The gift of swimming….mission in action

For those of us who were fortunate enough to have been given the gift of swimming as a child, we know how thankful we are in our adult lives for having been given that opportunity.

I grew up on a pond in Massachusetts and spent my summers swimming with friends and eventually started life guarding for the State during my high school and college years. I am so thankful for the gift of swimming…. Only as I have grown older and met so many people who don’t know how to swim that I realize how lucky I was to have been given that gift. It has allowed me to take part in events such as triathlons, kept me fit when I could not run due to injury and just given me a lot of pleasure.

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to meet someone else who also recognizes the importance of learning to swim is and wanted to share that gift with two lovely little girls. Their mother actually works for this woman as her cleaner and had shared with her that her daughters really wanted to learn to swim so that they could make their school swim team.  One of the daughters had tried out for the team and hadn’t made it because her swimming skills were too weak. The girls mother could not afford to send them for swimming lessons to help them improve their swimming skills enough to make the team.

Upon hearing this the woman who called me decided that she would like to give these girls the gift of swimming. She contacted me and asked if there was any opportunity for these girls to get a scholarship for swimming lessons at The Learning Corridor through the GHYMCA. Fortunately, because of funds raised through our Annual Appeal, we were able to offer them a scholarship for a session of swimming lessons for each girl. She was so appreciative, as were the girls and their mother.

After the session ended, the woman then decided to continue supporting the girls herself by paying for the lessons and membership for the girls. Yesterday their mother came into the Y and made a point of introducing herself to me and thanking me for making it possible for her daughters to learn to swim. She said how much they love swimming and that without the Y and the scholarship and financial help we had given them, they would not have learned to swim.

We  are so fortunate every day to be able to help people in this way…this is what our Annual Appeal helps to support…real people like this, who want the best for their children. I love moments like this, when you really do see the mission in action.

I have not used names in this blog to preserve the privacy of those mentioned.



Getting to know our Tri-Town Program Director

Jeff SpadacciniFun facts about Jeff Spadaccini

Hometown: South Windsor, CT

Education: West Virginia University
Criminology and Forensic Psychology

Favorite Food: Chinese (yum)

A Celebrity Jeff Admires and Why:  Robin Williams because he is hilarious and is also a great person.

What Jeff likes most about working for the Tri-Town YMCA: “I really love how you are able to meet so many people who have taken part in a YMCA program of some sort. Wherever you go, people know about the YMCA and it really brings a sense of connection and community to my life no matter where I am .”

Getting to know our West Hartford YMCA Program Director

William head shot for camp guideFun facts about William Noha

Hometown: Middletown, New York

Education: University of Buffalo
BS Exercise Science

Favorite Food: Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets

A Celebrity Will Admires and Why: Jackson Katz, because he is an excellent advocate and role model for all children in our society

What Will likes most about working for the West Hartford YMCA: “Nothing beats getting the opportunity to bring a smile to a child’s face. Plus, I like the challenges that come with working for a non-facility YMCA. I think I can bring new and exciting ideas, while building on the success of our current programs.”

I’ll help you…

Joe started out in the Ready to Be Fit room at the Indian Valley Family YMCA.  Wellness Attendant, Nicole Morehouse, started to notice Joe coming into the main gym area…he would stop and look around, then turn tail and head back to Ready to Be Fit.  One morning, Nicole decided to invite Joe to stay in the gym to work out.  Joe has a traumatic brain injury, and explained that he was really interested in the Universal Cable Machine, but did not know how to use it.  Nicole know what it means to work for the Y, so she showed him how to use the machine, but knew that the job was not finished.  Nicole set about to write up a workout program for Joe, which he now uses every day.  I’ll give you two guesses at who Joe’s favorite Wellness Attendant is…hands

Winter swim lessons mean summer fun!

courage little girlThere are many reasons why children take swimming lessons, building confidence, take part in a sport, and the most important to save their lives if they ever fall into a body of water. There are some children who have an inherent fear of water in their faces here at the Indian Valley Family YMCA we are not adverse to these children.  Amanda is one of those children. She has not had the best of swimming experiences. Amanda is a child who does not like water in her face as well as instantly sinks when not using supports. She has been taking lessons however has taken a break and had to start all over from square one! Yesterday as her first swimming lesson began she was gained the confidence to put her face in the water, confident kicking and scoops soon came next! She has overcome much in her short life so far and we cannot wait to continue watching her success in the pool!

“Maybe it can be this easy to create a greener earth” Eamon Baginski

Eamon - a greener earth

At the Noah Webster YMCA after school program, children are working on measurements and their creativity simultaneously. Children measured the ingredients to make clay out of flour, salt, water and other natural ingredients. The children then created different objects with the clay and used food coloring to decorate them. Eamon colored his object green and Site Director, Mitchelin Brickhouse asked what he was creating and he stated, “a greener earth.”  He hopes someday that it will be this easy to help make our earth a greener place.

Written by Mitchelin Brickhouse

Noah Webster Microsociety YMCA Site Director

February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and as a non-profit dedicated to strengthening the community through healthy living, the West Hartford YMCA urges everyone to take steps to prevent chronic heart diseases so that they can live long and healthy lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the cause of one in four deaths each year in the United States. Our branch has made a commitment to help raise awareness of heart disease and how to prevent it. Simply eating healthier, exercising for at least 30 minutes each day and making sure to get enough sleep can help you avoid heart problems.

Like our Facebook page to see the various facts and articles on heart heath that we will be posting this month and remember to take care of your heart!!

American Heart Month

Take a cue from the kids

Rain or shine (or snow), we make sure the children in our Vacation Club have a blast. Jeff Spadaccini, our Tri-Town Program Director, didn’t let a little snow stop the kids in his program from having fun yesterday. With rosy cheeks and red noses, they built snowmen and played on the snow-covered playground. Jeff called the office and told me how much fun he had. He hadn’t played in the snow like that since he was a kid! That’s one of the great things about children- they have the ability to make you feel young again. When you start to take life too seriously, take a cue from the kids and remember that life is too short to fret the small stuff. Working with children is so rewarding and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do so.
TT Vacation Club

Summer weather & camp is coming!

Maybe it’s the cold weather, height of the snow or freezing winds that are making my thoughts drift to summer all too frequently! Today, as I was bundled up making my way into the Y, I was counting the days until Spring (26 in case you were wondering).

Spring brings to mind clean up days at Camp Chase, planning what fun trips Camp Farmington Valley will be taking and hiring summer camp counselors. I love it all. Knowing our plan for camp this year, I wanted to do a “gut-check” to make sure it was in alignment with what parents & kids are wanting. So I went back to our SEER Analytics survey that was sent to last summers camper families. Not only was it a good reminder of what we need to do REALLY well this summer (parent communication) but it told the stories of impact that makes Camp SO important in the life of a child.

Here are some of the parent comments that I wanted to share:

“I appreciate the campers being given the opportunity to think outside of the box and encouraged by individuals who are excited and enthusiastic in their daily interactions. Their enthusiasm and encouragement reinforces what we practice in our household and allows him to know he can do and succeed in anything he puts his mind to. In turn, he also encourages his peers and is equally as helpful in his interactions with others.”

“Both of my girls clearly have changed since going to camp. They even asked us to skip the programmed vacation to go to camp. They improved their swimming and they looked so healthy. Camp was an amazing discovery this year for my family.”

“All three of my children attended Camp Chase this year. My oldest, a special education student, attended with support from our local school district. He feels most at home at Camp Chase. He is able to achieve social & communication success at Camp Chase in ways that he does not anywhere else. The counselors foster an atmosphere of fun and respect that benefits all children, regardless of their needs. All 3 kids cannot wait to attend Camp Chase next year!”

“My child is very reserved, shy and reluctant to try new things. By the end of the first week of camp, he was a new person. Confident, more outgoing, and eager to get on the bus every day. We have seen his confidence soar as he starts a new year of school with a lot of unfamiliar faces, he is embracing it. We have seen a real change in him and are so pleased! Oh, and the fact that he learned to swim and has the confidence to swim in the deep end alone is a huge bonus too!”

So adios Winter! I’m ready for summer…and Camp…Bring it on!

Adaptive Volleyball Anyone?

On Monday night the Wheeler YMCA’s gymnasium was packed with 18 volleyball players ready to play a very different game of volleyball, Adaptive Volleyball or otherwise known as Floor Volleyball.

Players of all ages and all abilities played three games, cheering each other on while trying to learn a new sport.  18 players that did not know one another quickly became friends while they laughed, supported one another and tried their best to play volleyball while sitting on the floor.  It was an amazing night watching our members and friends in the community gather together as one where everybody was treated equally!

This FREE program will run again on Monday February 24th at 7:30 p.m. and anybody is welcome to come out and play.  Are you interested?

A glimpse of how the game is played!