1+1=3 The Gove Family at Camp Jewell

Gove good
It’s always exciting when new people arrive at camp, but there’s something particularly exciting when that person is a newborn baby. Peter and Jodi Gove welcomed their son, Jonah Paxton, in late June and he’s already become a regular face around camp and a part of the fabric of the camp community. Here’s their perspective on raising him at camp.

Though Peter’s family is in South Africa, and Jodi’s is in Minnesota, they consider themselves surrounded by family at Camp Jewell where they’ve lived for the past eight years. And they’re tapping into that camp family even more now that their own has grown from two to three people with the birth of their son, Jonah.

“We’ve always spent so much time here at camp that having a baby really hasn’t altered our lifestyle,” Peter said. “And if we do need or want to leave camp for the evening, we’re lucky we’ve had an overwhelming number of people who have offered to babysit anytime.” First in line was Kathie Reese, our office manager who’s also taken on the role of “camp grandmother” for many kids who’ve grown up at camp.

The couple had said while they were expecting Jonah that they intended to incorporate him into their already established lifestyle at camp, and that’s happened over the past three months. Jodi took the summer off to be with the baby, and Peter went home for lunch daily so he could check in with them. Now Jodi has returned to work, and the baby is with a nanny here at camp on the days when she and Peter work.

“We’re really looking forward to Jonah growing up at camp,” Peter said. “I think he’ll have a unique experience, not one many kids have. He really is going to be like a Jungle Book character,” he said with a laugh.

Together, Peter and Jodi hope that Jonah will grow up to be comfortable around different people and be flexible as a result of being raised here. “I think a lot of kids today are so sheltered, and they don’t get a lot of interaction with different people so they’re introverted,” Jodi said. “I was extremely shy as a kid and it took me a long time to get out of that, so my goal is he’ll spend a lot of time around people as he grows up and just be more comfortable.” Peter, who was also pretty shy as a kid, has a similar hope for Jonah.

Working at camp has definitely impacted their parenting style and the way they intend to raise Jonah. “I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of parents and I want to be the kind who lets my child be an individual, to try things on his own and let him fix things himself without being coddled,” Jodi said. “I don’t think I’m going to be a pushover, but he’ll know I’m in his corner and that I am here for him.”

For Peter, working at camp has taught him skills he wants to share with Jonah as he grows up, especially things he’s learned from working in maintenance. “I also want him to learn to take responsibility for both his actions and his surroundings,” he said. “I think my parents were really good role models. They gave a never-ending supply of love and discipline, let us make our own mistakes, and they encouraged us to spread our wings. I hope we are as good at parenting as they were.”

So if you come up to camp, you’re likely to find Peter or Jodi out and about with Jonah, much the same as they were before he was born. “If there’s anything that prepared us for parenting it’s working at summer camp,” Jodi said. “During the summer we’re working 15 or 16 hours, straight all-out physical work for the day. We’re used to life being all-encompassing and all-out go. Now we’re doing it with Jonah alongside us, too.”

The Greater Hartford YMCA and The Hartford Marathon Foundation Celebrate 20 years of the Hartford Marathon

Last night Kristi and I had the privilege of attending a reception at the Governor’s house celebrating the 20th running of the Hartford Marathon. Upon Kristi’s arrival at the Downtown Y just over a year ago, one of her main goals was to establish a relationship with the Hartford Marathon Foundation and she has done just that!!! Hearing the stories from Beth Shugler and the winner of the very first Hartford Marathon made me realize how fortunate we are to be part of such an amazing partnership !

At the event, Beth Shugler talked about how the marathon has grown from a small race of only 350 runners and only a few elite runners  to what it is now, having over 17,000 runners from all over the world and has brought Hartford to the forefront of runners minds when choosing where to run a marathon. This is good for Hartford!

A spokesperson from ING, the major sponsor of the Hartford Marathon, spoke about how proud she is of how the race has grown and in particular, the kids race and the Run for Something Better program. The Run for Something Better program has grown from just 700 kids taking part to almost 3,000 kids taking part this year. That truly is a testament to the hard work that the Hartford Marathon Foundation has put in over the years in working hard to create a program where kids can get fit and learn how to live healthy lives.

On October 8th, the Greater Hartford YMCA will be solely responsible for the World of Fitness Expo at the Run for Something Better at Rentschler Field. This expo involves giving  kids the chance to visit different exhibitors running demos and clinics of different sports for the kids to take part in. This is such a great opportunity for the Y to be part of such a powerful event!

Kristi and I, as well as everyone in the Greater Hartford YMCA, are so excited to watch how our relationship with HMF continues to grow over the next couple of years and all the exciting things we will be able to be part of.


Sue and Kristi  Sue-Downtown

Cigna Bike Donation

 Usually Christmas occurs in December but for a few special kids, it came early. This past week, Cigna gave out bikes to kids of the Wilson-Gray YMCA and the East Hartford YMCA. The children were selected based on their grades, good behavior and their ability to display the YMCA core values on a daily basis. Children, parents and the staff filled the room with laughter and smiles as bikes were passed out. For young kids who everyday strive to achieve greatness, it was evident to them that hard work does pay off!








Just a Van Driver

I was recently needed to drive the van to bring kids to school for the morning run. I was really not looking forward to it at all. I have so much on my plate and this is not what I needed. The very first day I met a young boy named Michael and he talked to me the entire ride to school. He was the sweetest young boy and I wished him well on his day at school. The next day another staff member drove the van and said Michael was asking where I was and why I wasn’t driving the van. As the weeks have gone on, I find myself wanting to drive the van just so I can talk to my new friend Michael. He likes music, he likes cars and he likes asking me about how my life is going. I no longer feel like I am just a van driver, I feel like I am important to Michael and I am having an impact on his life. More importantly is he is having an impact on mine.

Jerome Alper’s 35 Years at Camp Jewell as Camper, Staff, Parent & Board Member

Jerome Alper

I first came to Camp Jewell as a camper in 1968. I loved it so much that I came back every summer through 1978 as a camper, tripper, kitchen staff, junior counselor and counselor. Though a lot has changed since I was a kid, there is a lot that has remained the same, especially the spirit of Camp Jewell and what it offers kids and counselors. That’s why it gives me great pride to send my three kids to camp and it’s a big part of why I have chosen to serve on the Board of Managers.

After moving around the U.S. several times for work, my wife, Robyn, and I returned to Stamford, and we started thinking about summer camp and our options for our own children. I came up to visit CJ after having been away from camp for a long time, and immediately that camp feeling came back. After bringing Robyn up to visit, we decided there was no other place we would want to send our kids to camp. So, when our oldest son, Ben, turned 8 he started as a Bandit, and I joined the Board of Managers. Now years later, Ben was a Ranger this past summer (his 10th year), our son Zach will be an L.I.T. (his 8th year) and our daughter Becca will be a Nit Nois (her 4th year).

Being on the board has helped me stay connected to camp and what’s happening here, which is important to me as a camp alumnus, but also as a parent. It helps to keep the camp feeling alive for me, it reminds me of how I felt when I was a camper and staff member; it is fun in the same way. That enthusiasm is still here and it makes me want to keep being involved. I really enjoy coming up each session during the summer to help check in campers of all ages, sharing that joy and expectation is a lot of fun. I also like being a part of the Strong Kids Campaign that brings kids to camp regardless of their ability to pay, and I value that the camp continues to make it a priority to bring international staff to camp each summer. Giving kids the opportunity to meet counselors from around the world brings the world a little closer to them.

I have three perspectives of camp: that of a camper/staff member, a parent, and a board member. All three perspectives are different, but they overlap in a lot of ways. I want my kids to experience the same things here that I did. Camp helps make kids independent as a result of being in a place where they are protected by the staff but are given the opportunity to really be themselves. When they are at home they have to conform to all the different powers that be, whether it is parents, friends, teachers, etc. When they come here all of that is left at home and they can just be who they want to be. That is the way I felt as a camper, and I know my kids feel that as well. Camp instills respect, responsibility, caring and honesty without campers always realizing that is what is being taught to them. They learn it in fun, creative ways while they are enjoying the Camp Jewell experience.

You hear a lot of people talk about how important the friendships they made at camp are to them. It’s the same for me. As a result of being on the Board and being an active part of the camp community I’ve reconnected with some of the campers I grew up with at Jewell. Many are scattered around the country so I don’t see them often, but when I do we instantly re-connect because of the experiences we shared when we were here. Those feelings come right back and bring me back to the great times I had as a camper — even more than three-and-a-half decades after the fact.

That’s the power Camp Jewell has and I am really happy my family and I have continued to make Camp Jewell such a big part of our lives.

After-School Care Teaches Me a Lesson

I’m the first one to admit that I’m, sort of…um, awkward(?) around kids.  I think they’re wonderful – so much so that I have two of my own – but I’ve always had a difficult time relating to kids in general.  I tend to talk to the four-year-olds in our Preschool program as though they’re 25, and then become frustrated when they don’t respond in kind.  There’s a disconnect there, but I’m quite good-natured about it and it’s become a bit of a running joke around here.  I’m always willing to help with anything, but Erica is typically the last resort when aid is needed in childcare.

We must have truly been in dire straights for our Child Development Director to recruit me for coverage at one of our school sites for after-care on Tuesday afternoon.  I jokingly acted as though it would put me in an early grave, and she smiled and told me to take deep breaths.  My apprehension was palpable all afternoon – as the clock moved toward 3.45pm, I became more and more panic-stricken.  What was I supposed to talk to them about?  What if they DIDN’T want to talk to me?  What if they hated me?!

Courage screwed up tight, I arrived at the site and was greeted warmly by Carmen, a relatively new hire who is an absolute star.  Carmen has “Y” written all over her, and she made me feel comfortable and confident as she introduced me to her charges.  I couldn’t help being a bit standoffish, though, as she clearly had a routine and the kids knew it well.

As homework was completed and put away and toys and games were excitedly dragged out, I took a deep breath and did something that made me feel like a kid again myself:

“Can I color with you?”

For the three second delay it took for Ella to process my question and form her answer, I stood paralyzed.  I wanted her approval; I wanted her to recognize me as a caring adult.  I wanted to color.  Then, the response:

…and thus began an afternoon of fun, productivity, and relationship building.  I left laden down with promises of visits to the Y, challenges to Gaga games, high-fives, TWO pictures of lizards colored with care for me, and a light heart.  My new friends had a great time with me, and I with them.  Being open minded and vulnerable to a situation about which I had such staunch opinions proved incredibly valuable.  The time spent with such bright, caring, remarkable children was an opportunity I won’t soon forget, and I can’t wait to go back.

Of course, no one here believes me.

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

National Run at Work Day 2013

Today at the Downtown Y we will be celebrating Run at Work Day 2013 by offering two runs along the riverfront for our members to enjoy.

National Run at Work Day is sponsored by the Road Runners Club of America and is in it’s 8th year of encouraging people to be active at work. The goal of Run at Work Day is to encourage adults and children to get 30 minutes of exercise each day, in accordance with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.  These guidelines state that incorporating exercise into one’s daily routine can markedly improve one’s overall physical health and well being.

Here in Hartford, we are blessed with many beautiful routes to run along the riverfront and through the park. I still get excited on my early morning run through East Hartford and then down to the park to run under the arch at Bushnell Park! We are very fortunate that the City of Hartford and the Hartford Marathon Foundation celebrate runners of all abilities by offering many fun and healthy opportunities for runners to take part in.

So….if you would like to enjoy what is supposed to be a beautiful day and do something good for you…..get out of your office and go for a run!! Or come join us at noon!!!

Sue- Downtown

Wilson Gray Zumba Day Parade

It was a day of fun and excitement for the Wilson – Gray YMCA Zumba Crew. Participants had the chance to show their best dance moves and get a great workout as they marched through the streets of Hartford in the West Indian Day Parade. Ulandi, a Wilson-Gray Zumba instructor, led 50 members in the days festivities, starting from the top of Main Street down to Bushnell Park.  To provide a little friendly competition to the event there were judges on hand who decided which group performed best in show and I’m happy to report  though it was our first year participating Wilson- Gray came is at 3rd! Everyone was all smiles as they represented their favorite Zumba crew. We are looking forward to an even larger showing next year!!

Ulandi and Daughter Zumba Parade 10 Zumba Parade 8 Zumba Parade 7

At Camp Jewell’s Family Camp, Friends Become Family–Literally!

IMGP2138(Photo credit: EC Shots® Edwin Cruz Photography© All Rights Reserved)

A lot of people think of Jewell as a summer camp, but we offer lots of other programs throughout the year, including Family Camp. Here’s a great story about two families who met at Labor Day family camp 20 years ago and now–quite literally–are family.

When Joe and Karen Obuchowski came to Camp Jewell’s Labor Day family camp for the first time in 1991, they had no idea it was the start of what would become a 23 year (and counting) family tradition. The same can be said for Frank and Hilary Micalizzi who started coming the following year. A few years into their time at camp Joe invited his brother, Tony, and his family to come along.

It’s a tough family tree to follow because the Obuchowskis and Micalizzis have invited so many family members and friends to family camp with them over the years—it’s become common to have upwards of 30, 40 or even 50 people in their group each Labor Day. They never found it hard to recruit family and friends, all they did was describe the camp activities, explain that all meals were included and that accommodations were in cabins, not tents. In essence, reinforce that it wasn’t “camping” as most people know it, and to come to family camp is truly to join a camp family.

The kids felt a sense of community at camp when they were growing up, and they particularly appreciated the independence they enjoyed here that they weren’t offered at home. Their parents’ only requirement was that they show up for meals; otherwise, they were on their own to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends and explore all that camp had to offer. Many of the family members and their “family camp” friends felt like no time had passed even though it had been a year since they’d been together over Labor Day, much like the feeling so many summer campers talk about when they reunite with their “camp friends.”

The stories from over the years come to mind quickly for the Obuchowski and Micalizzi families, who initially met through various sports-related activities. Memories abound of never-ending volleyball and wiffle ball games, an all-camp power outage that followed a hurricane, lying on the courts star gazing, and enjoying camp favorites like Gold Rush and Underground Railroad. They loved coming back each year to reunite with families they’d befriended in prior years, to see what improvements had been made to the camp and to reunite with staff who’d left an impression on them.

Today the Obuchowski and Micalizzi families are more than just friends. For one member of each family, Sarah Micalizzi, Frank and Hilary’s daughter, and Mike Obuchowski, Tony and Carm’s son, the relationship they made at camp would truly last a lifetime.

Ten years ago, when Sarah headed off to her freshman year at Quinnipiac University, she was homesick and decided to join her family at camp over Labor Day. She and Mike had known each other as kids, but over that weekend they spent more time together and exchanged phone numbers—a first for them. As Sarah adjusted to school, she and Mike developed a closer friendship and began dating. Four years (and four more family camps) later the two were engaged.

In keeping with their camp connection, Mike proposed to Sarah on the Friday night of Labor Day family camp six years ago, in front of 60 friends and family members! They all knew about Mike’s plan except Sarah, who was shocked when Mike got down on one knee and proposed to her near a campfire outside of Cabin 1 while everyone looked on.

They became family six years ago when the two, who grew up alongside each other at family camp, got married. This year Mike and Sarah and their 3-½-year old daughter, Sophia, joined their family and friends for another round of Labor Day family camp.

Though a lot has changed over the years, much has stayed the same. In the early years, the Obuchowskis became good friends with the Zetye family, who came to many family camps with their three boys and many foster children. Their oldest son, Ray, is now Executive Director of Camp Jewell after spending his teenage years with his brothers at camp as counselors, and later many years as the director of family camp.

For Joe Obuchowski (who started coming to Camp Jewell with the Indian Princess Program with his daughter Laura 27 years ago) coming to family camp became a tradition for his family and his extended family; adding a third generation, Sophia, Mike and Sarah’s daughter, to the Obuchowski and Micalizzi families has brought things around full circle for them.

Joe and his family remember meeting a family made up of three or four generations during one of the first years they came to family camp. Now, almost 25 years later, he is proud to be part of a family just like that with the hope that this family tradition will continue for a long time to come.