ANZAC Celebrations


This ANZAC Day the dawn ceremony held in Cranmer Square was sweetened by YMCA volunteers giving out free hot chocolate to anyone who needed something warm to cradle while paying their respects and remembering our soldiers lost in battle. One thousand cups were handed out to young and old before 6am.

This is an act of service by young YMCA volunteers carried out every year at the Christchurch dawn service, in particular deference to the YMCA involvement in all the Great Wars – YMCA volunteers providing a range of unpaid support and welfare services alongside the Red Cross. Rather than medical assistance, YMCA volunteers aimed to strengthen the spirits of the frontline armed forces through provision of hot cocoa to the men in the trenches, counselling, rest and recreation activities, entertainment, family support and, of course, giving away copies of the Bible… to name a few of their Christian endeavours.

Getting back to basic service to the community in all its simplicity by providing some warm comfort on a cold dark morning as we remember the sacrifices made by so many before us, was something that YMCA staff thought epitomized the spirit and heart of the organisation. “It is a great honour to be part of the YMCA on occasions like ANZAC Day, knowing that our organisation holds such mana, such history with our veterans” said CEO Josie Ogden Schroeder. “It is particularly fitting that a group of teenage volunteers make it happen, getting up at 3am to prepare the cocoa at the YMCA and transporting it in urns to Cramner Square. They really are great young people.”

During World War 1, in charge of the New Zealand forces in France was one Major Jim Hay, who was also a YMCA representative and who later became Mayor of Christchurch. At a meeting in late 1917 which was convened to discuss how to address low morale in the NZ and British divisions at the time, Hay was part of some practical solutions of the YMCA – aimed at “improving local conditions and seeing to the welfare of the men, and also telling the men what they were fighting for.”

This week, YMCA Wainui Park is full of children on holiday camp. Veterans from Christchurch are heading there later today to run an ANZAC service for the campers. “The camp ceremony will include a reveille, which is very special.” said Ogden Schroeder.

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Today the YMCA enjoys the wisdom and patronage of a number of veterans who use the City Y Health & Fitness facilities on a regular basis.

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