 91, in December 2014.

“[Wilkie] was a great man,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “He was one of my favorite people.”

For all his contribution to the organization, this year, the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth monumentalized Wilkie’s legacy in writing. The youth development wing at the new William M. McDonald YMCA is named in his honor.

“[Wilkie] understood that education was economic development,” Price said. “That it was workforce development, that it was public service.”

Friends, family and about 100 community members attended a memorial dedication event on Thursday, May 9 at the William M. McDonald YMCA.

The facility’s staff invited family members to unveil a memorial plaque, a tribute to Wilkie, at the event. The plaque will adorn the hallway that leads up to the Valleau Wilkie Jr. Youth Development Wing inside the facility.

“He was a mentor, he was there for all of the non-profit executives in Fort Worth,” said Tony Shuman, president and CEO of YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth. “Everybody felt that they could go to [Wilkie] and he would give them this great scope.”

The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth has a dozen branches, one sports complex and a resident camp.

The newest facility, William M. McDonald YMCA, opened in January with a $1.5 million grant from the Richardson Foundation. The facility encompasses 36,500 square feet at Moresby Street in Fort Worth.

“I’ve lived in four different cities in my YMCA career,” Shuman said. “And I can tell you that it is different and it is better in Fort Worth, Texas than any place I’ve worked in.”

The William M. McDonald YMCA provides services such as youth mentoring, after-school enrichment, early childhood education, youth sports, nutrition education, gardening and chronic disease prevention. The facility also has the largest outdoor waterpark in Fort Worth.

The Valleau Wilkie Jr. Youth Development Wing in the facility is completely dedicated to the development and education of the local youth.

The youth development wing houses an early learning center, a youth empowerment zone, a teen enrichment center, Y Playhouse and a gymnasium. Youths can also learn cooking skills at the facility.

“I think [Wilkie] would be grateful to this facility,” said Robert Wilkie, son of the late Valleau Wilkie Jr. “It’s truly a great work done here.”

Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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