Cooks give YMCA $100,000
Catherine Turcotte, the executive director of the YMCA of Harrison County, said Monday, ‘If you’re going to choose a winning team, I’d like to have Mr. Cook on my team. Mr. Cook is on our team.’
‘Mr. Cook’ ‘ William Cook of Bloomington, one of the wealthiest men in America and a major league patron of huge restoration projects in Indiana ‘ came to a private fund-raiser at Cedar Glade in Corydon Saturday morning to tell about 50 people about his lifelong ‘love affair’ with the YMCA. Taking part in team sports was instrumental in molding his competitive fire in his youth, he said, and the YMCA was important in his later years, for therapy after he’d suffered a heart attack and had his first by-pass surgery when he was in his 50s. He is now 72.
Cook is enthusiastic about the local fund-raising effort to complete the $6.1 million YMCA of Harrison County facility now under construction. He offered a friendly, open-ended challenge and asked if ‘Anyone (would) like to match us?’ The brunch guests chuckled and looked around. Then Cook reconsidered his vague offer as somewhat unfair and said, ‘We’ll get you started with $100,000 and see where we go from there.’
Turcotte said the event raised additional pledges of $15,000 in cash and stock. ‘A lot of people didn’t turn in a card that day. I think they’ll turn in one later,’ she said.
Cook and his wife, Gayle, were the guests of honor at the brunch for community leaders and YMCA supporters, both present and potential, at Cedar Glade, Bud and Betty Bennett’s historic mansion on Big Indian Creek. It’s not very far from the YMCA recreation complex and Keller Sports Park.
Turcotte had tried since last summer to arrange for the Cooks to speak here. (They frequently spend weekends at their Cedar Farm estate on the Ohio River in southern Harrison County.)
The brunch ‘ masterfully prepared by Eldon Barksdale ‘ was held outside on a patio in spectacular Indian summer weather. The introduction was handled by YMCA president Jerry Reinhardt, the former Lanesville teacher, counselor, athletic director and basketball coach, who assured Corydon alumni in the crowd that the new YMCA would not be decorated in Lanesville Eagle purple.
Cook said his family moved a lot when he was a child. He attended nine schools before the fourth grade. At the Peoria YMCA he learned how to be competitive during swim lessons. When his family moved to Canton, Ill., his parents couldn’t afford to join the YMCA. Someone who gave him a job delivering newspapers paid his membership for him. It was $2 a year.
(The YMCA of Harrison County guarantees anyone in the county a membership, whether they can pay for it or not. Membership is $39 a month for a household, $25 a month for an individual, $22 a month for a senior, and $15 a month for a youth.)
Cook was a founder and has supported the Monroe County YMCA in Bloomington for years. He has given it at least $1 million. He said his eyes were opened when a study showed that kids who attend the Y don’t do drugs, and ‘Bloomington, because of the university, is a good place to do drugs.’
He said, ‘There’s no place better for young people’ than the YMCA.
He said Bloomington built its YMCA in a run-down part of town, which quickly transformed once the YMCA was built. People began to want to live nearby, and land values shot up. Cook chided local officials for not being more enthusiastic about the local YMCA and what it can do for the community and its residents. It will have a beautiful wooded hillside setting in a big loop of Big Indian Creek. YMCA events and tournaments can bring much money to local businesses, especially as the town and county continue to grow, Cook said.
He encouraged local people to talk to their city fathers and county government officials to back the YMCA project, which can become a hub of the community as well as a centerpiece.
He said people who give ‘more than a few bucks’ to the project will support it and use the facilities because they will have ownership. He said people should be on a fitness program anyway ‘ aerobics, weights, walking ‘ because it’s likely to extend their life. ‘That’s why I’m alive today,’ he said.
Cook lettered in three sports in high school and graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in biology. Cook learned a lot about operating room technology during his time in the U.S. Army and applied that knowledge to his work. The Cooks amassed their fortune by developing life-saving medical equipment and devices, like coronary catheters, wire guides, stints, urological supplies, and endoscopy instruments. They started their business, Cook Group Inc., in a spare bedroom in their Bloomington apartment in 1963. Now Cook chairs a $3 billion business and employs more than 4,000 people in businesses throughout the world.
Turcotte and Pam Bennett Martin thanked the Cooks and presented them with YMCA T-shirts. ‘God is with us in our challenge,’ Martin said.
Turcotte said invitations were sent to about 100 people, and 50 responded.
When the Cooks were offered a chance to visit the YMCA site just north of Cedar Glade, Bill Cook said they had already been there three times.