On Friday, June 6th, several branches in our GHYMCA family traveled to Mystic, CT for the Annual AYP conference. This conference is an opportunity to celebrate the success of all the YMCA branches in our region, Chapter 3.
A big part of the celebration is a presentation of awards to people who have made an impact through their work for the Y. This year several people from our association were honored with awards!
This year’s entertainment at the conference was a hypnotist…aimed at creating a fun time for our staff. Leslie St. Amant and I volunteered to be “part of the show”…. For those of you who were lucky enough to see the show ….it was very entertaining to say the least! Apparently I did some great ballet and a fantastic rendition of Lady Ga Ga….
As April said…”All in a day at the office…..” Remember… if we are not having fun, our members are not having fun!!
Before coming to work at the Y, the times in my life when I was humbled by what I saw or heard were much fewer and far between….
Now…it is almost every day…this is one of those days…..
Hunger in Children
Why do people eat? People eat when they’re hungry. People eat because they like to eat. People eat when they are mad or upset. There are some people who cannot eat because they don’t have money or the means to get food.
Why are children hungry? Children are going hungry because parents don’t have money to feed them. Some parents don’t have jobs, others spend their money on things they don’t need, and some parents spend money on drugs instead of food.
Where do these children get food? These children depend on other family members bringing them food. Sometimes they go to soup kitchens to get food. They don’t always go with their parents because their parents often don’t care. I have known seven year old kids taking their younger brothers and sisters to soup kitchens to get something to eat.
Some kids wait until they go to school and eat as much as they can at breakfast and lunch because they won’t eat again until the next day. They will pack extra food into their back packs to save for later at home. Some kids beg for money at gas stations, in front of convenience stores, on street corners, anywhere just to get money. In extreme cases, they will steal.
Who should feed these children? In an ideal world the kids’ parents are the ones who should feed them by taking responsibility for their children. However, this is nowhere near an ideal world. The question remains, WHO should feed these children? I would like to know because I was one of them.
A teacher called me the other day and told me that she had a student who was very smart and extremely sweet. He had been involved in some kind of violence with some boys and she was very distressed about it. She called the Y seeking help for her student. She wanted to find a safe place for her student to work out and play basketball and thought the Y would be a perfect place.
I suggested to her that Wilson Grey would be a great place for him because they have a teen center and a gymnasium where he could play basketball. She agreed to pay for a youth membership for him out of her own pocket.
The next day the boy came into the Y and she was right, he was very sweet and kind. He had several stitches in his head which I can only guess came from whatever violence he had experienced with these boys. He was delighted to get his membership. Later on that day I sent an email to his teacher telling her that he had come in to get the membership and I told her that he was very lucky to have such a caring teacher. She later emailed back and said “Thank you . . . and thank you for all you and your staff do to try and help these kids.”
Just another reason why we do what we do!! 🙂
Although many of you may associate “Frat Boys” with partying and crazy college life …at the Downtown Y we associate them with being awesome volunteers!!!
Several members of a fraternity at CCSU called PHI Delta Theta,(some of which are members of our Downtown branch)have volunteered at both our Mission in Motion cycle-a- thon event and the Color Me Rad event at Rentscher Field this past weekend. To say that we would not have been as successful without their help is an understatement!!! They were absolutely fantastic!! In the past at our Mission in Motion event, it took a long time after the event to move all the spin bikes back upstairs to the facility.. but with a team of guys like this, they had it done in about 15 minutes!!! As well as that, their help at the Color Me Rad was also greatly appreciated as we received $75 for each of them that volunteered!!
We are extremely grateful for the help they have given us this year and hope that they will continue to support us in the future!!
This past Wednesday evening was the Greater Hartford YMCA’s 161st Annual Meeting. It’s amazing to think that people have been getting together for this type of meeting for so many years!!
The Annual Meeting is an opportunity to celebrate all that the Y represents and the wonderful work we do. It is also an opportunity to meet new members of our GHYMCA family and connect with ones we already know. It also gives us the chance to meet new members of the boards at each facility and speak with people who have benefitted and thrived because of the programs we are able to offer.
When I am at these type of events I am so awed to hear of how so many people have been touched by their experiences with the Y. We reach so many different ages of people, demographics and needs. I continue to be so inspired by the work we do and I am so proud to be part of it.
Being such a small staff at Downtown, we pride ourselves in good communication between departments and excellent teamwork.
Recently, this has been put to the test and proven to be true. With the pool at The Learning Corridor closed for repairs…staff from the pool have been coming to Downtown to help out at the Welcome Center. Last week, our FootLights program held it’s annual “Taste of Culture” event and members of staff from our wellness department, member services department and Read to Succeed supported this event by making food and attending the event. Tomorrow we are hosting a wellness fair in collaboration with Hartford Hospital an staff from our wellness department will be helping out and FootLights will be performing at the event. This is teamwork at it’s finest!!
Working together between departments makes us a stronger team and a more successful facility. Let’s go team!!!
Tonight Downtown’s FootLights program hosted their second annual “Taste of Culture” event. Students “wowed” their families and friends with some outstanding voice, African drumming, ballroom dancing, and spoken word performances. The students performed a beautiful version of “We are the World”.
The students have been working on these performances in preparation for their end of year show at Aetna on June 19th at 6:30pm. This is where they showcase all the incredible work that they have put in throughout the year.
This is the second year I have had the opportunity to watch this performance and as always I am so proud of the work that we do at the Y. For these students, this is a very big deal. The pride that they show in what they do and the joy that it so obviously brings to them is very special. We are so fortunate to have such an amazing program on offer to our youth at the Downtown Y. Many of these children would not have the opportunity to take voice lessons or learn to ballroom dance if it was not for a program like this. We are so fortunate to have talented and generous instructors who make this program possible.
Last night was an unexpected surprise for me. Although I have worked at the Y for almost 18 months now, I really did not know that much about the Read to Succeed program at Downtown. Obviously, I knew that it was an adult literacy program, but I definitely did not fully appreciate the impact this program has on the lives of the people who take part in it.
The Downtown Y was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to hold their graduation for Read to Succeed this year at the Boat House on the riverfront in East Hartford. Through a partnership with Riverfront Recapture, we were able to use this beautiful building for our venue.There was amazing food and the room was beautifully decorated for the occasion.
As for the program, Director Karen Therouxe, has done a phenomenal job, along with all the other teachers in the Read to Succeed program to provide these students with the skills they needed to get them to where they are today. Many of them came to Read to Succeed after suffering embarrassment or fear caused by their reading difficulties. At Read to Succeed they were offered the opportunity to improve their reading and writing skills in a warm and encouraging environment that allowed them to thrive.
I was blown away listening to their stories of how they made the decision to enter the program. One graduate said that one of the reasons that drove her to enter the program was the fear that she would hurt one of her children by not being able to read the label on simple medications. Another talked about the embarrassment of not being able to fill out a form in a doctor’s office…..each of them had an inspiring story to share.
The pride they displayed at having achieved their goal was heart warming. They all came dressed up and brought all their families to share in their accomplishment. All the students received standing ovations upon receiving their certificates at the ceremony.
Although this was a very proud day for these graduates, it was equally, a very proud day for the Downtown Y and all the teachers from Read to Succeed who helped these students achieve an amazing goal of learning to read. We wish them all success and happiness.
We have a saying at Downtown…”Only at the Y!”….We are so fortunate to have the opportunity each day to meet a variety of people and if we choose to go the extra mile(which we always do!), make a difference in people’s lives. Every once in a while someone comes through the door, someone very unique, that teaches us something too.
Today was one of those days….unexpectedly at about 2:30pm an older gentleman walked in and said he wanted to sign up for Silver Sneakers…he was dressed to the nines…full of flirt and chat and for the 30 minutes he was with us, made us laugh our heads off.
I knew from filling out his form that he was 78 and while touring him he had told me that he was an athlete in his younger years. When I asked him what he did before he retired(assuming he was retired…) he laughed and said,”retired?, I’m not retired!!” He told me that he still works and works out all the time, belongs to several gyms…but always loved the Y, which brought him into Downtown today. He had been a member at Jewel St in Downtown way back…..but never forgot the Y.
The energy and life that this man had, if bottled up, could be sold for millions. He shared with us his love of people (and women….he asked for my card not once, but twice..just in case he lost it the first time : In those 30 minutes that he came into our office, Mary and I both agree, he truly made our day. The value of a well-lived, healthy life was so evident in this man..and Mary and I were blessed to have been able to meet him.
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.