How can I help?

The BEST kinds of e-mails, are the positive messages sent from our members and volunteers. This one was too good not to share, from one our dedicated members and volunteers, Dorothy:

“One Cold Friday night sometime ago, my husband and I were sitting at home enjoying casual conversation (and wine).  Stephen asked me if I could pose a question to Andrea about Amino Acids in certain foods next time I ran into her at the ‘Y’.  As I reached for my phone to text Andrea, Stephen said, “what are you doing? It’s 9:00 p.m., surely she does not want to be bothered now”.  I reluctantly fired off the text.  My cell phone chimed immediately.  Still reluctant, I answered.  There was a passionate voice on the other end of the line that answered, “Dorothy, how can I help“?

When my family and I joined the Wheeler Branch seven years ago, we were immediately embraced and befriended by its’ entire staff and members.  There was a time when I told the Executive Director that I could not swim very well, his response was, “how can I help“?  There was a time when philanthropy asked of me was answered with “how can I help“?  Wheeler was an organization about its’ profit second and dedication to improving the entire person in spirit, mind, and body foremost.  Today, I am proudly writing that I am witnessing a spirit among the members of The Run Club that surpasses any that I have experienced before.  It is because of Andrea’s enthusiasm, passion, and encouragement that a ripple effect has transcended The Wheeler Branch.  (There are also many reported stories of our children being more aware of their own nutrition choices because of this and even have their own run club)  After being positively impacted by Andrea, I find myself looking around asking, “how can I help“?

This year’s spin-a-thon is right around the corner and I thought what better way is there to honor Andrea’s efforts than to do it by improving the lives of others.  In honor of Andrea, The Run Club has sponsored a bike of its own in her honor.  Thanks to generous donations from Richard’s Machine, Inc., Pat, Karen, Lynn, Alison, and Gabi the wheels on the Run Club Spin Bike will proudly and with honor be turning on the 4th of May.  I also take this opportunity to ask each and everyone of you that has been positively impacted through Andrea to please make a donation.  Ask yourselves, “How Can I Help“?

Andrea your willingness to help is greatly appreciated!  Thank you for all you do.


Dorothy B. Weber”


LIVESTRONG is fun at the YMCA

Today we received the sad news of the passing of one of our last  LIVESTRONG graduates. Caron Grin has been a member of the Wheeler Regional Family YMCA for many years, and recently came through the LIVESTRONG program as she battled cancer. While in the program, Caron climbed the rock wall, met new friends, learned to dance salsa, and even helped to sing a new rendition of the YMCA song at graduation. Caron proudly represented the “Y” in this awesome new song!

Although we have lost another soldier in our program to cancer, we can positively say that we helped make her last last few months with us uplifting. She was truly an inspirational member of our program! We will miss Caron, but can only hope to help others get through a difficult time in the most positive way possible!

Livestrong  Th Climbing Wall 024


What do you make?

One of my friends in the health and fitness field re-posted a blog by strength and conditioning specialist Mike Boyle and it reminded me of what I make. In the blog post, Mike mentions that when he was in his 30’s, he had a bartending job to make extra money on the side. He used to hate getting looks from people that said to him “Wow, I didn’t think Mike would have to turn to bartending to make ends meet.” He was upset because he knew that his REAL job was making a difference in the lives of athletes.

Often times people will ask “what I make” at work, and it is a touchy subject for me. Working for the Y gives me SO much more than a paycheck. I thought about “what I make” and this is what I came up with:

  • I make a positive change in the lives of many people who walk through our doors.
  • I make cancer survivors healthier, stronger and more confident by giving them the tools to exercise, live a healthy lifestyle, and confidence to do it safely.
  • I make great friendships with both members and co-workers.
  • I make a difference by raising lots of money to help our members in times of need.
  • I make people try things they never thought they could ever do, and SUCCEED!
  • I make a healthy work environment for myself, my coworkers and I love my job
  • I make a safe and inviting place for disabled veterans and members to come exercise
  • I make opportunities for both myself and others to succeed by stepping out of comfort zones.

What do you make?

Pink, Pink Everywhere!

What a turn out!  Pink, pink everywhere!  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Amazing Kids/Child Watch department ask members and staff to wear pink on Awareness Wednesday’s for the month.  Members were asked and facebooked to join in for this crusade. It was an overwhelming surprise of all the pink that came pouring into our department from all ages. Our very own Nutritionist, Andrea Buono, was in the lobby handing out vital information on nutrition to help fight cancer and ways to stay healthy.  Andrea also informed members of a free Breast Cancer app.


Wouldn’t it be nice if a cure could be as easy as drawing awareness?  So, let’s not forget why we will be wearing pink every Wednesday.  We all know someone whose life has been affected with Breast Cancer let’s educate ourselves, family and friends and show we care. 


Diane Santee

AK/CW Supervisor

My Situation, Commitment, Progress, Experience and Moral

Here is an e-mail that one of our staff, Carol, received from our member of the month:

My situation: I live in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. My wife and I decided to move to Cape Cod from Granby after 9/11/01 (“time is too short, why not live where we want to live”). I was doing independent management consulting and selling real estate when the economy went south. Out of the blue I was offered a job by a former colleague in Farmington at the Mott Corporation (we make specialty porous metal products, not applesauce). So I travel to CT on Monday mornings and return to the Cape on Friday afternoons (Thursdays in summer) and stay in Plainville in an apartment during the week, while my wife teaches high school on the Cape. I will retire at the end of the year and return to the Cape.

My commitment: since away from home, I decided to buy out the time and take care of myself. I joined the Y in early 2010. I chose the Y because of the wholesome, family atmosphere and because of all the facilities, although I really only use the fitness center. Carol showed me the ropes and got me started – she has been an anchor at the fitness center early in the morning ever since. I try to get to the gym Tuesdays through Fridays at 5:30 a.m. (mornings work for me). My focus is aerobic- calorie burn with some strength and stretching.

My Progress: I am 6’ 4” tall; when I started at the Y, I tipped the scale at about 290. By just using exercise I dropped to around 280, then took the next step and focused on diet – my wife and I went vegan! And I lost another 10 pounds. But I have type II diabetes and determined that nothing I have tried had any consistent effect on my blood sugar measurements. This disease caused me to research and try to understand body metabolism and how body chemistry works – it is not straightforward. I decided that I needed to really get carbohydrates under control; and have started a low carb, low calorie, low fat, high protein diet (not Atkins) along with my regular exercise program. Results have been dramatic: down to less than 250 pounds, blood sugar in control, off some medications, and feeling great. Down side: need for new belts and pants! My goal is to get to my college playing weight- 225. By the way, I met a Trinity College classmate at the gym – John Nareff, another early morning regular.

My Experience: The people at the Y are some of the most friendly people on the planet! Upon check in: “have a great workout”. As I enter the gym, Carol always says “morning, Gary. How’s it going. What’s up?”. Upon leaving the gym and at the desk: “have a great day”. What a nice ‘culture’ at the YMCA.

Moral of story: A well balanced, educated approach to health is needed for good health and the Y is the perfect place to put it in motion.”

Carol’s simple and sweet response to me: “I love my job”

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

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!

Deepening Relationships

Something short and sweet to share while this week comes to an end…

Viviana has developed a tradition in her Kundalini yoga class on Tues and Thurs mornings. She comes prepared with a hot thermos of tea, and little tea cups, so after class the participants can socialize before they start their days. This is a group of people who might have otherwise gone to class, and gone about their day, never getting to know the person next to them.

Viviana and her yogi’s deepen relationships after class with some herbal tea!

Not just another number

On most days, when I see someone I know by name, I make a point to say “Hi, so and so!” Today, I saw Ginny, one of our caregivers for a LIVESTRONG participant from our last program. I said “Hi Ginny! How’s it going?” She stopped dead in her tracks, still a little out of breath from her workout, and said “I think it is SO amazing that you all call me by name. How do you remember all of our names like that!? I feel so welcome here, and I never feel like ‘just another number’ when I’m here. Every time I’m here, I am called by name at least 2-3 times! This place is wonderful. I’m trying to get my neighbors to join.”

I can only hope I made someone’s day by calling them by name, but today was evident, and loud and clear!

Wheeler Staff Champions

Although what I’m about to write might be taken as sad, it still put a smile on my face. We have an older couple that comes to workout at the Y almost every day. The wife has dementia, but that doesn’t stop them from coming to the Y. Her husband likes to play basketball and workout in the gym. Normally he will bring her in, set her up on the bike, and either play ball or get his workout in. Other days he will take her into the gymnasium and coach her on how to shoot a basket.

Some days, like today, his wife loses track of where she is, or where her husband is, and gets upset. Today I saw our staff help her twice, in such an amazing way. When the woman got off the bike, she didn’t know where her husband was and started to get upset. Carol took her by the hand and walked her around the wellness center until they found him. He was very grateful for Carol’s help. THEN as I was sitting down eating my lunch, I see Tina from housekeeping come through, holding the woman’s hand trying to find her husband. When she couldn’t find him in here, Tina said in a very calm voice “he’s not in here, but I will stay with you until we find him.” This put a tear in my eye, not just because of her condition, but because of the thoughtfulness of our staff. Carol and Tina took time from their busy day to help make this woman feel at ease. I can guarantee this doesn’t happen at LA Fitness! 🙂

Enjoying the moment

As part of our LIVESTRONG group, we have a journal that we have participants and instructors write in. Some write poems, some share their experience, and some just write their feelings for the day. Jackie, from our current group, spoke to both Bob, Eileen and I to make sure the information she was putting in was accurate. When she was done, I was interested to see what she wrote. Here is is!



 LIVESTRONG Program. What an awesome name for this program. When I was told about this, I said to myself, “It will be like all the physical therapy programs I have gone through.” Boy was I wrong! All of the staff I have met are right there for you. Eileen, April, Ana, Karen, Celeste, Margaret, Dave, Desiree and even the Executive Director opens his door for us to meet him.

Jackie working going for a walk during one of our sessions.

Thank you Lance Armstrong for funding this program and thank you YMCA in Plainville CT for wanting to be a part of this program and for all the wonderful staff you have and for allowing us to have access to the YMCA for FREE 7 days a week!

I feel fortunate that I have met a great group of cancer survivors who know how to laugh, have fun and enjoy the moment. Wow LIVESTRONG program, what a great group we are.


Karen helps survivor improve her balance on the BOSU


 Jackie – 2012 LIVESTRONG Program, 7/16/12-10/15/12