Wednesday, February 17, 2021

1986 - Wally Vision (and Leadership)


Wally Wirick in recent years - a vision for all seasons.

(Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

I know it is cheap and shameful to take advantage of a current trend or try to associate with a fan favorite to hopelessly make a connection. So, call me cheap, shameless and know that I am a fan of the current show and of my friend and mentor, Wally Wirick. 

Yeah, I worked for him back in 1983 when he took over at the Temple City YMCA in California. He found myself, and Julie Tindall, Bill Gagliardi, my sister, Lisa, Tony, Dave, Sandy and all the rest leading a small YMCA.

The Temple City YMCA was a two bedroom house with a backyard pool and programs that were vested throughout the community. I know I was the liaison for nearly 600 families in the culturally inappropriate Indian Guides and Maidens program. (The program was later re-branded Adventure Guides) A parent child program that fostered interactions between dads and sons, moms and daughters, dads and daughters as well as a quasi big brother mentor program.

Wally was the first professional YMCA career person that I really worked with. In fact on on annual basis to this day, I call him up and thank him for the opportunity to follow in his youth development and leadership footsteps.

I gained so much from that Temple City experience. When Wally found us, he helped unleash our growth and in less than a year, we expanded an additional 11 after school site programs; had a summer day camp of nearly 400 youth (the previous year we had 111); and taught nearly 600 youth to swim in a backyard learn to swim program over a three month period.

Wally who has always been genuinely happy - I have seen him serious as well but always a happy person who enjoys whatever life is giving him - he taught me to look at things in different ways. Inspired and visionary. 

Vision is a gift he has in everything. He looks at a pile of old broken pipes and sees a backyard water fall and fountain. He sketches out a design of a bed bunk system to fit inside a tee pee tent so every child is with in the bed and bunk rail regulations of the health department and can sit and listen to a leader tell a story at the center of the tee pee and have a clear unobstructed view. He looks at a bunch of teenagers and determines they have the capacity to quadruple a program.

V = (4 ⁄ 3) π r is the formula for the volume of a sphere. Wally looks at life like that - always from different parts of the sphere- using a baseball in the analogy.

Pictured - A baseball I've had since 1988 - V = (4 ⁄ 3) π r3

This method of determining how to view the world, challenges, different aspects of work is a great skill to hone. In 2004, as I took over a YMCA camp, I had attended a camping conference in Florida at Walt Disney World.

The camp, was situated on two sides of a road and campers and staff had to cross it several times a day to get to different activity areas. All the cabins, dining hall and most of the traditional camp activities were on one side of the road. The equestrian center, skate park, paintball, ATV, archery and a couple of other areas where on the opposite side. It was a time consuming and staff time consuming and intensive draw on each day. Folks were crossing the road some 20 times a day with staff often trying to shuttle folks from one place to the next because someone forgot where they were going.

As mentioned, I was at Disney World for this conference and we had some time off to ago to the different parks. I made my way to the shuttle system to get to Disney's Animal Kingdom. In less the 3 minutes the shuttle showed up and from the line queue you could choose what shuttle to ride to what area you wanted. I hoped on the bus to Animal Kingdom. The 10 minute ride deposited me at that gate.

It occurred to me as I rode the system, that they had the same challenge in getting folks from one hub stop to multiple choices and do so in a timely and efficient manner. I thought of that baseball. And I ended up riding around the Disney World shuttle system for over 2 hours that day, watching the different areas admiring the  efficiency and timeliness.

That summer at camp, we employed a people trolley system at the hub of camp that allowed participants to hop on the leader shuttle to get them to their destination. It was quick and efficient and we ended up have just 8 road crossings a day without incident in getting campers to their chosen activity areas.

As I've gotten older I've tried to look at things like that more and more with genuine gratitude - I can't think of a single conversation I've had with Wally since we met in 1983 that I have walked away from without a lesson - I try to be that for others as well.

To paraphrase that television couple, working with Wally has made for an unusual pairing and I don't think it was ever a question.

Post Script - I want to take a moment and invite those who are reading this to consider a comment. Let me know where you are in the world and your thoughts on leadership as well. I also invite you to hit the "FOLLOW" button so you will get the latest story reminder. 


  1. Great memories of both you and Wally. I was a camper and CIT in TC. I was also on staff at Bluff Lake in 1987. I think of those times often. God bless...

    Jason Engel

    1. Hey Jason, what a pleasure to connect here - I still have a photo of one of our beach trips with you - please let me know where life has taken you, I would enjoy hearing from you - have a great day and thanks for being here -

    2. Hey ALF!

      Living in Laguna Beach, CA. Two wonderful kiddos. One in college, one in HS.

      My last visit to Bluff Lake was about 8 years ago. Much has changed, but there are few remnants that remain that are so very special to me. Raggers Point was still somewhat visible, thank goodness.

      Thank you for your friendship and leadership during the most defining and formative years of my adolescence. You were an amazingly positive influence. I think about my time with the YMCA and of you so often.

      Let’s please connect soon!

      Eternally grateful,

      Jason Engel


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