When asked why he has stayed active as a YMCA volunteer for so long, Gary Petersen’s response is simple: “Because of the kids.” When asked about his and wife Barbara’s estate gift for the Y, Gary says: “It is an act of the heart and the brain.”

Barbara and Gary are members of the Ridgedale YMCA. Gary served on the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis General Board of Directors for 23 years, and today, he is a member of the YMCA of the North Legacy Board. The Petersens have established gifts for the YMCA of the North and the Ridgedale YMCA in their estate. “My brain speaks first,” Gary said. “We all want financial security. We work hard, plan, and invest to achieve that. But when we get into retirement, we start thinking about how we can make a difference in the world beyond our own needs and our family obligations.

“That’s when the heart takes over. Barb and I feel it’s important to pay forward our many blessings. A legacy gift will come from our estate after we are gone. It is a way for us to help the next generation reach their full potential.”

Gary and Barbara learned about serving their communities early on. Barbara grew up in the Twin Cities and saw how neighbors helped each other every day. Her parents were active in their church serving on committees and helping with projects and programs to support the community. Gary grew up the son of a farmer in Hartley, Iowa. “Everybody knew everybody in town,” he said. “If someone was sick, got hurt, couldn’t do all of their work, or needed additional help, the neighbors lent a hand.”

Gary and Barbara recognize the support that they had as youth. Both of their fathers were World War II veterans and had to start over when they came home from the war. Their parents worked hard so that their kids could achieve their maximum potential. But not all kids have that kind of support system, and the Petersens have seen the Y bridge the gap over and over again.

“The Y is always there—for all kids—to provide good healthy fun while instilling values, building skills and developing leadership. It is a place where kids can build lifelong friendships and a network of support,” Gary said. “Now is a time of change in our society, and the Y has had to find different ways to provide help. The Y is tackling the issues and working to provide opportunities across our community. That makes us proud to partner with the Y.”