Petrone family, Baker kids boost Child Watch Center

Tracy Haun OwensWest Knoxville

The West Side Family Y on Winston Road is a popular space for families, and on-site childcare is one of its most in-demand features. Now, thanks to a capital donation from Knoxville’s Bob and Margaret Petrone, the space for the Y’s Child Watch Center has tripled in size.

At the January ribbon-cutting for the Emile Petrone Family Child Watch Center: West Side YMCA Child Watch coordinator Lyss Feehery; the Child Watch Center’s youngest donors, the Baker children; donors Margaret and Bob Petrone; and YMCA of East Tennessee president and CEO Jim Dickson
(Photos courtesy of West Side Family Y)

The Petrones were on hand for the January ribbon-cutting, along with YMCA of East Tennessee staff and three children from a local military family, the Bakers. By giving $1 each as soon as the capital campaign opened, the tots became its youngest donors.

Inside the Emile Petrone Family Child Watch Center, infants crawl and toddle in a colorful, light-filled space. In the next room, preschoolers are engrossed in a life-sized game of Connect Four. There’s also a small puppet theater and other active play. Beyond that space, there’s a room for older kids who need to do homework or who want to team together for games.

Rebekah Grace, program director for the West Side Family Y, says Child Watch “is a huge part of what we do,” and that having room for children to be active, make friends and be safe sets the Y apart from other places where parents might grab a workout or meet friends.

Emile Petrone Family Child Watch Center benefactors Bob and Margaret Petrone

The opening of the Child Watch Center was the end of Phase One of the facility’s renovation, which started last October. Phase Two will begin in May and will involve putting a new indoor-outdoor pool in the space where the outdoor pool is now. It will have a retractable roof to open it up during the months it’s warm enough to swim outside, then it will function under roof the rest of the year.

When it is complete, the space inside the West Side Family Y that’s used for the current indoor pool will be devoted to wellness space, for yoga, weights and other activities. Phase Two, which is being helped by a generous donation from Pilot/Flying J, also includes upgrades to the entrance and walkways.

The West Side Family Y was opened in 1969 and is a beloved part of the West Knox community. Grace says it serves about 4,500 families, or 10,000 individuals.

“People love the community atmosphere,” Grace says. “Everybody knows somebody at the Y.”

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