Bob Nixon says he was a major trouble-maker when he was a youngster. Then he went to a YMCA summer camp.
"By the end of the summer, I had been tamed," Nixon, 54, said. "It was such a dramatic change in my life that I feel this age-old debt to the YMCA."
Nixon now heads the Placentia-Yorba Linda chapter of Y's Men International, a service and fund-raising club for men and women that supports local YMCA youth activities.
"My story is not uncommon and most of the Y's Men's members were former recipients of YMCA programs that want to give something back," he said.
Six Y's Men clubs in Orange County and 1,479 others in 65 countries this year are celebrating their 75th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1922 in Toledo, Ohio, and has slowly grown over the years.
While worldwide membership has reached nearly 30,000, the groups are launching a campaign to boost membership and recognition.
"We're the best-kept secret in town and we don't want to be a secret anymore," said Fran Mueller, president of the Fullerton chapter.
Another club goal is to double the number of Y's Men clubs in Orange County by the end of the year.
"The Y's Men are probably the true unsung heroes," said John Forrest Harrell, the clubs' district governor. "Any successful YMCA anywhere has a Y's Men club behind it."
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There are six Y's Men clubs in Orange County:
* Capistrano Valley Y's Men
* Fullerton Y's Men
* Huntington Beach Y's Men
* Orange Y's Men
* Placentia-Yorba Linda Y's Men
* Santa Ana Y's Men
The six clubs above support the following YMCAs:
* Orange YMCA
* YMCA of Orange County (based in Costa Mesa)
* Newport-Costa Mesa-Irvine YMCA (Newport Beach)
* North Orange County YMCA (Fullerton)
* South Coast YMCA (Laguna Niguel)
* Yorba Linda-Placentia YMCA (Yorba Linda)
* West County YMCA (Huntington Beach)
* Anaheim Hills Area YMCA
* Capistrano Valley Area YMCA
* Saddleback Valley Area YMCA (Mission Viejo)
Source: Individual Y's Men clubs and YMCAs; Researched by MIMI KO CRUZ / For The Times