University City

YMCA to host 10th annual International Block Party

The University City YMCA will present the 10th annual International Block Party, an event that celebrates the diversity of the University City area, on Saturday.

All proceeds will benefit the University City Y Community Support Campaign to help support kids and families participate in the afterschool, summer day camp and other programs at the Y. The Y raised $8,500 at last year's International Block Party. This year, the goal is to raise $12,000.

"One of the cool things about the Y is that we bring people together," said Paul Petr, executive director at the University Y. "The intent of this event is not only just to bring people together to share the similarities and to celebrate the differences but also for a good cause that raises money for those less fortunate in our community."

The Y does not turn people away for financial reasons, so the organization raises funds to offset its expenses, he said.

The Block Party, sponsored by TIAA-CREF and Starks Pediatrics, is free to the public and will feature food vendors, children's games, music, inflatables, health services and local business vendors. The party will include traditional Indian and Polynesian dancing, Zumba exhibitions and Tai Chi demonstrations.

Petr believes the Y is one of the main organizations that bring people from all diverse backgrounds together.

"You have business leaders, you have people that are the recipients of our financial assistance," said Petr. "They may be playing basketball together, may be on a treadmill, may be in the same lap lane, may be volunteering on a youth sports team. And likewise you get kids from all different backgrounds."

There are people who recently immigrated to the United States who come to the Y because it is known as a safe and productive place to go, he explained.

As a first-generation American, Petr believes he has a soft spot in his heart for people who are new to the United States.

"My parents emigrated from Europe after World War II," said Petr, who explained they were displaced refugees from the Czech Republic. "It's an honor to work for an organization like the Y that plays such an important part in welcoming newcomers to our community."

There's a lot that goes on inside the programs, he said. It's more than just teaching kids to swim or caring for them after school.

"We have a regular group of guys that play basketball on Saturday," said Petr. "You see them and they are talking about their families, their work, and you see them exchanging business cards. A lot more is going on than just the game of basketball. There's mentoring going's really neat."

It's about bringing different parts of the University City community together and building relationships with one another.

"We're thrilled to celebrate the many cultures and practices of the University City community," Natia Walker, Y community outreach development director said in a press release. "With the support of our sponsors and vendors, we can provide greater assistance for kids and families to participate in programs like afterschool and summer camp."