Keeping Our Members Going

A month ago, one of our members with Parkinsons developed pneumonia, and was out of commission for four weeks. With his condition, he needs to exercise every five hours, or his symptoms increase dramatically.  When he fell ill and was bedridden at the hospital, his physical fitness was failing quickly. Everyone at the Y who works with him was very concerned, and made sure we checked in with him periodically.  The Wellness department staff all signed a Christmas card for him and sent it out to lift his spirits.

Yesterday he came in for the firsttime in four week.  As soon as he saw me, his eyes filled up with tears, and they showed how happy he was to be back.  He said something to the effect of “You know what kept me going?  Knowing that you were all counting on me to come back. That card meant more to me than you’ll ever know. The physical therapists were a joke. The exercises they gave me were insulting. You people really care, and know what you are doing! Thank you for everything!”

This is why we do what we do.

April Chevalier
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

A Success Shared By All!

Four-year-old Abby had been determined to take the leap off the block at the end of her session of swim lessons.  All of her classmates had done it; EVERYONE knows you follow your instructor into the ‘big pool’ and jump in at the end of the class.  Abby had been mulling this over, and working hard to convince herself she could do it.  Sadly, when the time came, she lost her nerve, and left in tears of frustration at her own inability to gather the nerve to do the thing she had so desperately wished to accomplish.

The next day while visiting our Y with her mother to swim, she remarked that she had actually had a dream about jumping in, and asked if might be possible to try again.  Our head guard and Abby’s swim instructor, Courtney, happened to be available, and off they trooped to our lap pool.  It was busy that day – a full water fitness class was in session, and several members were swimming laps.  After a long while of gentle coaxing and a lot of reassurance (which included Courtney and another instructor who was off duty, but available and willing to help), Abby made the jump.

The most terrific part of her experience?  Not simply the confidence Abby gained, not just the sense of pride and accomplishment she felt, but the uproarious applause and cheers she was greeted with upon her emergence from the water.  The entire population of the pool had paused in their own activities to watch Abby, silently encouraging her and sending best wishes to a young girl who clearly needed all the good vibes she could get.  The outpouring of support that was organically created and spontaneously displayed spoke volumes about our members and humanity in general…it also contributed to one of the best memories of Abby’s life.

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

The Wheeler Tigersharks Meet Olympians!

The Wheeler YMCA Tigersharks were able to send a small group of swimmers to the YMCA Yankee Cluster Swim League’s Clinic which was held this past Sunday at the Meriden YMCA.  At the clinic, swimmers were able to meet Olympic Gold Medalist Conor Dwyer as well as Olympian Kate Ziegler!  While there, the swimmers heard stories about how Conor and Kate got involved in the sport, what they are currently doing, and about a day in the life of an Olympic athlete. Conor and Kate took the kids into the pool and broke down all four strokes for the swimmers.  Each swimmer also had a chance to race one of them in a 25 yard swim off the block!  This was a unique opportunity for our swimmers, and one they won’t soon forget.

Swim Clinic

Nick Daddabbo
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA


Upon arrival to work today, I logged into our Facebook page with the intent of posting a Veteran’s Day greeting for our members and friends.  I accessed our timeline, and was greeted with the following message:

“Month of Thanksgiving, Day 9. Today, as we get ready to head out to gymnastics, I am thankful for the Wheeler Ymca. Not only do they provide great activities for my little one, but their Infant/Toddler center can’t be beat. It’s hard to leave my kiddo to go to work everyday, but it brings some peace to know she’s in amazing hands. She is so well cared for every day.” 

This struck me as remarkable in so many ways – the sentiments themselves are incredibly sincere and complimentary, which is incredible in and of itself.  What really stunned me was the realization that our members are so deeply vested in their Y, so appreciative, so connected, that they’re actually counting it in lists of things for which they’re grateful.  This is both humbling and motivating…we’re going to continue to strive for outstanding service to our community and to carry on our mission in order to improve the lives of everyone around us.

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

Surprise By Mail

About a month ago, I received an email from one of our local second-grade teachers inquiring about the possibility of a field trip to our Y.  Each year, the second-graders work on a community unit, and it typically includes civil services such as the fire department and the police department.  This particular teacher has personally become involved with the Y over the last few years, participating in our O’Mazing Race with her co-workers and volunteering with our First Wave program.  This year, she thought it might be a good idea to branch out from the usual suspects in town for the community unit, and decided to include the library, our local food pantry, and the Wheeler Y!

With a bit of trepidation, I prepared a scavenger hunt of sorts incorporating a tour of the building with opportunities for questions.  I also enlisted Stacia’s help to engage the group in some fun, outdoor physical activity.  The buses arrived last Wednesday, laden down with 62 seven-year-old kids….they had a blast!!  Stacia and I so enjoyed our time with them, and clearly they did as well, as we received this hand-signed card in the mail yesterday.


Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

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

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

Consulting an Expert


Camp Wheeler, Week II featured a special Construction Camp for our teens at which they planned to plan, measure, build, and decorate outdoor benches for use at Camp and beyond.  Our Counselors and Campers were enthusiastic, but a bit unsure on some of the more technical aspects of the construction.  They recruited Mr. Tom to help, and a wonderful time was truly had by all.  Our new benches are sturdy, handsome, and a
wonderful reminder of teamwork!

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

O’Mazing Success!!


The 4th annual Wheeler Y O’Mazing Race charity fundraising event was held on Saturday, March 16th to tremendous success!  30 teams of four drove, ran, hopped, sang, collected, begged, cajoled, photographed, rescued, relayed, and painted for two hours in Plainville and surrounding towns.  The Dunnewood Dames were the ultimate winners with over 5,000 points and claimed bragging rights as this year’s champions.  Over 20 volunteers consisting of Wheeler Y members, employees, spouses, and friends worked to provide a spectacular experience for all participants.  The entire spectacle was held as a fundraiser for our annual Strong Kids Campaign – between generous sponsorships, team entrance fees, and the silent auction and raffle, we were able to raise over $15,000 that will go directly to helping cancer survivors thrive, teaching first graders to swim, and improving the quality of life of those in our community.

The sense of community was palpable – teams consisted of local elementary school teachers, Rotary club members, volunteer firefighters, our own employees, and even the principal of one of our schools!  Seeing the variety of friends, neighbors, family, and members all together in one place, all working toward the common goal of raising money for our Campaign was beyond inspiring.  We are incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated, dynamic people helping us with our mission.


Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA

It’s All About Perspective.

As I was walking into the building on this gorgeous afternoon from my errands, I couldn’t help but notice the absolute racket coming from our preschool playground.  A few dozen children were running, jumping, playing – clearly enjoying the freedom of the outdoors the weather afforded them.  They were also generally making noise for the sake of making noise.  A LOT of noise.  As I passed by Rudy sweeping the entranceway, I offhandedly remarked, “Gosh, Root, those kids sure are loud, huh?!”

He paused in mid-sweep, looked over toward the playground, grinned, and said, “They sure are.  It means they’re happy.  It means they’re healthy.  It probably means they’re getting dirty, and that they’ll track the dirt into the building.”  He took up his task for a moment and looked back at me with an enormous smile: “And you know what?  I don’t mind cleaning it up.”

Perfect, Rudy.  Perfect.

Erica Donovan
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA