A Dream Come True

Over the summer, our child care programs grew by leaps and bounds. We were awarded 25 new School Readiness slots for Preschool AND opened a brand new school age child care program at Mayberry Elementary.

Monday was the first day of school for our new School Readiness preschool classroom at the Larson Center. As a father walked into the center and down to his daughter’s new classroom, he exclaimed “This is beautiful! This is a dream come true!”

To hear that kind of excitement and enthusiasm from a parent was heartwarming. We in East Hartford are so lucky to be able to educate and care for more children than ever before. I am so thankful to be a part of this dynamic team of leaders helping the community!

Jenn Odorczyk
Child Care Director
East Hartford YMCA

$$$ A week full of surprises!! $$$

On Friday, I was teaching my Xtreme Fit class, when I saw Bob walk into the Wellenss Center. “Uh oh, what does he need?” I thought. 🙂 Then I hear celebrating from Eileen and Karen. Ok now I needed to know what was going on. While I had my group doing a timed workout, I stepped aside to find out. We had just been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation for New Britain! HOW exciting! A smile was glued to my face for awhile, and I had to tell everyone.

So here we are, Wednesday, and my phone rings with Bob’s name on the caller ID. He asks if I had a second, of course I say yes, and asks for me to do a “wellness tour”…my response was…”what?” Then he just asked me to come into his office. I’m hoping this isn’t going to take long, Eileen is off doing an intake, and I’m all by myself. He introduces me to Karen and Nicole, both from First Niagra Bank. Cindy, our board member is in there too. They explained that they were opening a new branch, wanted us to be at the ribbon cutting ceremony, and wanted to give us something for our program. $5000!!

What an exciting week full of surprises to help lift our spirits, even though we know budget season is among us! 🙂 This will help us get closer to our goals for the year, and keep our motivation up!

Learning math through pesto?

Y afterschool programs are a staple in many communities across the country.  At the Farmington Valley YMCA, we’re no exception to that rule.  Recently, we began a new program in the community of Canton, Connecticut.

Prior to visiting the site this week, I stopped at the East Hartford YMCA Community Garden.  Lucky for me, and the kids, it was harvest time and I was able to take loads of fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden to the afterschool site.

Frankie is a regular at our Canton Intermediate School site program. He’s pretty excited about this math project!

This was the perfect opportunity to take our math lesson to the next level!  We began by reviewing and explaining all the ingredients needed for a good pesto (basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, parmesan cheese).  After sorting, separating and washing the leaves, the kids read the recipe and estimated how many batches of pesto we could make with the ingredients we had.

Then the fun began!  Measuring, leveling, sprinkling and finally putting it all together in the food processor.  Check out the intense looks from the kids as they created!


                                    Our staff member Sam putting the oil into the processor.

Here is the finished product!

We sampled their creation on cheese tortillini.  They enjoyed it so much that they got the Principal, Mr. Hanlon, to come to the program for a sample as well!  Each child got to take home a portion to their family for dinner along with the recipe.

Yep.  We learned math through making pesto and it was a tasty lesson 🙂

Wearing your “Y” on your Sleeve!

Today while at a local restaurant, Lauren, a welcome center representative, held the door for a woman in a wheelchair. The woman saw Lauren’s Y shirt and struck up a conversation with her.

The woman asked, “Do you really have a wheelchair ramp in your pool?” Lauren answered, “Yes!” and proceeded to tell her more about the Y. Lauren shared details about membership and the facility. Lauren invited her to try out the Y.

Lauren has been “Living the Cause” with Indian Valley for more than six years- in Child Care, the Adult Literacy program, Amazing Kids/Child Watch and now the Welcome center. Lauren is someone who “wears her heart on her sleeve” in a great way. YMCA members can see and feel her love all of the time and today by wearing her heart on her sleeve and her Y shirt, she was able to share the story of the Y with a new friend.

Traveling the World

We have been working on our multicultural programs at our SACC sites and this week the Eastbury program went to France. We learned our names, phrases, common items we use in the program, and even some daily dialogue all in French. We made French flags, Mardi Gras masks, and even Crepes, a French treat. We also played freeze dance to french music and did “Heads shoulders, knees, and toes” in French. Check out our French Crepes.

Sharing the glow

As fall quickly approaches and summer starts to fade, the staff at Camp Jewell start to reflect on yet another amazing summer at camp. Sometimes it’s easy to look at the numbers; over 3400 hours of camp, over 10,000 hot dogs served more than 1400 campers that took swim tests. But camp is so much more than that. It’s the memories made and the friendships formed that will last much longer than the brief amount of time campers were at camp. This summer, we asked our campers to take part in both an essay contest as well as a Chapel where they could write down what camp meant to them. The feedback we received was amazing;  campers from all kinds of backgrounds told us that camp was their special place, a place where they could truly be who they want to be without fear of being judged by others. In today’s society where academic achievement, athletic prowess, and cyber bullying it’s amazing to think that camp provides a safe place for a child to be a child, to learn how to work with each another regardless of from where you come, and to learn independence and good decision making skills.

At Camp Jewell, we end each session with what we call our Candlelight ceremony.  It’s a time to reflect on our stay at camp, what we have learned, and the friendships made.  We end the ceremony with some simple words that we feel everyone should hold true: “Be caring to your parents, respect your teachers and coaches, be responsible for your actions and be true and honest to yourself. Most importantly,  never forget how you have lived at Camp Jewell.”


It struck me this morning in a big way as I was driving into our lot and walking to the bulding – there are a whole lot of hugs being passed around our Y.  In the first five minutes of my day alone, I was fortunate enough to witness four separate instances of members addressing one another with a smile, a verbal greeting, and then a hug.  I feel as though this speaks volumes about our membership community, and it’s a fascinating thing to observe.

In college, I minored in Psychology and was particularly taken with Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory.  Maslow proposed life as a pyramid that was made up of five segments which needed to be met in order for the next to exist.  I recall spending hours debating the inclusion of the ‘love and belonging’ segment with fellow students and the Professor – after all, how can friendship, family, and a sense of belonging be integral to sustaining life?  Years later, being a part of the YMCA has shown me proof positive that I was wrong.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word ‘hug’ as “to clasp tightly in the arms, especially with affection; embrace”.  As I watch our members perform such a personal, vulnerable gesture with each other, I realize that there is so much more to the word ‘hug’ than how it’s officially defined.  Physical touch is, in fact, integral to sustaining life.  With our help, our members have formed their own communities based on common interests, their own friendships in which they motivate each other to continue to lead helthy lifestyles, and connections that are positive, healthy, and serve as remarkable models for their children. 

It seems as though the hugs are a way to acknowledge and thank each other for those very things.

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

It’s Going to be a Showdown!

      Some great talent will be going head to head in the annual YMCA Basketball Showdown featuring the Greater Springfield YMCA and the Wilson-Gray YMCA Adult League Champions. There will also be a staff basketball game between the two branches as well. The games will be held October 26th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Wilson-Gray YMCA with proceeds being used to kick off our annual YMCA Healthy Kids Campaign. As you know, the Healthy Kids Campaign is a national event that celebrates healthy living and helps kids and families embrace healthy habits that can be sustained for a lifetime. YMCA Healthy Kids Campaign is a signature event of the YMCA Activate America initiative which is rallying YMCAs across the country to further help individuals and families who struggle to adopt and sustain a healthy lifestyle. For more information, please contact Glenn Mauldin, League Director at 860-241-9622. See you there!

The sounds & sights of the Y

The last two weeks have sounded different at the Farmington Valley YMCA.  Last week, we went through our annual Facility Enhancement.  In a nut shell, if it was dirty, we cleaned it; if it needed painting, we painted it; if it needed replacing, we replaced it (well, most of those!).

Our annual “shutdown” or Facility Enhancement schedule was held the last week in August.  One more day to come on October 21st when we deep clean the Men’s and Women’s locker rooms

What was amazing about that week was the sound of volunteers and staff working together to make it all happen.  Here are a few of the sounds I heard during the weeks during and after our renovations:

  • laughing and joking about painting skills
  • “Don’t forget to wear knee pads” – in reference to a volunteer who helped to regrout the pool deck and whirlpool.
  • crashing and falling as our shower stalls in the boys’ locker room were demolished
  • contented sighs and WOW’s when the final tile was laid, partitions were reinstalled and the new showers were unveiled.
  • “I love that color!” – in reference to our huge purple wall on the second floor lobby and our sky blue walls in the infant room of Kids Care
  • Hairdryers buzzing in front of the new vanity counter and lights in the Family/Special needs locker room
  • Water rushing into or out of  our two pools for cleaning and refilling
  • Table saws cutting new flooring for the sauna
  • Drills replacing shower baskets, hanging hooks, repairing doors, etc.

Here are some “sights” that accompanied the sounds that week:

Our Property Director, Charlie Z, demolishing the showers in the boys locker room. Charlie is a master at laying tile and replaced 30 year old plastic paneling with beautiful cream tiles

The Multipurpose pool was drained, repaired and refilled!

These showers were what our Property Director was working on. Previously, they were stalls with plastic sheeting. Now they are tiled, with new accessories. This project took 7 working days to complete from start to finish. The results are beautiful!


Close up shot of the tile work in the boys locker room showers.


We added accent walls to brighten the room and sharps containers in the boys and girls locker rooms. YMCA blue is in the boys.


New mirror, vanity lighting, outlets and purple accent wall in the girls locker room.


New benches, scale and accent color in the girls locker room. Also, not shown are new shelving, hooks, refinished floors and shower curtains.


New counter, vanity lighting and outlets in the Family/Special Needs locker room. The counter was built by our Associate Executive Director, Dave Corricelli!


New floor in the sauna also built by our Associate Executive Director, Dave.


What I have heard the most comments about is our giant purple wall in the second floor lobby. People love it! Thanks to Christine, one of our Maintenance team members for making it look great!