New Tempe Y chief stresses health, community as No. 1 cornerstone

Staying healthy and keeping in shape are among the things that the Tempe YMCA seeks to uphold within our community.     – Photo courtesy Tempe YMCA

To many, staying in shape is at the top of the priority list. Keeping healthy and active in both mind and body is important across the board, but it’s not always easy.

Dave Burckhard is the new executive director of the Tempe Family YMCA, part of an international non-profit that works on keeping people not only active in their health but engaged in their community.

After a conversation with Burckhard, it was obvious just how important this ideology was. Burckhard grew up on the east coast of New York, with a strong interest in physical education. He attended Springfield College in Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball.

“My older brother went to school there, and they have a great phys ed program—so I was definitely interested from the beginning.”

Shortly after starting at Springfield, however, Burckhard transitioned to studying business and non-profit management. The college is well known for producing skilled—and sought-after—YMCA employees, Burckhard being no exception.

“After graduating from Springfield, I went to a Y career fair in Boston—the president of the greater Boston YMCA offered me an internship, and that’s how it all began.”

That was in 2012, making this his seventh year of involvement with the Y. Since then, Burckhard has held several different managerial roles within the organization.

Eventually, he reached the position of executive director. When the opportunity of transitioning to the Valley of the Sun presented itself, Burckhard leapt at the chance.

“I wanted to explore outside of the Northeast, and being able to drive success here for the last year or so has let me do just that.”

When asked what he thinks separates the YMCA from other community and fitness centers, Burckhard explained several unique aspects— starting with money.

“We don’t turn anyone away for the inability to pay. Financial aid and scholarship access is key.”

Considering how important it is to be active both physically and within the community, the non- profit nature is crucial. Burckhard and the rest of the Tempe Y team just finished one of their classic fundraising events, a “Spooky Sprint” 5K race.

Along with finances, the executive director added a more conceptual layer to this welcoming attitude.

“The tail of our mission statement is ‘community for all’, and we really take that to heart here,” he said.

Regardless of religious affiliation, socio- economic status or any other classification in communities it serves, the YMCA is open. The Tempe Family Y is no exception, and as the new director, Burckhard is working to keep that spirit— and the commitment to it—alive.

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