Valley Forge to host the YMCA National Championship in 2024

Three Montgomery County YMCA gyms will run the event together. They expect about 1,700 athletes plus their families to attend.

A team of gymnasts poses for a photo.

A gymnastics team poses for a photo at the YMCA National Gymnastics Championship in 2022. (Courtesy of Willow Grove YMCA)

Got a question about life in Philly’s suburbs? Our suburban reporters want to hear from you! Ask us a question or send an idea for a story you think we should cover.

The 2024 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships will happen in Valley Forge next summer.

In June, around 1,700 young athletes are expected to converge in Montgomery County to compete in categories such as vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam, and floor exercises. Organizers said they are gearing up to welcome gymnasts, their families, and spectators.

“It’ll be an unbelievable economic boost to the Valley Forge area,” said Bill Seedes, the executive director of the Willow Grove YMCA. He expects the competition to bring about 5,000 people and more than 100 YMCA teams to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Montgomery County.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

YMCA’s National Gymnastics Championship debuted in 1938. It’s been 15 years since YMCA gymnasts gathered in Pennsylvania for the national event, according to Darlene Malone, the head of gymnastics in Willow Grove.

Willow Grove YMCA placed a bid to host the competition, after receiving encouragement from the national organization. The discussion around hosting began in October 2022, Seedes said.

Willow Grove will work with two other Montgomery County YMCA teams — Haverford and Phoenixville — to run the event. It’s the first time all three teams are hosting together.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Greater Philadelphia Y to showcase itself on a national stage,” Seedes said.

Malone said the national competition is near to her heart. She has worked for YMCA for nearly 25 years, and has attended the national championship for every one of those years.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
A group of young gymnasts poses for a photo.
A gymnastics team poses for a photo at the YMCA National Gymnastics Championship. (Courtesy of Willow Grove YMCA)

“I just think the Y program is a place for everyone — boys, girls, all levels,” Malone said. “Family, caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility are our core values.”

Malone was part of the team that hosted the competition in 2004 at the now closed Hatboro YMCA.

“We had a wonderful time financially. It was a great opportunity for not only our Y but for the area that it was hosted in. So it was on my bucket list to do it again,” she said.

After the 2004 competition, the program that Malone ran grew and eventually merged with the Abington Y to become the Willow Grove YMCA, the largest in the county with more than 1,000 gymnastic students.Part of the beauty of the competition is the opening ceremony, Malone said

Similar to an Olympic opening ceremony, the athletes get to march in holding banners, while wearing team colors. The event will feature a motivational speaker, and organizers hope to bring local politicians to speak as well. YMCA plans to award college scholarships of $2000 to some of the competing high school seniors during the week of the competition.

And “nobody’s turned away for financial reasons,” Malone said. Gymnasts in need of financial assistance can apply to have YMCA waive the entry fee.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal