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Last year, more than 760 people helped the Missoula YMCA meet its annual fundraising goal.

This year, donors’ names are written on paper basketballs and taped to the Y's lobby and hallway walls, alongside a basketball hoop measuring the progress toward this year's $300,000 goal.

Friday, Julie Hofbauer, director of Development and Outreach for the YMCA, ran out to the lobby to tape up a new marker — a little over $235,000.

With less than two weeks until its March 14 deadline, the YMCA is making a final push for donations, after hundreds of people have already contributed $25 or thousands to the nonprofit, all of which goes toward helping those who can’t afford the YMCA by themselves.

“All of the fundraising goes right back into the community,” Hofbauer said. “At the Y, we have a policy that says our doors are open to all.”

Nearly 3,500 people got financial assistance last year, according to Hofbauer, ranging from preschool services, to memberships, to after-school programs or summer camps.

Those people came from 13 western Montana counties, from places like Superior or Hamilton, Hofbauer said.

The preschool services can help single parents hold down a job — same with summer or after-school programs — and gives their children somewhere to be.

Fundraising money also goes toward the Splash program, which gives every third-grader in the county a swim lesson, including boat safety and water rescue tactics.

A class from Lowell School was in the pool Friday, tipping over in a canoe and practicing dives.

Around 600 kids get the swim lessons every year, Marketing Director Kat Franchino said.

The YMCA also offers free memberships, along with focused programming, to sixth-graders in Missoula County.

Families can apply for those memberships, or for financial assistance, by visiting the YMCA on Russell Street, Hofbauer said.

The fundraising drive started Feb. 7 and ends in two weeks. People can find more information at ymcamissoula.org/donate

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Arts and entertainment

arts reporter for the Missoulian.