Sanford teens held their first “Take over the Y” hosted by the Y’s Teen Leaders Club earlier this month. About 85 teens took part. COURTESY PHOTO. Sanford Springvale YMCA

SANFORD — Earlier this month, the Sanford Springvale YMCA Teen Leaders Club hosted its first ever Teen Take Over Night.

This teen-led evening was created to raise awareness of and provisions for the Sanford Food Pantry.

“It was amazing to watch these teens brainstorm, design and ultimately host this event,” said Sanford YMCA Aquatics Director and Head Coach Tate Warden .

The event, which was attended by over 85 teenagers in grades 6 to 8 was a huge success, raising more than 100 pounds of food for the pantry.

“When they were coming up with ideas for the Take Over, two key themes kept arising, first, the Leaders Club wanted to bring awareness to the YMCA and all it has to offer and second, they wanted to impact the community in a positive way” Warden said.

Event guests, some of whom had never been to the Y, enjoyed swimming, a photo booth, sumo suit wrestling, games and snacks.

“For some of the participants, this was the first time they had spent this much time at an event without parental supervision” said Warden. “I think that says a lot about the Y, that parents feel comfortable dropping their kids off knowing they will be well taken care of and will have a great time. It’s great that we can be that place where teens can take small but important steps towards self-growth and independence.”

Since the Y’s expansion in 2017, which included a game room, basketball court, additional locker rooms and a brand new wellness center, the Y’s commitment to teens has increased. Last year, the Y opened its doors to all teens on a drop in basis from 1 to 4 p.m. on weekdays and has had an overwhelmingly positive response, said Y spokeswoman Sarah Littlefield. “These drop in times are offered at no cost and give teens a safe place to go after school and will continue throughout the summer months. In addition to teen drop in times, the Y also offers free membership for all 13- year -olds.

The 20 participants in the Teen Leaders group also receive their Y membership at no cost. Warden, who has been working with the leaders group since January sees their growing self-confidence first hand on a weekly basis at the Leaders meetings.

“This group pushes kids out of their comfort zone and allows them to develop their leadership abilities in a safe, judgement-free zone,” Warden said.

The Teen Leaders Group meets once a week and will be starting again in the fall.