With construction on the Bettie Allard YMCA now complete, a years-long vision for the Y to establish a centre of community in Coquitlam has been realized with a facility that will honour both its namesake and the Allard family’s generosity for generations to come.
The 55,000-square-foot facility will soon spring to life, as Canada’s first YMCA named solely after a woman will begin operating at full capacity and welcoming its first members in January. The Bettie Allard YMCA is now a reality with the help of our many supporters, including a transformational gift from Peter A. Allard in memory of his mother before he sadly passed away earlier in 2022.
“Our family knows first-hand how much a facility like this means to a community,” said Robert King, Bettie’s grandson and Peter’s nephew. “It becomes not just a place to swim or play basketball or floor hockey. It becomes a social centre, a place for people to connect, to make new friends and feel a sense of belonging—the heart of the community.
“When my grandmother was raising four children on her own in the 1950s, she needed a place to get a break and keep her children engaged in healthy activities and out of trouble. The Y was that place for her … and that’s the type of place the Bettie Allard YMCA will be for many people.”
King had the opportunity to share these sentiments during a Grand Opening Celebration held Nov. 26 that served to thank donors, key stakeholders, project partners, Y ambassadors and dignitaries who have played a key role in making a centre of community for the Tri-Cities possible. The program included a video presentation that featured an interview with Peter Allard recorded prior to his passing, in which he discussed his mother’s “indomitable spirit” and her values that aligned with those of the Y.
“It’s heartwarming that we were able to capture (Peter’s) words and what this donation in honour of his mother meant to him,” King told the crowd following the video on behalf of the Allard family. “We are so happy that his foundation will be part of funding this incredible facility.”
The What Really Matters Coquitlam Campaign Cabinet also featured prominently during the Nov. 26 event, which recognized the group’s tireless efforts to fundraise for the facility. Cabinet members Kelsey Dunwoodie and Marko Dekovic emceed the event with some assistance from their respective children, while Chair Tracy Price reflected on the project’s long journey in her address to attendees.
“It doesn’t feel very long ago that I was first introduced to the bold idea of what the YMCA was going to bring the Tri-Cities,” said Price. “Introducing a YMCA to a community that’s never had one before is a huge undertaking, but what kept me going is the love of my community and desire to create a safe place where anyone from the Tri-Cities—regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or financial ability—can come to enjoy programs that promote health and happiness.
“After all, what really matters to the Y matters to me, too: Family, health and happiness.”
There was also a moment during the proceedings to acknowledge the late Robert H. Lee, Honourary Chair of the What Really Matters Capital Campaign, with fond memory.
“His lifelong commitment to the YMCA and his initial involvement with this campaign helped us get to this momentous occasion,” said campaign co-Chair Bob Chan-Kent. “We are so grateful to have benefited from his leadership and generosity.”
The celebratory gathering included performances from the Lions Gate Chorus, a painting of the event captured in real-time by Impressions Live Art, and tours of the brand-new facility and its many outstanding features.
“As today brings to a close years of planning, relationship-building and raising of funds, the team is beyond thrilled to enter the Bettie Allard YMCA’s next chapter—opening our doors to community,” Heidi Worthington, YMCA of Greater Vancouver President & CEO, told those assembled in the pristine new gymnasium after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The Bettie Allard YMCA will be a place to come together, to connect and to grow. It will be a place for people to truly belong, reach their full potential and build a healthy Coquitlam together.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who noted in his remarks that the Burquitlam neighborhood has never previously had a community centre of its own, praising the “innovative” partnership between the city, Concert Properties and the Y in bringing the project to fruition.
The day’s festivities began with an earlier reception for donors in the facility’s third-floor Spraggs Family Development Centre. With photos of Bettie Allard from throughout her lifetime decorating the room and multiple generations of her family on hand, speakers took a moment to acknowledge the woman whose name will grace the building for years to come, express their appreciation for her son’s altruism and thank the entire Allard family for being part of the special gathering. Pictures of Bettie and written messages were placed inside a time capsule that now sits behind the wall of the building’s Robert H. Lee Atrium to honour the Allards.
“Through this time capsule, we want to capture and commemorate the generous support of the late Peter A. Allard. His belief in supporting single parents and promoting healthy living, civil society and inclusion were core values he shared with the YMCA. And, as all good leaders, he led by example,” YMCA of Greater Vancouver Foundation Chair Melinda McKie said in her reception address.
“To the Allard family, we thank you. Peter was a loyal friend, member, supporter and ambassador for our YMCA, helping educate people about our impact and promoting our mission of building a healthy, connected community where children and families thrive.”