Doubling the stakes at the Y downtown – Winnipeg Free Press

Doubling the stakes at the Y downtown – Winnipeg Free Press
Doubling the stakes at the Y downtown – Winnipeg Free Press

Ace Burpee had two favorite places as a child: Cooks Creek, the hamlet northeast of Winnipeg where he grew up, and the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg, where his father was CEO.

The radio DJ and philanthropist has fond memories of swimming, gymnastics, basketball and even breakdancing in the centre of Y.

“I’ve always felt like it was my second home,” Burpee said. “I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of great people. I’m really glad I’ve been associated with the Y for so long.”


Ace Burpee and Kristie Pearson are co-chairing a $15 million fundraising campaign to support the redevelopment of the Downtown YMCA-YWCA.

That association still exists.

The Y announced last month that Burpee will co-chair a leadership team that will lead the organization’s $15 million Heart of the City Capital Campaign to redevelop downtown.

The redevelopment aims to transform the Vaughan Street building into a community center with expanded child care, youth programs, newcomer services and mental health services, as well as community classrooms, improved accessibility and an indoor water play area.

“The amount of discussion about downtown is huge these days and while a lot of it is negative, there are a lot of people who are really trying to make positive changes,” Burpee said. “There will be no downtown Winnipeg without a Centre Y, so let’s make it as great as possible.”

In addition to Burpee, Kristie Pearson is co-chair of the cabinet. She is a dedicated volunteer who has worked with numerous organizations in the city.

Volunteer Opportunities

Below is a list of volunteer opportunities in Winnipeg and the surrounding area. For more information about each listing, please contact the organization directly. Volunteer Manitoba does not place volunteers with organizations, but can help people find opportunities. For more information about programs and services, visit or call 204-477-5180.

The Gimli Glider Exhibition is looking for volunteers for the museum. A background in aviation is not required, just an interest in history and a desire to work with the public. Must be 18 or older. Duties may include selling souvenirs and answering questions about the Gimli Glider. The exhibit is open from 11am to 4pm on 1st Avenue in Gimli. Apply with a resume at or [email protected] by July 15th.

Inclusion Winnipeg is seeking volunteers to join its Board of Directors. The registered charity has been working to improve the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities for over 60 years. Volunteers should be passionate about creating inclusive communities and willing to contribute their expertise and energy. Enthusiastic and dedicated individuals with diverse backgrounds and skills are needed. Successful candidates must be committed to the organization’s mission and able to participate in monthly meetings. Apply by August 16 to Executive Director Janet Forbes at [email protected].

Edge Skills Centera charitable organization serving Winnipeg for over 34 years, is seeking volunteers to join its board of directors. The board is specifically in need of a treasurer. The treasurer will oversee budget compliance, financial reporting, accounting, audit and tax compliance, financial policy, risk management, board engagement, strategic planning and financial education. Must be 18 years of age or older and be able to attend eight one-hour evening meetings per year. Please email [email protected] by August 31st.

MADD Canada is in need of social media volunteers to create content and manage its platforms in Brandon. Volunteers will interact with followers, respond to inquiries, and work to grow MADD’s online presence and follower base. This opportunity is ideal for those comfortable using social media, specifically Facebook and X (Twitter). Hours are flexible and volunteers can work remotely from their homes in Brandon. Must be 18 or older. A good character statement is required, but expenses will be reimbursed. Please email [email protected] by October 10th.

The Gimli International Film Festival is in need of volunteers. Hospitality volunteers greet guests at receptions and events, Operations volunteers assist with tasks such as setting up signage and preparing venues. Servers with Smart Serve certification are needed to serve alcohol. Venue volunteers work with the venue coordinator to ensure guests have a great experience, checking passes for entry, handling customer inquiries, and maintaining a safe environment. Volunteer opportunities are available during the day, evenings, and weekends. Apply by Sunday at [email protected] or

The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival needs more than 700 volunteers to make the annual event, which runs July 17-28, a success. Fringe team members must be available for a minimum of four shifts (approximately four to six hours per shift) during the 12-day festival. Duties range from selling tickets and chaperoning to helping out in the Kids Fringe area. Volunteers ages 12 and up are invited to apply by July 16 at [email protected] or

Habitat for Humanity Manitoba is hosting a blitz build from August 13-16. Fifty volunteers per day are needed for four consecutive days. Lunch and snacks will be provided. Visit for more information. Email Kelley Shuster at [email protected] by July 29.

Riverview Health Center is looking for volunteers for its Cycling Without Age program. Enjoy the great outdoors by cycling Riverview Health Centre residents through the community in a rickshaw this summer. Volunteers must be responsible, able to make good decisions, work independently and have strong communication skills. Volunteers must be able to ride a rickshaw for 30 minutes and maintain confidentiality in accordance with Personal Health Information Act regulations. A friendly and cheerful disposition and a positive attitude are essential. Volunteers must be 18 years or older and be available for day, evening or weekend shifts. A certificate of good conduct is required, with expenses reimbursed. Register by July 31 at

The Manitoba Robot Gamesa volunteer-run organization, supports an annual competition with student robot builders. The committee also supports a program of robot building workshops for youth groups and classrooms of school children. Volunteers are needed to lead and assist with workshops. People are needed to run the organization, solder controllers, liaise with schools, and assemble robot parts and kits. Apply by September 1 to Herb Reynolds at [email protected] or 204-668-3315.

The Canadian Red Cross needs volunteers. The Red Cross can show you how to help when disaster strikes. Visit, email [email protected] or call 1-844-818-2155.

The other 10 members of the cabinet include Winnipeg Jets chairman Mark Chipman, former premier Gary Doer and Canadian Medical Association president Joss Reimer.

“The team is just really good,” Pearson said. “I think it’s going to be a positive campaign for our community.”

Like Burpee, Pearson has a connection to the Y downtown: she worked there as a personal trainer in the mid-’90s.

When Pearson toured the building before joining the campaign, she was struck by how much has changed in the past three decades.

“It used to be more of a gym for business people, but now it’s a community center,” she says.

The Y is a charity that ensures that no one is turned away because they can’t pay their membership fees, which is why Pearson and Burpee signed up for this cause.

“Making sure that everyone has access to the Y — I learned that at a young age,” Burpee said. “Every opportunity and experience should be for everyone. I learned a lot about that from (my dad). And if there are barriers that are preventing someone or a family from having access to the Y, we need to remove them. I learned that very early on as well.”

The Y’s “ideal situation” is to raise $5 million from the federal government, state government and local community, said Kevin Hunter, vice president of philanthropy, engagement and impact.

He notes that the campaign is launching at a time when Ys centres in cities like Calgary and Montreal are closed due to increased operating costs and declining membership as a result of the pandemic.