Gruntorad Named YMCA of the Prairie CEO

Riley Gruntorad

LEXINGTON – Riley Gruntorad of Lexington has been selected as the new CEO of the YMCA of the Prairie association that includes branches in Lexington, Holdrege and Gothenburg and serves more than 8,300 members.

Gruntorad has worked as the executive branch director of the Orthman Community YMCA in Lexington for three years and will begin his new role January 1. He will continue serving as the branch director in Lexington while also performing CEO duties for all three branches in south-central Nebraska.

Amy Biehl-Owens, president of the YMCA of the Prairie Association Board, said they didn’t have to look beyond the current management team to find the new CEO.

“Riley has demonstrated the ability to build and lead a team that is committed to the community, to the membership, and to the principles of the YMCA,” Biehl-Owens said. “He is passionate about the mission of the Y, while understanding what it takes to keep our organization running efficiently.”

The management team also includes Janell Brown, branch director of the Don Sjogren Community YMCA in Holdrege and Julie Czochara, branch director of the YMCA at Gothenburg Health.

Gruntorad was hired in August 2015 to lead branch operations at the Orthman Community YMCA. He has a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a master’s degree in education administration from Chadron State College. He also served in the Army National Guard for six years. Prior to the YMCA, Gruntorad worked at Lexington Public Schools where he taught life skills, then served as an activities assistant and coached basketball, football and track.

“Riley has impressed us from the beginning with his leadership and organizational skills,” Biehl-Owens said. “He has assembled an incredible team as branch executive and has risen to any challenge he has faced. Riley and his team have made a point of engaging our membership and of being involved in the community.”

Gruntorad said he is nervous and excited about this new opportunity and is grateful for the support of his staff and family.

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it weren’t for my team in Lexington,” he said. “They are outstanding, and I couldn’t ask for more genuine and hard-working people to work with every day.”

Gruntorad is a native of Lexington, and his wife, Jessica, is from Kearney. They moved to Lexington in 2010.

“The support of my family is what keeps me going,” he said. “My wife is amazing, flexible and also always willing to lend a hand at the YMCA. I could not do it without her and my beautiful twins, Carter and Baylor. I am ready for the next step and challenges in my career.”

One of the challenges will be continuing to unite and share resources between YMCAs in three small, rural communities. While most YMCA associations consist of several branches in large cities, the YMCA of the Prairie is unique in that it consists of three YMCA branches in separate towns. These YMCAs can exist in these small towns by joining forces and sharing staff and other resources, thus providing important wellness programs and opportunities for rural residents to stay active and healthy.

The YMCA of the Prairie began in Holdrege in 2003 (the Holdrege branch was later renamed the Don Sjogren Community YMCA) and expanded to include the Lexington branch in 2009 and the Gothenburg branch in 2016.

Gruntorad said he is looking forward to building relationships in all the towns the Y serves.

“I am really looking forward to getting to know the people in the other communities better,” Gruntorad said. “I want each of our YMCAs to have the biggest impact on the community that we can. We want to be the hub of the community and continue to serve people of all ages and backgrounds. At the Y, we see them all and do our best to connect. And, I love every minute of it.”

During his tenure at the Orthman YMCA, Gruntorad started the Turkey Trot, the Spring Run & Fun, summer day camps, the automotive for ladies class and the Transportation Celebration, which is coming up on September 22. He strives to stay involved in the community and encourages his staff to be involved, too. The Y recently began a partnership with The Crossing, a facility in Lexington that has an indoor pool, to create an opportunity for community and Y members to enjoy the benefits of water exercise and swimming.

“We are constantly brainstorming on how to do more and better serve our members,” Gruntorad said.

The YMCA is dedicated to strengthening the community through programs focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For more information, visit

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