There’s Nothing Like a Thank-You Note

In the daily chaos of keeping a Y running smoothly, it’s easy to overlook the outstanding effort that actually goes into making that happen.  We’re all guilty of it – it seems to be easier to find something that can be fixed than to comment on the things that are going well.  Fortunately for us at Wheeler, one of our members took the time to do just that:

I just wanted to drop a note of deep appreciation and praise, to all of the staff who work so very hard to keep this facility clean, and in such pristine working order.   You see I travel throughout this country and have visited a number of Y’s from the east to the west coast.   I want the maintenance staff to know this:  in my book you have so much to be proud of in the standard of cleanliness and the quality of operations that you maintain here in Plainville:  If things do break, they are always repaired in a timely manner;  no matter what time I arrive I never fail to see one of the staff cleaning, scrubbing the floors, or mopping the shower areas out; the bathrooms are always clean, sanitized and inviting.

Too often the maintenance staff and those who handle the superintendent responsibilities go quite unnoticed in many fitness centers.   They silently do their jobs, rarely complain and sometimes seem to just disappear into the overall structure.

Oftentimes it’s just such jobs that allow an organization to operate smoothly.   The guys and gals who are often overlooked, need a bravo and an applause from the membership who benefit from their quiet work for a job well done!

This is my little thank you to the entire maintenance staff and superintendents who make my stay both possible and so enjoyable.

Chuck Haddad

We’re so proud to have such an outstanding Housekeeping and Maintenance team here at Wheeler – clearly, their dedication to our facility shows, and helps to keep our members very, very happy!

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

Role Models of All Ages

Down below is a picture of one of our fourth graders taking the time to help a kindergartner how to read! Nik always helps kindergartens with their homework and in making them feel like they are important. He even asked if he could show and teach them about our four core values. When asked how he was going to teach them he said , ” I’m going to do what staff do… Role model! Our staff at Betances Elementary constantly show how we are living our cause and trying to make impacts on children who need role models. After hearing that statement we know that our values and our role modeling have proven how we live our cause!

Paying it Forward

I believe in Karma. Full circle; what goes around, comes around. Yes, Karma works and I have proof.

If you didn’t read the Hartford Courant a couple of weeks ago on Sunday, then you missed the story of the year. Our beloved Tiffany Archibald was in need of a kidney and here beautiful husband Beau donated his kidney to her.  Beautiful. Kinship. Amazing. Words alone cannot describe this story. It is emotional in so many ways and she is so lucky to have him. He would argue that HE is the lucky one to be able to spend his life with her. Now, he has saved her life.  He gave her his kidney; a strong, healthy, vibrant kidney. They were a match that even identical twins would be jealous of. It was meant to be.

So when their story was highlighted in the Hartford Courant(above the fold on the front page of sport section),many people came forward to express their thoughts and prayers. Some sent cards and some called to ask about her recovery.

Today I got a call that blew me away. A woman, a total stranger before today, called me. She read the story in the paper and wanted to give a gift to Beau and Tiffany and would I get the gift to them. She never knew them before the story was published. She was moved by the story of their hardships and was moved even more about how they had overcome those struggles. Yesterday was this woman’s birthday; each year she does something on her birthday that honors someone else. This year it was Tiffany and Beau. She said she wanted to “pay it forward”.

Karma at work. Each day we do our jobs to help others; it’s in our hearts and souls. Today, it was someone else who gave back to us. What goes around, comes around….

Written by Kristi Kearney- Downtown

Meet Norm Button, Camp Jewell’s Property Manager

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When we were seeking a camp property manager earlier this year, Norm Button rose to the top as a perfect fit for Camp Jewell. With training as a mechanical engineer and experience as property manager at other camps, he had the right combination of skills and experience to take on the huge task of overseeing all of camp’s facilities, including our upcoming Capital Campaign. Here’s Norm’s story.

My first experience working at a camp was in 2001 when I took on a job managing a brand new private camp in Hamilton, N.Y. I was in school for mechanical engineering and had a lot of experience with maintenance and building, and it ended up being a great job for me.

What affected me at that camp wasn’t just how rewarding the property manager job was, but also how much kid’s lives were changed there. The campers came from New York City, and the kids were expected to come for 10 years and essentially graduate from the camp program. As a result I made some strong connections with some of the campers and I’d like to think I helped make a change for them.

In early 2008 I moved on to a maintenance job at Colgate University, but after my previous camp experience I felt like something was missing. So, a year later I took a job at Wa Wa Segowea, a YMCA camp just over the Connecticut border in Massachusetts as the facilities manager. The camp was run down and had been vacant for five years so there was a lot of work to be done. I saw it as a challenge and was motivated by the improvements I could make there.

When I heard Jewell was looking for a property manager, my wife, Dianne, and I decided the move could be a good one for us and I was excited to start here in May. I’ve found Camp Jewell to be very friendly and I like the general attitude here—it’s very optimistic. It’s nice to have staff support and that people are always willing to jump in and help out wherever they can. Working with Ray has been great; we see eye to eye on our priorities and he respects my expertise and my ideas.

My rule is that anything I do has to turn out as good or better than what’s next to it. I’m looking forward to getting some of the aesthetics of camp in order to make things look even better cared for. As for working with the maintenance staff, my job isn’t to supervise them it’s to teach them how to do their jobs. When we do things right it means the counselors and everyone else here can do their jobs right.

I’m most excited about the big changes that are coming as a result of the Capital Campaign. I’m really looking forward to renovating or replacing the cabins. Having the ability to design buildings makes me a better builder and I’m excited to show what can be done to improve the functionality and the energy efficiency of our cabins.

I’m always learning and always doing what I can to make what I work on the best it can be. And that’s what I’ll do at Camp Jewell.

How Derek Hall, our Argonaut Coordinator, Found the Power of Diversity at Camp Jewell

Derek Hall
I didn’t go to summer camp as a kid, but I did come to Camp Jewell for Nature’s Classroom when I was in middle school and it left a strong impression on me. I went to college thinking I might want to be a teacher, but the public school system wasn’t a good fit for me, and I was trying to find a way to work with kids in a different way. When I searched online for places to work as a summer camp counselor five years ago, Jewell popped up and I applied. I came in as a CIT counselor to work with kids, and to become more active in my life, meet new people and broaden my horizons. It’s done more for me than I ever could have imagined.

During my first staff training, I met the most motivated, positive group of people I’d ever met, and they were all here for you—the campers—to be sure you had an amazing experience. I heard people open up about their lives during our first devotion like I’d never heard before. In a short period of time I was able to connect with people in ways I’d never considered before—they were people I’d always thought were so different from me. I started to understand diversity in a different way, and I was so fulfilled by the work we did together.

My coordinator that summer was a guy from Wales named James Waller; he was this big guy who played rugby, was really fit and was a rough and tumble kind of guy. I’d never met anyone from Wales before, and I wasn’t good at sports so I was immediately intimidated by him. But then I got to know him. And you know what I found? A really great person who was willing to speak from a real place, and he became like a father figure to me. That’s what I found here at camp, at a place where I never would have gone looking for it.

I’m from the North End of Hartford, so I’m a city boy, not a country boy, and being here at camp really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, doing things like walking around in the dirt and finding a raccoon in my room. Because of all these new experiences I went back to Hartford with a renewed sense of self-reliance after that summer; I felt like I could do anything. I started my own property management company, and I also started working for the Anti-Defamation League as a public speaker and facilitator, where I talk to groups about building connections between people of different cultural backgrounds.

I’ve taken some summers off from working here, but I’m back this year with a vengeance. When I think about camp it’s not just about me growing as a person, it’s about being able to give young people of different backgrounds the ability to grow as people as well.

While you’re here, don’t be afraid of who you are right at this moment. Let camp be a place where you try new things and grow and change because you’ve tried something you’ve never done before. There are a lot of amazing people here who really love you and want you to become a better person. It’s up to you to make the choice to do all you can to make that happen.

Sean Riddick, Jedi Coordinator, Gets as Much (or More) from his Campers as he Gives

Sean Riddick
I’m a city kid from Philadelphia, and coming to camp for the first time four years ago was a new experience for me. My brother told me about it after working a summer here so I jumped at the chance to come check it out. When I first got here everyone was so welcoming and I felt right at home. I made a lot of friends right away; it was such a cool atmosphere and I felt like no one was judging me and I was free to be myself.

I made lifelong friends that summer, and the summers since then that I’ve come back to work at camp. We keep in touch throughout the year and check in with each other to see how things are going. My camp friends have come to visit me in Philadelphia, and even if it’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other it feels like we just hung out yesterday.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a lot of you campers, and seeing how you’ve changed over the years. I see a lot of differences in you, I see attitude adjustments, changes in your style, and I see you becoming nicer people who are more accepting of people from different cultures.

Camp has become a way of life for me, even when I’m back at home. And I know it’s like that for a lot of you, too. I’ve paid a lot of attention to the changes I’ve seen in you, and that makes me want to change myself. I’ve become a more serious person when I’m in the real world. Camp has opened my eyes to a world that’s bigger than just the city where I’m from. It’s made me want to finish school and it’s made me more accepting of different kinds of people. Being here helped me become more comfortable talking in front of big crowds, it taught me how to make new friends at college and it taught me how to communicate better.

What I’m most looking forward to this summer is spending time with all of you, hearing your stories from throughout the school year and seeing all the positive changes you’ve made in your own lives.

Fun in the Summer Dance Expo

It was a packed house at the Wilson Gray YMCA, as the Fun in the Summer Dance Expo took place. Months of hard work and preparation were on display in front of countless families and friends. The show was every bit as exciting and innovative as advertised. From the imaginative dancer’s customs to the inspiring performances, the show was a true display of the artistic, creative and radiant personalities of everyone involved within the project.

The crowd was entertained by a variety of performances. Acts included upbeat hip hop performances, buoyant break dance routines, an adorable ballet performance by the five to seven year olds and an fun and imaginative dance piece by the dance instructors. In addition, music was provided by the Steel Pan Band.

The Fun in the Summer Dance Expo was an excellent display of the staff’s and performers hard work over the last few months. It was an outstanding night of performances from all age groups. To see family and friends come together and support the youth of the community was an encouraging sight. 

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Kat Pearson Finds a Home Away from Home at Camp Jewell

Kat Pearson, our Utopian Coordinator, is back for her third summer at Camp Jewell. She spent time at various camps as a kid, but it wasn’t until she came to Jewell as a counselor that she found a camp that felt like home.

Kat Pearson
I grew up going to various sleep away camps and always loved the spirit and feeling that summer camp brought, but I never found one camp in particular where I really felt at home. When I started working at Camp Jewell in the summer of 2011 I knew it was a place where I wanted to stick around. Being from Virginia and working 7 hours away was daunting at first, but I was immediately welcomed and made to feel at home.

I quickly figured out the routine of camp and had the best summer experience as the swimming PC and a counselor in the Nit Nois village. At the end of a session I got a note from one of my campers saying she hated the woods before she came to camp, but after two weeks here she had changed her mind about spending time outdoors. It made me reflect on the impact I’d had on her and how rewarding it felt to know that I was able to be that much of an influence on her life.

I keep coming back to camp because it’s filled with amazing people and I really enjoy meeting people from so many different backgrounds. I never feel insecure or excluded or out of place here; instead I feel a sense of home even though it’s so far away from where I live.

One thing I’ve learned at camp that I want to pass onto you is this: don’t sell yourself short. Always reach for something that might not seem attainable. Here at camp, there will always be someone there to help you do it even if you don’t think you can. And my message specifically for the Utops is this: be strong and independent women. We’ve got ourselves and that’s all we need, our sisterhood.

Tri Club Teamwork

Racing season is among us and so many of the Wheeler YMCA Tri Club members have a goal this summer whether it is to finish their first outdoor Sprint Triathlon, Olympic Triathlon, Half IRONMAN, IRONMAN, increase their speed on the bike or to run faster.

A group of 8 women set a goal this summer and that is to complete their very first Half IRONMAN (Timberman 70.3) in New Hampshire on August 18th. Their road to Timberman has been tough, interesting, stressful, relaxing, unprepared, bumpy, frustrating, scary, mind-blowing, exciting, exhilarating and worth everything they have put themselves through thus far.

The Rev3 Olympic Triathlon on June 2nd was their first big test. A grueling course with serious elevation, these women finished strong, finished with a smile, finished proud and finished realizing they have some work to do.


Test #2 was the Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon on Sunday July 14th. Some showed up unprepared and under-trained while others felt like it was going to be a walk in the park. The Wheeler YMCA Tri Club was well represented on Sunday with 20 racers; 14 individual and 6 participating on a two relay teams. But those 8 ladies were there preparing themselves for what has yet to come. Their goal of crossing the finish line at the Timberman Half IM.


Facebook was lit up like a Christmas tree Sunday afternoon with photos from the race, congratulatory comments, words of wisdom and encouragement, thank you’s and a re-cap of one racers day that I would like to share with you.

“I know most of you are expecting my “tidbits”…..but I wanted to share some thoughts of mine….when I started doing triathlons I didn’t know exactly what I was diving into..When I walked into the Litchfield Hills Olympic I was greeted by many friends…usually I have my partner in crime with me all the way side by side…but this time I was going at it alone…I had to wrestle with my thoughts…there were moments I just wanted to stop…why bother with the run anyway…but a friend was there…she told me go, you go, your run is your best, do it…I walked out being asked are you still running?..yeah I am…RUNNER COMING THROUGH they screamed…yet I ate a banana I walked…finally I ran…could only hear the squish of the water that’s been in my shoes for the past 3+ hours…and my thoughts…I head up to the road and there’s this bunch of crazy awesome people…my friends cheering…then again, I was alone…squish, squash, squish…I sang…had a full on conversation with an imaginary person…two friends were still behind me…I stopped at a water station no one there, but 3 glasses of Gatorade…I drank one picked and put a flower on the table in between the two left for my friends…and moved on…squish, squash, squish…maybe I’ll get trench foot disease…my toes felt like they were on fire…suddenly I see a biker…it’s a tri club member…and then another…they rode back out to help the last 3 of us through…I’m rounding the finish…EVERYONE left except for my tri friends…4+ hours they stayed just to see us through…the cheers…people commented how unusually calm I was…I think this time my friends…the experience just truly humbled me.”

And that is what it is all about!

Wilson-Gray Girls Learn What it takes to be Beautiful


Youth girls from Wilson-Gray came together to celebrate being confident and beautiful during a “Glam Over” event.  The event, hosted by the WG “Girls Creating A Future” program and VP of Leadership Development, Deborah Evans, provided the opportunity for the young girls to join in a discussion with Evelyn Manson-Miller, Owner of XES Spa in West Hartford, about how beauty is not only on the outside, but it starts from within.  Getting to know each and every girl in the room, Evelyn was able to get the girls to open up about what they loved about themselves and what they did not like about themselves.  While doing this exercise, Evelyn explained to them that although there are physical things that we do not like about ourselves, they are things that we have to learn to accept and embrace.  As the event went on, you could see the level of confidence grow as the young girls sang and danced together to music that was inspirational and focused on self-acceptance and beauty.

But the “Glam Over” event did not only include a discussion on what it takes to be beautiful, it also included make-overs to all of the girls.  The girls were able to get their make-up and hair done by Evelyn’s “Glam Squad” and have a mini photo shoot by a professional photographer.  The girls embodied everything they learned during their discussion and showed it through their poses during their photo shoot.  They were definitely confident, fabulous, and chic.  At that moment, they loved everything about themselves and that was the ultimate goal of the event.20130711_171857