Milton YMCA launching esports program for Valley youth

Feb. 1—MILTON — The Milton YMCA on Monday announced the start of an esports program specifically geared towards children in grades 2-12. The program is set to begin Monday.

Esports, also known as electronic sports, is an organized form of video game competitive tournaments where players face off with teams or each other.

The popularity of esports, locally and globally, was the motivation behind Milton Y's desire to create the program, said Program Director Cortney Lahr.

"The idea behind the program began when Milton YMCA Branch Director Ron Marshall and I visited the Berwick Y and noticed a room filled with video games and gaming laptops," Lahr recalled. "We were impressed, but we wanted to do ours a little bit differently, so that's where we got the idea for the game room. But we wanted to start a program of our own."

"As a Y, we are always thinking about what can we bring in here for kids," Lahr said, explaining the value of the program. "To get them in here interacting with other students, friends, and not just online, because you never know what your kids are dealing with online. Being here we know who they will be playing with."

The room has two 65-inch and one 75-inch TV screen. The 75-inch screen is connected to a Nintendo Switch; the two 65-inch screens are connected to the newest Xbox and PlayStation 5. And then the Y has six gaming laptops.

Thirteen students, ages 7 to 10 were in the game room Wednesday afternoon after class, and they were having a blast — literally — playing "Fortnite" on two screens and "Mario Kart" on the big screen.

"I'm liking this a lot, it's a great place to play," said Fallon Small, 10. "This is a game, 'Fortnite,' I know well. Play it at home."

Gus Cromley, 9, was sitting with his friends playing Mario Kart. "I'm playing that here, but I have other games at home," he said as he deftly moved around the control." Nearby was Greyson Dimon, 9, also playing "Mario Kart." "It's fun being here and playing with my friends."

The Milton YMCA is involved with the YMCA at the Miller Center in Lewisburg. "But for now, the Milton game room is the only one of its kind in the Greater Susquehanna group of Valley's YMCAs," said Drew Kauffman, communications manager, Miller Center

Grants funded the esports room, Lahr said. She had been working on this "for almost a year," she said. The budget was approximately $50,000 to set up the program.

The Milton YMCA approached local community members for grants and quickly received plenty of support. Donors include TCC, the Roy and Carol Moyer Trust, Fern and Gladys Moyer, M&T Bank, S. Luther Savidge, and a grant from the Degenstein Foundation.

Getting the word out"We've sent out flyers to the Milton and Shikellamy school districts," Lahr said. "I'm trying to get flyers out to Lewisburg and Warrior Run."

For Shikellamy, Lahr printed out flyers for every grade level. "We let people know via our Facebook page as well."

Members or non-members are welcome, Lahr said. "We don't care what school district they are from." Age groups for Milton Y's new esports program include grades 2-5 (elementary), 6-8 (middle) and 9-12 (high). The 8-week program will meet once per week for one hour and is $60 per child for members and $90 per child for non-members. Scholarships are available. Lahr added, "Once the program is up and running, we are hoping to have a once-a-week family night so everyone can come and enjoy esports together."

A free demo night will be held Friday, from 5:45-6:45 p.m. where 2nd-8th grade students can experience esports and learn more about the program.