The year was 1998 and we had retired from working overseas. During the past 30 years we had made the YMCA of the Rockies our second home, vacationing at the Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch. Four generations of our family had joined us, and the Y soon became a favorite of our children and our grandchildren. At times it was just our family, and other times people brought friends.
When we retired, we decided we wanted to start giving back to the Y for all the great times we had staying there over the years. The Y had become a favorite meeting place as our family was scattered all over the world.
We started giving back by volunteering at the Estes Park Center for the summer. Our love for the Y grew even more as we met guests, staff and volunteers. That soon turned into us finding out about the cabin donation program. In 1999 we decided that we wanted to come back to the Y for many years to come, so we donated a three bedroom vacation cabin that we could reserve for our stay.
That cabin became our second home. Our grandchildren started coming to the cabin when they were babies, and still come now that they are in high school and college. Our sons and their families learned to call it home too.
When you donate a cabin, it comes with a donor closet. The day we arrive we open up that donor closet and bring out a few things that turn the cabin into a home. We have a few dishes with elk on them, some napkins and placemats we set out right away, a few pictures for the walls and other knick knacks that the children recognize. We had bought a Victorian doll house with little pieces of furniture for our granddaughter when she was quite young. It was fun to pull it out this summer and to see her enjoy looking at it, but she is now a sophomore in high school and isn’t interested in doll houses, so we will save it for her daughters in the years to come.
Our friends always know when we are “in residence” at our Y cabin because we put up our flag, the chimes, the gourd our granddaughter made, and usually have a few hanging flower baskets. We then take a seat on our porch and wait for visitors to join us. It doesn’t take long before another cabin donor in residence drives by and sees that we have arrived and joins us on the porch.
One of the fondest memories of our stays at the Y is the Christmas we spent in our cabin. Family came to be with us and we also rented one of the cabins close to us for the overflow crowd. We bought a real Christmas tree, made stockings at the craft shop, and went to a local annual bazaar and found several hundred stuffed animals for sale. We waited until the end of the day and made an offer on those stuffed animals that the seller couldn’t refuse. We put those little characters on our tree and it was a child’s dream tree full of toys. Any child that came to visit that Christmas got a little stuffed animal to take home. Santa Claus even made a visit to the cabin around dinner time to tell the children he was on his way to his sleigh. Christmas dinner that year was in the Walnut room at the Y and it was truly a feast – one that I didn’t have to slave over in the kitchen while everyone else was having fun playing with all the gifts. Everyone enjoyed that holiday in our cabin in the mountains and the snow made it a truly White Christmas.
This year we celebrated our 50th anniversary in this very same cabin. Family came from as far away as Ireland. Friends and family joined us for a party which was both inside and outside on the wonderful porch. Michael Kingston, the Y’s very talented chef and Director of Food Service, catered the event and got rave reviews. This 50th anniversary will be one that our family will never forget and we hope there will be many more times we make memories in this wonderful second home.
It was time to leave and we put all the knick knacks away, shut and locked the door behind us, and sadly left our cabin – but looking forward to the next time we will again be there with family and friends.