“CARS” and the Y??

As I hurried home thinking I really wanted to be sure to blog this week I also thought of making dinner, pushing the kids on the swings, and the nightly bedtime routine. 

Impact and storytelling seems to come naturally to me in day to day situatuions yet I seem to have stage fright as I keep trying to write my first blog. 

I was chopping  vegis while I listened to the kids watching “Cars,” the Disney/Pixar film.  Theodore (my 2 yr old son)  is absolutley obsessed with Cars right now and I may have seen it over 20 times but this evening a line in the film struck me.  I stopped preparring dinner and jotted down a quote that just made me think of my Y family.

” Lighting, there is a whole lot more to racing than winning!” 

This line is so meaningful in my life but especially in the my “Y Life.”  We are impactful.  We have a mission. We CARE.  What we do is not about anything other than our members, staff, and volunteers.  We have to be sure that we are connecting, building relationships, and believing in what we do.   If we can accomplish this, we WIN. 

A Foreign Culture…..?

Have you ever been to another country that had a different language, a different style of dress, and food that was out of your norm?  If so, how were you introduced to the language, dress, food?  If you were lucky, you had a guide who enthusiastically taught you some keys words and phrases, presented a menu with descriptions of the contents, and perhaps gave you an article of dress to help you “fit in”.

Now imagine if you had no guide.  Would the language ever make sense?  Might the food seem too ‘foreign’ to even consider?  And wouldn’t your jeans and t-shirt stick out among the native attire?

Isn’t this the same as a YMCA?  Think about the “Y” language we use, and how we assume everyone will understand it when they enter our facilities.  Think about the menu of activities….are they inclusive enough?….even for a beginner?  Isn’t it great to see a new member wearing a Y t-shirt!  This is a simple way to help them “fit in”.

For those of us who “drink the kool-aid”, or have been around a while, please take a moment to consider how is really feels to be a new member, child care participant, or day camper.  Are we “walking the talk” when it comes to inclusiveness?  Are we sharing our culture in an exciting way, just like a guide in a foreign land?

Let’s not just be Y employees….let’s be Y ambassadors, guiding newbies into this wonderful world of the YMCA!

“Do you work here?”

I had a chance to visit one of the Wilson-Gray branch’s after school programs today. I got to Noah Webster School a few minutes before the school day ended. I passed a few small groups of children in the hallway, and they seemed so friendly (and so cute!). They smiled and waved to me, and a couple of them whispered hello.

Elementary school children are generally a friendly and curious group, but these guys seemed extra intrested in me. I didn’t really think about it, though, and continued on to the cafeteria to chat with the staff while we waited for the kids.

As the tables filled up, I walked around the cafe to talk with everyone (I love to meet new kids- one of the best parts of my job!)  At each table, at least one child asked me if I “work here”- usually while checking out my nametag.  When I got to the kindergarten table, some of the kids I’d seen in the hallway were drawing and talking together.  I sat down to ask about their pictures, and Alina was excited to share hers.  Then the kids took turns reading my nametag (“Shelly” is a tough word for kindergarteners- it was hard work)

Too quickly, I had to leave, so I walked around again to say good-bye.  When I got to Alina’s table, she quickly flipped over her picture, wrote her name on the back, and gave it to me.

I had never met any of these kids before 3:00 this afternoon.  But now I have new friends hoping to see me again tomorrow.  I’d like to think that it was my sparkling personality or my amusing conversations- but I know that it was my nametag that drew these kids to me.  When they saw my blue and purple “Y”, they knew they were going to like me.

The staff at the Noah Webster program have taught these kids an amazing lesson this year- the kids probably don’t know that we stand for “Youth Development”.  And I’m sure that they don’t know about our mission to “put a caring adult in the life of every child”.  But they’ve LIVED our mission this year.  They know that the people who wear our “Y” are caring adults- and they’re excited to meet more of them.

It’s a heavy thing to think about.  Putting my nametag on tomorrow morning is going to be a little more exciting!

What’s That Racket?!

I’m currently sitting at my desk, feverishly trying to finish several tasks.  About 20 minutes ago, I hear what can only be described as a racket.  It sounded as though the whole of our membership had suddenly decided to converge on our small administrative office area.  I poked my head around my cubicle wall to find a small crowd of LIVESTRONG participants setting up chairs and clearly preparing for a meeting.  What struck me was the quantity of people – there were perhaps only eight or nine; far from the masses I had expected.  As I worked, I caught snippets of conversation, laughter, cheering, and applause.  I stopped to listen to the goings on, and was astonished at what I heard.  Camaraderie, encouragement, celebration, joy…these are cancer patients?!  The group was so full of positive energy that I actually felt a difference in myself simply for having been near them. 

How much we can learn from the warriors in our LIVESTRONG program, and how proud and pleased I am to be part of an organization that can provide an environment in which to foster those types of feelings for them.

Erica Donovan

Wheeler Regional YMCA

The horses are running at the Glastonbury Family YMCA!

All eyes have been glued to the horse race track for the past few months at the Glastonbury Family YMCA Child Care Sites. In February the children named their race horse and fearless jockey (Site Director) who proudly represent their site in the 2012 SKC Sites Derby. The Derby consists of a series of challenges to raise money for the Strong Kids Campaign while teaching the children lessons in philanthropy and giving back to the community. The Sites earn points based upon their finishing position in each challenge with the overall champion to be named in May. So far the challenges have included Restaurant Give Back Nights, Personal ASKS, and Coins for a Cause. The results were posted last week for the conclusion of the five week Coins for A Cause challenge. Kindergarten’s Rainbow #5 with Batwoman at the reins crossed the finish line first followed closely by Buttonball’s Marie Poppins riding Spoonful of Sugar #13.  For this challenge, each site came up with FUN-raising ideas such as a pie in the face for the staff with the most money donated to their jar, or held bake sales and recycled cans and bottles. Through the collective efforts of the sites, $1348  was raised through Coins for A Cause. With two challenges still remaining, our child care sites have contributed over $6480 through the 2012 SKC Sites Derby making us all big horse racing fans! Giddy-up… see you at the track!

Kerrigan’s Korner – I Believe…

I believe…

I had a great opportunity in the fall to work with a teacher in East Hartford on an After School grant to offer a program for 1st and 2nd graders at the School. I would be responsible for providing fun fitness instruction and the teacher was going to take the lead on teaching healthy life habits. True to Y form I had to come up with a catchy name for the program… “Healthy Kids”, maybe not that catchy but it works. The class meets twice a week after school. The kids in the class have Zumba on Wednesday and a Health and Fitness class on Tuesday. Each week for the Health and Fitness class the kids are introduced to new games and activities and are given a healthy snack and learn a Healthy fact. Last week the kids learned about Fire Safety.

I start each class with the kids in a circle and ask them “How can we be healthy today?” I love the answers I get…. My favorite this week was “eat spaghetti because it’s thin”. After I get a few suggestions, like the spaghetti gem, we start our class with some stretching and fitness games. Each week the kids are so eager to learn new things and eat the healthy snack (they always ask to bring an extra snack home for siblings).

The after school grant was a great opportunity for collaboration for the East Hartford YMCA and the East Hartford Board of Education. Working in partnership with others to achieve the Y mission is one reason why – I believe.

Mike Kerrigan
Senior Program Director
East Hartford YMCA

A story about honor

Last night’s Annual Meeting was a huge success. It was evident that everyone in attendance is working towards the same goals and it shows through our attitudes and dedication.

The East Hartford Y invited a long time parent to attend the Annual Meeting. This mom was chosen because her child has been in our program all throughout preschool and she has shown the us at the Y what it means to be a dedicated and loving parent.

When she was invited to the Annual Meeting by our staff, she was taken aback and immediately said she felt honored to have been chosen from all of the families in all of our programs here in East Hartford. She was excited to be apart of this grand event, to dress up and mingle with the caring adults who are changing lives every day within the Y.

It was an honor to us, the adults that she so easily trusts with the life of her young son each day, to have her hear and see what the Y truly is all about.

Jenn Odorczyk
Child Care Director
East Hartford YMCA

2011 Annual Meeting – “Very Special”

I love this organization! Last night, our 2011 Annual Meeting was a wonderful of what it means to be a “cause driven” organization. The meeting was a celebration of our commonality and diversity, and of our commitment to being relevant, impactful and intentional in everything we do. Those in attendance were young and senior, conservative and liberal, Black and White (and everything in between), native born and foriegn born, AND everyone was lovingly committed to those who were not present. While celebrating our hardwork and accomplishments, we recommitted ourselves to “servant leadership” and the betterment of those we do not YET serve. And this morning, twelve hours later, the spirit and electricity of last night is palatable as one person after another says: “Last night was very special.” It takes a “special team” to make “special” happen. WE, the YMCA of Greater Hartford, are a special team; I look forward to what 2012 will bring. I am honored to be a part of this team. With great admiration, James

Health is Contagious!

Hi, everyone. I wanted to share a story from another of our Livestrong participants. Here is where the magic and healing happens….Thank you! Jackie


Health is contagious

Angela Hyde (two-time cancer survivor, breast and thyroid) is one of our daytime Livestrong participants. Initially, when I did the intake process she was extremely hesitant to join the program. Angela was not very active, and to use her own words, “I have a terrible time even getting off the couch” but thought she would try the program and felt that if she had a group that she was committed to, that would help her stay motivated.

Long story short, she is one of our most committed and dedicated participants. She has never missed a class, even comes in 15 minutes early to get moving before the class begins. She is in there sweating and working it out each and every class. Plus, Angela and a few of our other participants get together on the days that we don’t have a class, to workout and support each other.

 This is where the magic happens…this past Wednesday, Angela came in early as usual, but brought her husband, in his cute dad jeans, to work out with her. She feels so comfortable with us, that she is beginning to make health and wellness a part of her entire families’ lives.