If there’s one thing I’ve heard from people around Vail, it’s excitement for the future. Our tight knit community is a big deal, so when a community-driven organization comes to town, people get pumped! The YMCA is still setting up shop in the University of Arizona Tech Park. Before it opens to the public, we’re giving you a sneak peak at the man behind the scenes facilitating the project.

Meet, Charlie Buchanan, the Associate Executive Director at Ott Family YMCA and the Executive Director at the Regional YMCA at UA Tech Park. 

What is the #1 thing you do to help people at the YMCA?

The Y is such a diverse organization with multiple relevant causes so it’s tough to select a #1. Our overall cause is strengthening community and helping people realize their fullest potential. We fulfill this obligation by making sure we nurture the potential of our kids, inspire and assist people to lead healthy lives and create a community where we care about each other. This work comes in so many forms but one of the great things about working for the YMCA is it’s actually my job to figure out ways to improve the lives of those in our community, and that’s inspiring. I get to see a kid smile as they learn something new, or watch a community of individuals organically form to support one another, or address significant health challenges like diabetes or youth obesity and inspire change. I have always been drawn to helping others, and that’s what we are all about. The Y doesn’t leave any single person behind, and embraces the opportunity to serve all. Developing potential is a worthy cause, and helping improve life whether it be a single mom seeking to work and find child care for her children, a health seeker looking to belong to a community that can encourage them in their overwhelming health goals or a teen that is looking for a safe place to be after school or give back to their community. That’s what we are all about.

2. Do you have any career accomplishments or awards you’d like to highlight?

Since 2009 I have had the privilege to lead and develop our Military Outreach Initiative, which started slowly but gradually grew to serving over 5,000 military families in Tucson. It has been some of my most rewarding efforts to support these families in some of their most trying times, extending our hands and helping them distract, connect and get through the difficulties they face after a spouse deploys. Through this initiative the Y has offered membership, child care and summer camp to these families. It’s been a true honor to give back.

3. Why are you the BEST at what you do?

Best is a tough word for a humble guy. I feel like I am great at what I do because I believe in it. I know that my effort and success will directly translate to a stronger community, and that knowledge drives me to find and achieve success at all costs. Being authentic, genuine, honest is a big part of who I am and that helps in a movement that is heavily centered on relationships. I also understand the importance of surrounding yourself with talented people, treating them right, working collaboratively, and allowing yourself to take risks even if you fail sometimes. I don’t give up and am stubbornly determined to make a difference.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your personal/leisure time?

In earlier years I spent a lot of my spare time enjoying sports/outdoor activities particularly fishing or anything around the water and trees. As I age and become injury prone, and have been blessed with a beautiful family my time is spent chasing little ones. I enjoy introducing my love for the outdoors and adventure to my children and to watch it bring them the same joy and excitement I’ve loved. Ultimately though, being a good Dad and husband is extremely rewarding and takes up most of the time I have left outside of work.

5. What’s a mantra/motto/motivational life saying that gets you pumped?

I tend to ruminate from one to the next as the seasons of my life change, but the most recent one would have to be from Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Purposeful living is a continual journey and this quote keeps me grounded in many ways.

6. Anything else folks should know about you and your business?

The Y is a community based, non-profit organization that is motivated to achieve
our mission and goals by working collaboratively with partners and volunteers across our community. The Regional YMCA being developed at the UA Tech Park would not be possible without the support of our partners, as well as multiple volunteers that have advocated and contributed support to make this opportunity a reality. The Y is looking forward to expanding our presence into the Southeast Region of Tucson, and will be in need of volunteer support in many different capacities and levels as we build a volunteer board of directors and determine program offerings. I would love to hear from those may be interested in being closely involved in the project as we progress.

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Lucretia Free