Growing up in Huber Heights, Dale Brunner never stepped into the YMCA, because the city north of downtown Dayton didn’t have a Y at the time.

Today Brunner, who in October will mark his second anniversary as president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Dayton, is dedicated to bringing the Y to more youths and families across the Miami Valley.

“The most important thing for me is to make sure every family has the opportunity to come to a Dayton Y,” says Brunner who has worked for the YMCA of Greater Dayton for nearly 24 years. The Y is wrapping up its annual campaign for Y scholarships, which last year funded $3.6 million in program scholarships at 10 area Ys and Camp Kern in Warren County.

Brunner says, “We’re proud of our annual campaign to insure that every family has a scholarship or can attend a program, participate in childcare or day camp at our YMCA.”

Established in 1870, the Dayton Y last year served 145,730 people in the Miami Valley with programs ranging from child daycare to senior fitness. The Y employs 1,400 and has an annual budget of $25 million.

Brunner, 47, was introduced to the YMCA when he went to Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., and played basketball under then-coach Dave Bireline.

“I was fortunate enough to have an amazing basketball coach who made it a priority that we volunteer in the community,” Brunner says. The team volunteered as a group at the local Y. “It was a great opportunity for us to give back in the community and I was fortunate to be a part of it.”

After graduating with a degree in management in 1992, Brunner returned to Dayton. While his wife, Shelly, was registering for classes at Wright State University, Brunner looked at the college’s job board and saw an opening at the Fairborn Y.

“That was my first job. I was youth sports director.’’

After three years at the Fairborn Y, he took a year off and worked for VanDyne Crotty before joining the downtown Dayton Y in 1996.

Three years later he was picked to develop plans and fundraising for the Coffman Y in Springboro, the first of five new Y branches launched in six years.

Brunner was instrumental in getting the Coffman Y going as its executive director in 2000, says Michael Parks, president of the Dayton Foundation and former Dayton Y CEO.

“The Springboro Y was the first of number of collaborations that the Y undertook. It involves a lot of community partners and that’s one of Dale’s strengths. He’s very good at bringing multiple people to the table. The Y in Springboro wouldn’t have happened without the collaborative partners,” Parks says.

Last year Brunner led development and rollout of the new membership plan for all the Greater Dayton YMCAs, making them more accessible. The new membership rate structure grew Y membership by 3,472 families, representing more than 10,000 people benefitting from Y programs and services.

“Dale made a bold move and lowered rates for individuals to join the Y and the net result was a double-digit growth in the number of people the Y is reaching and serving,” says Parks.

“Dale’s a superb leader with excellent people skills and vision. I couldn’t be more pleased and excited for the leadership he’s providing to the Y and the Greater Dayton community,” he says.

Throughout its long history Brunner says the Y is constantly evolving.

“We have changed from day one when I walked in the door in 1992 to yesterday. We want to make sure we’re providing the best service to the community and meeting what the needs are,’’ he says.

For example, five years ago the Y introduced a diabetes prevention program.

“This is another opportunity to change people’s lives and their thinking. The goal is to get them to lose 5 percent of body fat over the 16-week program,” says Brunner.

The classes, which range from teenagers to senior citizens, discuss a different topic each week and participants are given tools to make smart choices about food and exercise. Data last year indicated participants had a 5.9 percent average weight loss, slightly ahead of the national average of 5.6 percent, and 9 out of 10 participants in the Dayton Y program felt their overall health improved.

Another service offered by the Y is biometric screening. “People have to know their numbers to make a difference in their lives. If they don’t know their numbers then sudden medical issues can happen,” Brunner says.

New at the Y is LiveStrong, a free program for adults with cancer. They meet for 90 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks to build a healthy lifestyle and learn to support one another. All the instructors have national exercise certifications and specific training in cancer exercise through the National YMCA and the LIVESTRONG Foundation.

“It is a proven, evidence- and research-based program that empowers cancer survivors to take an active role in their own health by engaging in a strength and conditioning program at the Y. It focuses on health, rather than the disease,” he says. The program initially launched at the Preble County Y is now at three Ys and Brunner wants to expand it to all the Y branches in the next few years.

Brunner says the Y is also looking at establishing two new facilities in the Miami Valley but he says it’s too soon to say where.

“We still have a long way to go and we’re working hard to create partnerships,” he says. “We’re fortunate we have facilities strategically placed around the Miami Valley and that enables us to serve the entire community.”

Finding the right partners such as local businesses, hospitals and universities is key to the Y’s expansion plans. Corporate partners not only help with funding new facilities but also make it easier to have a one-stop location for delivering services, he says.

One of the Y’s largest programs is a free water safety program in June sponsored by PNC Bank. “The goal is to get people prepared for the summer and understand the importance of water safety,” he says. Last year more than 900 families participated in the weeklong program, which included a free swim at the end.

“We’re fortunate to have strong partners in all our facilities,” Brunner says. “We’re always thinking about enriching the quality of the family—its spiritual, social, physical and mental well-being. That’s the whole goal.”