Deep Roots

The YMCA was established in 1844 by a group of volunteers in London, England. George Williams, a 22-year-old shop assistant, started the Y hoping to offer an alternative to life on the streets. In 1851, Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain and lay missionary, started the first YMCA in the United States. From there, YMCA’s spread rapidly across America. As the Y’s presence grew, so did the organization’s inclusive nature, opening its doors to people of all ages, from all walks of life.

Local Legacy

When YMCA of San Jose was founded in 1867, there was already an emphasis on learning and literacy. One major project was hiring a librarian, gathering books and opening San Jose’s first library. Today, YMCA of Silicon Valley has grown to offer programs and services on more than 300 school campuses, at ten health and wellness facilities from Gilroy to Redwood City, and a year-round resident camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Nationwide Impact

On a national level, the Y is the largest nonprofit community-based organization committed to strengthening community, serving 23 million Americans annually at 2,700 Y locations.  


In 1891, at a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, James Naismith invented the indoor winter game by hanging two peach baskets from a second floor running track. 


In 1895, William G. Morgan, an instructor at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts blended elements of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball to create a game less physical than basketball, originally called, mintonette. 

Swim Lessons

The Y was the first to establish certification programs for lifesaving, swimming and aquatic instruction, dating back to 1909 in Detroit, New York.