Every year, the Towson Fourth of July Parade picks a local community to spotlight.
This year's honoree is more than a single community. It's more like a village. The Orokawa Family Center Y in Towson, 600 W. Chesapeake Ave., serves 10,000 people annually, the better to do so after an extensive renovation.
Kelly Krupinski, a yoga instructor at the Orokawa Y, also known as the Towson Y, volunteered to organize the Y's participation. "I love the July Fourth parade," said Krupinski, a Towson resident who for the past few months has been signing up Y staffers and members as parade marchers.
A week before the parade, she had garnered 40 to 50 people. Most are members who, said Krupinski, "were thrilled to be asked. They are proud to be part of the parade. Even though they live in our neighborhoods in Towson, they are part of a larger concept."
The Y group won't be marching in ranks, but they do have their marching orders. Because they come at the beginning of the parade, they've been asked to arrive at their staging area by 10 a.m. In lieu of a uniform, they've been asked to wear the black T-shirt given out at a previous year's Turkey Trot 5K races.
When they step out, it will behind the Y banner. The Y's Fit N Fun van will join the marchers.
"There will be a lot of children. Parents are bringing their kids," said Krupinski.
One of them is Kathy Osborn, a Towson Y member who will participate with her husband, Mark, and three children, ages 7 to 11. "We heard about it and signed up. The kids are so excited to be in the parade," said Osborn, a Towson resident and preschool assistant.
Osborn has belonged to the Towson Y for five years. "I've always loved the Y. Even when the roof leaked and you walked around cans on the floor set up to catch leaks in the roof," she said. "I'm happy to be participating in the parade and participating on behalf of the Y."
The Orokawa Family Center Y is one of 12 family centers that comprise the Y of Central Maryland. Along with its camps, preschool and Head Start centers and before- and after-school programs, the Y of Central Maryland has more than 110,000 members and serves 50,000 youths annually.
In 2013, after a $13 million construction project, the Towson Y reopened and was renamed the Orokawa Family Center at Y, in honor of the Orokawa Foundation that had contributed to the capital campaign. The almost two-year-long project included the demolition of the approximately 50-year-old building and the construction of a new 48,000-square-foot building the Y calls a health and wellness center.
Among the highlights are a lobby with fireplace and health bar/café; family room with game-playing tables, computers and large screen TV; two salt-water pools that include a lap pool and a water-park-style family pool; state-of-the-art fitness center; and recreational green space and picnic tables.
The Orokawa Y is the first Y in Central Maryland to be LEED certified, an environmentally friendly designation. The building is Silver LEED certified with features like low-flow shower heads and hand-dryers rather than paper in the locker rooms, as well as eco-friendly lighting and building material for the new construction.
As for the July Fourth Parade, "we were honored to be asked and are thrilled to be in it," said Landis, a Towson resident.
In fact, Landis has volunteered with the Parade Committee for the past four years. "I know how much emphasis they put on finding the right community to spotlight," she said. "It says a lot for what we do in the community."