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YOUNG WONDERS

YWCA McLean County wants community's help to transport kids in need

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BLOOMINGTON — Lack of reliable transportation has limited access to YWCA McLean County's before- and after-school program, especially among children with disabilities.

But YWCA hopes Bloomington-Normal area residents will help.

YWCA Young Wonders Early Learning and Youth Development is launching a campaign called "Steering Success: Opening Doors to Opportunity" to purchase two new buses to help to transport children in need.

Each bus would cost about $40,000. YWCA has secured a gift of $40,000 from a donor who does not wish to be publicly identified and hopes the community will match that gift with another $40,000.

"We are very excited we have been able to secure half of the funding," YWCA Interim CEO Liz German said in a statement. "Having new buses will allow us to guarantee access for children we serve and hopefully be able to expand access for other children in our community, including those whose family don't have reliable transportation and for those attending our special needs program." 

The buses would transport children from Young Wonders to their school building before school; between schools as needed; and from their school building back to Young Wonders after school, explained Christy Germanis, YWCA director of marketing and public relations.

Young Wonders serves more than 600 children annually with its preschool, before-school, after-school and summer camp programs, Germanis said. Children are ages 6 weeks through 12 years old.

"We transport 100 children per week" to and from Young Wonders and between schools, she said. Many of those children have disabilities.

Young Wonders has three buses, two minivans and one full-size van but the buses are 10 to 15 years old. Maintenance problems with the older vehicles meant that Young Wonders discontinued a program at the start of the school year to pick up some children at home and bring them to Young Wonders, Germanis told The Pantagraph.

YWCA wants two new buses. Eventually, the older buses would be phased out, Germanis said.

"It would let us expand our programming because we would have reliable transportation. It would allow us to pick up more students with special needs," said Germanis, who didn't know yet how many more students could be served.

Safe and reliable buses meet a critical need, said Peggy and Mark Swerdlik and Cory Tello, members of the YWCA After School for Children with Special Needs Community Advisory Board. Bus transportation for students with disabilities is particularly important and YWCA buses have allowed the after-school program for children with special needs to grow, enrolling Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5 students, they said.

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.

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