Author Archives: csegar

2015 Operation Christmas Child Gift-Filled Shoe Box Drive


For the 19th consecutive year, the YMCA of Central Florida has joined forces with the Samaritan’s Purse in support of Operation Christmas Child, an annual gift-filled shoe box drive for children in need.

Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, collecting and delivering more than 113 million gift-filled shoe boxes to children in more than 130 countries.
Last year alone, the Y facilitated the collection of more than 25,000 gift-filled shoe boxes. In addition to the treats, small toys and hygiene items, many of the boxes contained personal messages of faith and encouragement for those who sent them.

To continue to help these children in need, we need the community’s support.
 Now through Nov. 22, individuals, families, churches and groups are invited to drop off a gift-filled shoe box at one of the Y’s 25 locations in Central Florida. Shoeboxes can include small toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement.

Because clear, plastic shoe boxes can be re-purposed for carrying water to many children’s homes, we encourage you to purchase and fill one or more of these.    

To  get involved or to donate a gift-filled shoe box, please visit a local YMCA in your area. For a full listing of YMCA locations, please visit or call 407-896-9220.

Elementary and Middle After-School Program Enrollment – Open Now

IMG_1045When the final bell rings for the day at more than 62 elementary and middle schools throughout Central Florida – Y time begins!

With a curriculum focused on providing academic support, homework help, health and wellness, enrichment and mentorship, the Y’s award-winning Elementary and Middle School After School Programs, provides kids with a safe and nurturing environment during out of school hours.

Operated in partnership with Orange, Osceola, Brevard and Lake County Public Schools, these academically-focused enrichment programs take place directly on campus.

For your convenience, all Elementary and Middle School After-School Program Enrollments are processed directly at your child’s school.

To view a listing of our Elementary School After-School Programs, please click here.

To view a listing of our Middle School After School Programs, please click here.

To enroll your child today, or for more information on the 2015 -2016 Elementary & Middle School After School programs, please email [email protected].  

Gilbert Garcia Joins YMCA of Central Florida as Executive Director at the Osceola County YMCA Family Center

ORLANDO, FL – (June 30, 2015) – The YMCA of Central Florida today announced the appointment of Gilbert Garcia as Executive Director at Osceola County YMCA Family Center in Kissimmee, FL.

In this role, Garcia will lead the operations, community development and financial development initiatives at the Osceola Y.

“Gilbert Garcia has directed successful outcomes with proven YMCA leadership experience,” said Jake Steger, District Vice President, YMCA of Central Florida. “His passion to expand the Y mission and cause throughout Osceola County is going to be contagious.”

Garcia has worked within the YMCA movement in multiple capacities for the past 14 years. Garcia comes to YMCA of Central Florida from the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids in Michigan, where he held the role Senior Membership Director at the David D. Hunting YMCA. The David D. Hunting YMCA is a 160,000 square foot facility; serving 17,000 members. Under Garcia’s leadership the Y experienced significant improvements with membership growth, member retention, and the overall SEER customer satisfaction scores.

Garcia earned a Business Administration degree from Davenport University. Gilbert, his wife, and their 6 year old daughter, Aubrey, are all very excited about this new opportunity in Central Florida.

About the YMCA of Central Florida

The YMCA of Central Florida is a diverse organization of men, women and children joined by a shared commitment to lasting personal and social change through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Each day 35,000 Central Florida residents are impacted by the Y when a mentor inspires a child, individuals make healthy choices and a community comes together for common good. In 2014, this YMCA Association of over 1,800 employees across 6 Florida counties impacted over 235,000 residents and provided $10.53 million in direct financial assistance to children and families.


Dominique Wilkins Shares His Testimony of Living with Type 2 Diabetes

Dominique Wilkins, an NBA Hall of Fame member, former Atlanta Hawks star and Dr. P. Phillips Y membeshared his inspiring journey of living with Type 2 Diabetes with members of the community on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA.

A year after Dominique Wilkins retired from playing professional basketball, he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Wilkins said, “I trained for years, but when I retired I stopped working out consistently, but I continued to eat the same.” After his diagnosis, Wilkins consulted with a team  comprised of physicians, a diabetes educator, a nutritionist and a fitness expert, and was able to lose 34 pounds in just two months.

Dominique Wilkins story

Dominique sharing his story with members of the community.

“Diabetes isn’t a curse, it can be a very manageable disease if you accept it,” explained Wilkins. “Until we come up with a cure, the only cure is management.”

In his presentation, Dominique highlighted three key components of a successful diabetes management plan: a balanced diet, regular exercise and proper medication, as needed. 

At the Y, we offer diabetes prevention-based care. In partnership with Novo Nordisk, a leading diabetes healthcare provider and educator, the YMCA of Central Florida offers diabetes prevention based care through regular Diabetes Academy Classes. Led by experts from Novo Nordisk, the classes provide convenient tips for eating healthy, staying active to prevent the onset of diabetes.

For more information on the Diabetes Academy, please email [email protected].

Novo Nordisk Presents: Getting to Know Dominique Wilkins | June 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.| Dr. P. Phillips YMCA

We invite you to meet Dominique Wilkins, an NBA Hall of Fame member, former Atlanta Hawks star and Dr. P. Phillips Y member, who will share his journey of living with Type 2 Diabetes with members of the community on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA.

In his presentation, Dominique  will highlight three key components of a successful diabetes management plan: a balanced diet, regular exercise and proper medication, as needed. To develop this healthy lifestyle, Dominique worked with a team comprised of physicians, a diabetes educator, a nutritionist and a fitness expert, who together offered him guidance on daily diabetes management.

“Diabetes is a complex disease, and it takes a team to get the best results. When I was diagnosed with the disease, I formed my own ‘Diabetes Dream Team,'” Wilkins said. “They’ve taught me that small, simple changes can make a big difference, and I am excited to partner with Novo Nordisk to help others think differently about managing their diabetes.”

DIABETES ACADEMY | June 30 at 5:30 p.m. | Dr. P. Phillips YMCA

Novo NordiskPrior to the Dominique Wilkins presentation and autograph session, experts from Novo Nordisk, a leading diabetes healthcare provider and educator, will provide convenient tips for eating healthy and staying active. Demonstrations on insulin and non-insulin injection devices and medication will also be available.

To RSVP for one or both events, please email [email protected].


More than 300 guests and community leaders attended the YMCA of Central Florida’s Annual Meeting, which recognized the leading partners, volunteers, donors and staff who helped advance the Y’s cause in 2014. The event was held at the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center on June 16.

During the program, three Y volunteers received a special recognition.

  • Leonard Williams Sr., CEO of Wayne Densch Inc. and Wayne Densch Charities, received the annual John W. Sterchi Award. The award is the YMCA of Central Florida’s highest honor and celebrates outstanding lifetime support. Recognizing the need for a strong Y in the heart of the Pine Hills community, Leonard Williams helped establish the Wayne Densch YMCA Family Center in the 1990s. Years later, Leonard and his wife Marjorie also donated a major gift to establish the J. Douglas Williams YMCA in Longwood as a lasting tribute to their late son.
  • Paul McGarigal, a successful realtor and major supporter of the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA, received the YMCA’s 2014 Ronnie Walker Unsung Hero Award honoring those who have selflessly given their time and talent to the Y cause. In addition to coaching youth sports, chairing the Dr. P. Phillips Y board, furnishing its teen center and underwriting the cost of new soccer fields, McGarigal recently donated a $500,000 gift to the Y endowment fund as an investment in his Y’s future.
  • Helena Ryan received the 2014 Barbara Roper Advocacy Award recognizing volunteer leaders who have devoted their lives to the Y cause. Over the years, Helena has been an impassioned Y advocate, fundraiser and volunteer leader. In addition to serving on the Metro Board for more than a decade, she also led the 2012-2013 Annual Support Campaign and served as 2014 Metro Board Chair. In 2014, she also chaired the 2014-2018 Long Range Strategic Planning Committees.

In honoring the Y’s Lifetime Donors, Dr. Phillips Charities received special recognition. In 2014, Dr. Phillips Charities donated a $4.2 million gift to the Y – our single largest donation ever — bringing its total lifetime support of the Y to $35,000,000. On hand to receive a special gift of thanks, an original sculpture entitled “The Tower of Children,” were Dr. Phillips Charities board members.

The Y also thanked and honored its top major donors: The Roper Family, Winter Park Health Foundation, Darden, Wayne Densch Charities, Florida Hospital, Orange County Government, City of Orlando, Harris Rosen, WESH-TV, Tavistock, Walt Disney World, Osceola County, Lockheed Martin, The Bert Martin Foundation, Bank of America, Pepsi, Microsoft, Munroe Regional Medical Center and Frank DeLuca.

Each Y family center honored their respective Volunteers of the Year:






CAMP WEWA: Katie Morgan

COCOA: Dan Vanlandingham

CROSBY: Debbie Apple


DR. P. PHILLIPS: Michael Hanley

FRANK DELUCA: Kim Zielinski

GOLDEN TRIANGLE: Jim Gillies, Derek Striker

J. Douglas Williams: Donna Walsh

LAKE NONA: Mark Benson, David Chong, Dawn Ballantyne


OVIEDO: Parris Van Smith

ROPER: Greg Ohe

SAFE START: Skip Kendall


SUNTREE: Pat Rainier

TANGELO PARK: Tamara Leonard

TITUSVILLE: Sally Rohenkohl

WAYNE DENSCH: Shirley Bias

WINTER PARK: Ryan Luttrell, Ian Reeves

– Dana Smith Romero
SHERBERTH – Kara Rogers

The YMCA Elementary Program received the Pinnacle Award for outstanding achievements in revenue growth, volunteer support and financial stewardship. Carter Jones, YMCA District Vice President, and Nancy Bryant, Executive Director of the YMCA Elementary School Program received the 2014 Jim Ferber Award for outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment to the Y cause and mission.

At the conclusion of the meeting outgoing Metro Board Chair Charlie Egerton passed the gavel to Mike Manuel, the Y’s newly installed 2015-2016 Metro Board Chair. Ten new Metro board members were also elected, including: John Martinez, PNC Capital Markets; Jay Fratello, The FMC Wealth Management Group; Greg Nelson, United Southern Bank; Scott Sorenson, Sorenson Mayflower Moving & Storage; Dr. Maria Vazquez, Orange County Public Schools; Charlie Freeman, Orlando Magic; Charlie Roper, Roper Growers; and Marcia Hope-Goodwin, City of Orlando. The following YMCA Teen Ambassadors were also elected to serve on the board as emerging Y leaders: Kalese Justice, Florida Virtual School; and Robbie Knight, Olympia High School.

Sodexo and YMCA of Central Florida Partner to Create a New Evidenced-Based Approach to Employee Wellness

Communities for Health, a Healthier Workforce Initiative for Working Families Begins as Pilot in Orlando and aims to combat preventable chronic illnesses

ORLANDO – June 4, 2015 – Today, Sodexo, Inc. and the YMCA of Central Florida announced a healthier workforce initiative designed in partnership by the two organizations to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Communities for Health, a 3-year pilot program with the YMCA of Central Florida, was introduced today in Orlando to more than 250 regional business and healthcare leaders with keynote speakers Ann Albright, PhD, RD, the Director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. John Armstrong, Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health.

The initiative’s goal is to combat preventable chronic illnesses that rack up healthcare expenditures, which nationally account for 18 percent of the GDP and are projected to rise sharply in years to come. The initiative is designed to enhance traditional and mostly underutilized employee wellness programs through a personal, system-based approach that engages employees at work and at home with behavior change support, increasing the likelihood of success.

“With nearly 50 percent of adults having one or more chronic health conditions and healthcare costs projected to reach 34 percent of GDP by 2040, we simply cannot afford wellness programs that do not show results,” said Sodexo’s Senior Director of Health & Well-Being Nebeyou Abebe. “Through our partnership with the YMCA of Central Florida, we are creating a coordinated support system that delivers solutions tailored to individual needs to help families live healthier, happier and more productive lives.”

Participation in Communities for Health begins at work with trained wellness champions encouraging their peers to enroll into the program via a consumer-friendly program website. An employee opts-in to receive customized text messages, starting with an invitation to schedule a diagnostic screening test to better understand their personal health status. Based on the results, participants are immediately connected to a lifestyle manager who recommends an appropriate program and serves as their health coach throughout the duration of the program.  Once their personal health plans are in place, a series of personal and text communications will be provided to support individual health goals and long term behavior change. As part of the program support, employees will be directed to the most convenient neighborhood YMCA to access evidence-based chronic disease prevention programs, fitness and healthy eating wellness classes and activities. As an incentive, employees are given a debit-based gift card that can be used at local and national merchants for continuing their participation.

The program, which goes ‘live’ August 2015, has four specific objectives:

  • To engage workforces, through their employers, in general health and wellness activities by building an environment of support both at work and in their family/community;
  • To support employees according to their health risk levels and readiness to improve health habits, with an immediate connection of participants to their appropriate solution for disease prevention or intervention;
  • To increase engagement and reach into the community by building in an opportunity to have each participant bring a personal supporter, member of their family or household or someone they have identified who needs access to these services; and
  • To improve the health of workforce participants and decrease their both associated employee and employer healthcare costs.

“We share Sodexo’s commitment to improving the health of our communities and are thrilled to make healthy living support more accessible for more people through this employer-based program,” said YMCA of Central Florida’s Dan Wilcox, CEO, YMCA of Central Florida. “This region faces a number of public health challenges and exploring new approaches to prevention, as well as addressing common chronic diseases, is critical to the well-being of the community.”

Not only does the prevalence of chronic disease continue to grow in staggering numbers across the U.S., but so does the burden on employers and especially employees in the form of higher out of pocket costs. Employee well-being can also have a significant impact on the overall performance of the organization, and companies with successful wellness programs are improving job satisfaction and raising retention rates.

“Floridians spend about a third of their total waking hours at their place of work, so healthy environments and worksite wellness programs are essential to helping employees achieve healthy weight,” said Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong.  “We are grateful for partnerships with organizations like Sodexo and the YMCA of Central Florida that have strong commitments to worksite wellness and that continue to engage employees to help move health forward in Florida.”

As one of the largest employers in the world, including 130,000 employees across 9,000 sites in North America, Sodexo has a nearly unparalleled capacity to demonstrate the effectiveness of wellness programs in a broad range of communities and circumstances; and made possible in partnership with the YMCA, with its 2,700 Y’s across the country.


About the YMCA of Central Florida

The YMCA of Central Florida is one of the area’s largest nonprofits committed to strengthening communities across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties and the local communities it serves. It is a diverse organization of men, women and children joined by a shared commitment to Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Each day 35,000 Central Florida residents are impacted by the Y when a mentor inspires a child, individuals make healthy choices and a community comes together for common good. In 2014, this YMCA Association of over 1,800 employees across engaged over 235,000 residents and invested, during a challenging economy, $10.2 million in its local communities. The YMCA of Central Florida also provided $9.4 million in financial assistance to children and families, which supported lasting personal and social change.

About Sodexo in North America

Sodexo, Inc., the leading Quality-of-Life services provider in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, delivers On-site Services in Corporate, Education, Health Care, Government, and Remote Site segments, as well as Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo, Inc. is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. and funds all administrative costs for the independent and charitable Sodexo Foundation – granting more than $25 million since 1999 to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at Visit Sodexo on Facebook and follow on Twitter @SodexoUSA.

YMCA of Central Florida Announced the Launch of a $1.7 Million HealthierLifeRx Initiative

On May 29, 2015, the YMCA of Central Florida officially launched the YMCA’s HealthierLifeRX,  a three-year pilot program funded through a $1.7 million grant from United Health Foundation It is part of the Foundation’s “Helping Build Healthier Communities” program that is providing critical resources to nonprofits and community-based organizations to improve people’s health.

HealthierLifeRX aligns with the Y’s strategic focus to empower the community through healthy living.  In partnership with the medical community, including existing relationships with major health care systems Florida Hospital and Orlando Health, the Y’s HealthierLifeRX initiative will help improve the health of the community and empower participants to take control of meeting their health and wellness goals, set together with their physician.D75_3336

“At the Y, we’re not in the health care business, we are in the prevention business, and that is what this collaboration is about.” – Dr. Beth Kollas, YMCA’ s Executive Director of Health Strategies.

The goals of the HealthierLifeRX pilot program include decreasing the participating individuals’ risks for chronic disease conditions and reclamation of health, and improving the overall health of the community, as well as reducing the per capita costs of care.

Through self-referral or physician referral, patients enrolled in HealthierLifeRX will have access to evidence-based programs that include chronic disease management, disease prevention, weight management, healthy eating and exercise.

The program also leverages mobile and cloud-based technologies to enhance engagement between patients and lifestyle coaches and to encourage daily activity to help participants, and community members, reach their health goals.

For more information about this new program, please contact the Health Strategies Department at 407.895.8647 or email [email protected].


Why I Give to The Y: A Donor’s Story

A Message from Mike Manuel,

2015 Annual Scholarship Campaign Chair

This year, I am honored to serve the Y as the 2015 Annual Scholarship Campaign Chair. The Annual Campaign is so important to me because it impacts the lives of so many residents who call Central Florida home.

I give to the Y because I want all children to learn, grow and thrive in a safe environment. Not only does the Y provide a safe haven for at-risk youth, but I have seen first-hand how the organization’s Healthy Living programs have completely transformed the lives of people recovering from cancer or other illnesses. The Y’s good work and commitment to Social Responsibility would not be possible without caring individuals like you. Through your generosity, the Y was able to provide $5.86 million in financial assistance to 90,872 people just last year.

Now that summer swim season is upon us, Rowdy Gaines, our VP of Aquatics, is out promoting the Y’s leadership in water safety.  His powerful message – not one more child drowns – is really resonating.  In just a few short weeks, we have seen a significantly increased demand for swim-lesson scholarships. And we need your help to save these young lives!

My personal goal as a Y volunteer, donor and as the 2015 Annual Campaign Scholarship chair is to help make life-changing necessities like Y-quality swim lessons, youth programs and healthy living resources available to ALL residents of the Central Florida community.

Please support the 2015 Annual Scholarship Campaign. Your gift will have an immediate impact upon the lives of so many families in need.

– Mike Manuel, 2015 Annual Scholarship Board Chair,  YMCA of Central Florida Metropolitan Board Member and Donor


Less Judging, More Listening

Kalese, her mom and two sisters were homeless in 2013, struggling to eat, find shelter, stay in school – all the things that most people take for granted. And the phrase that Kalese uses over and over again to describe the most difficult part of that unimaginably challenging period in their lives is, “everyone just judged us.”

As the Justices struggled to survive and stay safe day to day, they also struggled to remain hopeful. They had encountered so few people willing to help and so few people willing to listen and understand that it seemed like the darkness would never end. And then it did.

“When we finally found the Seminole County Public Schools Families In Transition Program, it was like God opened a door for us,” explained Kalese.

The program coordinator found shelter and clothes for the family and connected the girls with the

J. Douglas Williams YMCA. Not long after joining the Y, Kalese was nominated to represent the J. Douglas Y on the Metropolitan Teen Ambassador Board. As a Teen Ambassador, Kalese had the opportunity to participate in the YMCA Christian Leadership Conference at Blue Ridge. With a renewed
purpose gained during the conference, Kalese began spearheading community outreach initiatives, including a community day for families in need.

During a time when her family was struggling, the Y provided Kalese and her sisters with new opportunities for growth and development, while creating a sense of normalcy. The Y became a safe place they could go during the day, it was a retreat in the summer and it was a place that was welcoming and free from judgment.

“It felt like all these people just wanted to help, and going to the Y became our home when we had no other,” Kalese explains. “They were family. They did not judge, and they embraced our family.”

Today, the Justices have a home, a real home, and Kalese is going to school, working at the Y part time and serving the community as a member of the YMCA Teen Ambassadors Board.

To view Kalese’s story, please click the VIDEO LINK HERE.

Nutrition Corner: Seeds, Seeds Everywhere!


I love seeds. Do you? As I was preparing my breakfast this morning, I sprinkled a teaspoon of hemp and chia seeds to my Greek yogurt and strawberries. Yum! Not only did the seeds add a nice, nutty flavor and texture, but they are little powerhouses in the nutrition department. That made me started thinking about how many varieties there are of seeds and how easy they are to add to our diets.

For those of you who know me, you know about my love (addiction!) of seeds. Usually, found in the bulk area, seeds are a frequently overlooked part of a healthy and balanced diet. Ranging from pumpkin to flax to hemp, each seed is unique in its flavor and, most importantly, its health benefits.
Everyone should add seeds to their daily diet. If you are on a Paleo Diet, I recommend limiting your consumption of seeds to 4 ounces per day if you are using the diet to lose weight. The benefits of seeds include possible decreased risk of cancer, improved skin and hair, decreased inflammation associated with numerous afflictions, including arthritis and immune deficiency diseases, and a possible reduction in blood pressure.
Flax (grind this up for full benefits), pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and chia seeds (yes, the same Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!) are all big sources of protein and are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

To help kick start this delicious and nutritious addition to your diet, I’ve included a few my favorite ways to add seeds to my food each day. Give these a try and let me know what you think!

As I mentioned earlier, I love adding urt in the morning. Seeds provide extra protein to keep me feeling full and a nice, nutty flavor and texture. You can also add them to your morning smoothie; sprinkle them on your cereal or on your whole-grain toast with nut butter.

I love a great salad for lunch, and nothing completes it quite like pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Did you know that two tablespoons of sunflower seeds has more than twice as much protein as a ½ cup of garbanzo beans? Now, that is a powerful little food! I opt for the raw and unsalted varieties, but the choice is up to you.

A great snack that is quick, filling and packed with the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is a crisp, fresh apple and a little bit of sunflower butter. Didn’t know about sunflower butter? You can find it in your local grocer or natural foods store, right next to the other nut butters. And, it is peanut-free, for those of you with tree-nut sensitivities.

Do you use extra virgin olive oil when you cook? I sure do! I just add a little hemp oil in with my extra virgin olive oil for additional skin and hair benefits! I like to mix my olive and hemp oil instead of using all hemp oil, but experiment a bit with the taste until you find a mix that best suits your family’s taste buds! Coat your favorite fish with your favorite seed or combination of them bake in the oven till the seeds turn a nice golden brown and the fish is cooked through.

Seeds can be a great topping for your favorite vegetable too! Cook up your veggies and sprinkle some seeds on top for a little added crunch and nuttiness.

Happy Eating and See How Delicious Life Can Be!

Day of Giving | May 19, 2015



Tues, May 19, 2015   |   Opening – 8 PM


Please join us in supporting our neighbors in need through the Y’s Annual Support Campaign, which improves the lives of nearly 91,000 people per year.

Your donation provides Y-quality after-school programs, youth sports, swim lessons, summer camp, health & wellness programs and more to those who need us most.

More than a gym, the Y is a cause, a purpose, a way to work together to strengthen our entire community.


Simply click the button below, enter “Day of Giving” in the “Referred By” field and choose your YMCA Family Center in the “Designation” field.

Donate Online

One Gift. One Day. A lifetime of change.


Why I Give to the Y: A Donor’s Story

When Pam and Rogers Kirven met four years ago at the Y, they were both going through major transitions in their lives. Pam was going through a divorce, and Rogers had lost his wife of 35 years to cancer a year earlier.

And while both of them were dealing with overwhelming personal losses, they received critical emotional support from their Y connection, and in Pam’s case, financial support through the Y’s Scholarship Program. Pam and Rogers eventually met, fell in love and married a year later.

“We both appreciate things so much more because of what we went through,” says Pam. “We talked about it and realized we wanted to help others who were at that point of crisis in their lives. We decided to focus on single mothers who were dealing with either divorce or a death of a spouse. These losses are all-consuming, affecting all areas of life. That’s how Women in Transition came to be.”

Women in Transition was designed to provide a support network for single moms and their children during this time of transition. The program consists of bi-weekly meetings during which mothers and their children come to the Y to exercise, relieve stress and gain support. Participants attend a 13-week improvement program of their choice – Financial Peace University, Grief Share or Divorce Recovery – all programs delivered exclusively at the Dr. P. Phillips, Roper and Winter Park YMCAs.

“It’s important that we give back to people in a way that creates positive life change,” explains Rogers. “Individuals need guidance and support during moments of crisis, and the Y is the perfect facilitator for this kind of program. “The Y is already a place where single moms and others go to be among friends and feel good. It’s a seamless fit.”

Can Food Change Your Mood?

Can your food choices really improve your mood?

Gary AppelsiesMany experts and studies say the answer is yes, the foods you choose can improve your mood. If you think about it, it’s not rocket science. When you feel down or tired do you generally reach for a plate of fresh steamed veggies or a big beautiful bowl of sliced up strawberries with yogurt honey and fresh mint? Probably not, you go for comfort, you might even crave something like chocolate, cake, ice cream, something fried or something salty. At that moment in time it tastes good, it comforts you and yes it is even Y-U-M-M-Y! But often times it can have the complete opposite effect. Sure for the moment you feel good but then there is guilt and feelings of sadness after. Your body basically “crashes”.

Studies have proven that what we now call “superfoods,” like, salmon, oatmeal, quinoa, blueberries, kale, spinach and broccoli can increase the so called “feel good” hormones that stimulate the brain, stabilize your blood sugar levels and help your cell membranes be resilient.

If you start to incorporate more of these superfoods into your daily diet you might soon find out that your body rejects foods that you used to crave. You will love when you are feeling low and suddenly you grab a healthy snack instead of a candy bar.

While foods can contribute a lot to how you feel, you may want to incorporate more exercise as well, go for a walk, bike ride or the gym. Seek out those people in your life who contribute to your happiness and well being, and start spending more time with them. Be sure that you are also getting plenty rest.

Are you eating yourself to good health?

Do you believe that a Healthy lifestyle begins at home?

I do indeed. In the United States there are over 150 million people including millions of children who suffer from obesity, diabetes, and a myriad of chronic illness. The problem is growing and in a majority of cases can be cured and limited by taking on your kitchen. Yes, I know that when you have a family it at times can become difficult to master culinary delights for the entire family while running to afterschool activities, homework and everything else that falls on your plate.

I get asked daily the seemingly easy question. “How do I keep my family healthy while balancing a busy work and life schedule?” They immediately follow it up with “I know you’re going to tell me to eat more vegetables, Right?” Well, yes and no.

What I will tell you is that eating more whole, real, live foods, cooking them at home and sitting down together as a family will help to improve your health and the health of your family. You see most of us plain and simple don’t shop properly. We allow our taste buds and our bodies to be hijacked if you will by the over consumption of salt, chemicals and other preservatives used to make food “shelf stable”. I am not sure about you, but I certainly don’t want to put something in my body that can last on my local grocers’ shelf for months if not years on end. Processed foods, especially sugar can be as addictive as drugs or alcohol. How do we help ourselves to get out of this addictive food state? Willpower alone will not get you out of it. You need to refocus your energy on eating real food and not feeling guilty. The closer to nature we eat the easier our bodies will be able to absorb those much needed nutrients and help to keep our “engine” running smoothly. Unfortunately, we did not come with an owner’s manual. And much like any other piece of equipment, we need to make sure that we are putting the right “parts” ingredients into our machine for it to run properly. Read your labels if you buy processed foods, and know your facts. If a product says zero trans-fat is that the real truth? Well, our food can be labeled that way if it has less than 2g per serving. And how many ingredients are on the label of the so called “chicken nuggets” that you are feeding your children. Oh and most important is chicken one of them?

Knowledge is power when shopping or dining out. Make smart choices, and ask questions. Cook more at home, and by that I mean really cook. Cooking requires fresh ingredients, and heating up a pan or the oven NOT the microwave.

Gary Appelsies

Of course I can tell you to eat less and exercise more but that is just an easy way out. In no way shape or form do I want to judge or shame people. My goal is to help people to make healthy lifestyle decisions. Clean eating really can help to heal our bodies. The process of healing our bodies in a natural way does not happen overnight. Our bodies need to do some detox and get used to eating a diet that consists of real food. The days of the quick fix are over my friends. Take it upon yourself and start to slowly add real food into your diet. Stick with it and you will begin to see changes you never thought possible. Before you know it your body will in a very subtle way tap you on the shoulder and say “Apple please,” when it is in need of a sugar fix.

Get your entire family involved, have everyone in the kitchen washing peeling, and chopping. The more involved everyone is the more fun it is to eat what you created. Try cutting down on the salt by adding fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice as well as adding spices and herbs to your food for more intense flavor.
Remember we eat with our senses first. So, food that smells and looks good will most likely taste good.

SPLASH WEEK | 20 Locations – One Goal: To Save Lives

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in Florida among children ages 1-14.

At the Y, we know that learning to swim is a lesson of a lifetime and in Florida, all people need to live safely around water. For more than 100 years, we have been empowering youth with the water safety skills they need to be safe in and around water – and most importantly,
we have fun too!

SPLASH WEEK is a FREE, 5-day swim program (April 20 – April 24) for youth ages 4-12 years-old. Each day children will enjoy swim instruction, character development lessons and water safety education. Instructors from our YMCA of Central Florida Swim Academy will instill a love of the water while teaching basic stroke development and making learning exciting and fun. Personal safety lessons will help children and parents learn respect for the water and build safety knowledge.

This program is open to the public and will be offered at 20 locations across Central Florida.

For more information, please fill out the contact form, or call your neighborhood Y location.

Good Nutrition at Any Age


Can you really be healthy at any age?  When does good health start?

I get asked questions about good health and nutrition all the time.  I hear people of all ages say things like, “I’m still young I can eat whatever I want.” Or “My doctor says I need to lose weight but, I’m too old to start eating healthy.” The list goes on and on. So the question we need to ask,” Is there a diet that is sensible and sustainable throughout our lifetime?

The answer is quite simple and you might not like what I am going to say, but the answer is probably not.

Gary Appelsies

Gary Appelsies, MS, CHHC, AADP – Director of Healthy Eating, YMCA of Central Florida

You see the fact is that as we grow and age, as our bodies change, we need to eat differently.  Now, I won’t sit here and say that we need to eat junk food.  It all comes down to good quality, REAL food.  If we start our children on processed foods and junk we start to guide them to a life of the Standard American Diet. A diet rich in processed foods, devoid of essential minerals and nutrients. When we start a child in a lifestyle of foods which are nutritionally dense and alive we start them off on a road of good health and great quality of life.  Remember real food is full of life and life force energy that. Our body and our cells know how to break that down and use it for good. It helps our bodies to fight disease, heal and stay healthy. 

So is there nutrition that is specific to age?  That depends on you.  Remember everyone is different, every ones bodies are different. Fear not though, I have some general tips to help you through.

Infants: Food provides the energy and nutrients that babies need to be healthy. For a baby, breast milk is best. It has all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Infant formulas are available for babies whose mothers are not able or decide not to breastfeed.

Toddlers: Food provides the energy and nutrients that young children need to be healthy. Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods. They should eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

Each day, toddlers need enough nutrients, including iron, and calcium.

Children: A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. To give your child a nutritious diet:

  • Make half of what is on your child’s plate fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy sources of protein, such as lean meat, nuts, fish and eggs
  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber. Reduce refined grains.
  • Broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them
  • Limit fast food and junk food
  • Offer water or milk instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas
  • Keep sugar to a minimum

Adolescents/Teens: As a teenager, your body begins to through many changes. Along with these changes, they are probably becoming more independent and making more of their own choices. Some of the biggest choices they face are about their health and the types of food they put into their body.

Remind them that eating a healthy diet and being physically active, can help them feel good, look good, and do their best in school, work, or sports. It may also prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, and some cancers when they are older.

Adults: As adults if we have eaten healthy up to this point our bodies crave nutrients. Here in adult hood it becomes a little tricky. Men and Women’s crave different types of nutrition and different stages. But the general rule of thumb is to listen to your body, learn what your body needs. Keep up your physical activity and continue to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.  Keep Hydrated and you will age gracefully.

Seniors: As you age, you might need less energy. But you still need just as many of the nutrients in food. To get them:

  • Choose a variety of healthy foods
  • Avoid empty calories, these are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, cookies, soda and alcohol

Remember Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Your body will thank you if take care of it. It is true what they say. You are what you eat, and an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

21st Annual YMCA Celebration of Prayer



NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lucas Boyce, Featured Guest Speaker

Celebration of Prayer, held each year during Holy Week, is a unique opportunity to celebrate the YMCA’s Christian heritage and mission that has guided our organization for over 150 years.

This year’s guest speaker is Lucas Boyce, a former foster child and “Y Kid” who overcame incredible obstacles to graduate from college, to serve in the White House Office of Public Affairs, and become one of the most promising young executives in the NBA.

The breakfast, which will be held at the First Baptist Church of Orlando (Faith Hall), celebrates the arrival of the Easter season by joining people of all faiths and backgrounds together in prayer, is open to the entire community. Tables of 8 are available for $300 and individual seats are $50 each. Please call (407) 896-9220 or [email protected] to reserve your ticket.



Y Membership Gives You So Much More

Y members who participate in Youth Sports, Holiday and Summer Camps, Swim Lessons and Adult leagues save more than non-members.

See an example of the savings breakdown below.

In addition to the financial savings, Y members have access to Unlimited Group Exercise Classes of all types from beginners to athletes; medical support programs to help you curb diabetes, thrive after cancer, and improve balance and strength; adult sports and hundreds of cardio support opportunities, free Y-quality childcare, open gym basketball and youth sports.


If you need more support for a chronic condition, please see a Y Wellness Coach to learn more about COACH Approach – a complimentary program to help you set and maintain your health goals, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, LIVESTRONG at the Y, Moving for Better Balance and Pedaling for Parkinson’s Disease.




 At the Y, we know how much you love your family, so let us
help you live a happier, healthier life with the ones you love.

We believe that families that play together – grow stronger together. Your neighborhood Y offers countless ways to get your heart pumping including Unlimited Group Exercise Classes of all types from beginners to athletes; medical support programs to help you curb diabetes, thrive after cancer, and improve balance and strength; adult sports and hundreds of cardio support opportunities. Relieve stress – by bringing the whole family to enjoy free Y-quality childcare, open gym basketball and youth sports. If you need more support for a chronic condition, please see a Y Wellness Coach to learn more about COACH Approach – a complimentary program to help you set and maintain your health goals, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, LIVESTRONG at the Y, Moving for Better Balance and Pedaling for Parkinson’s Disease.


For more information on Y programs, please visit your neighborhood Y or call 407.895.9220.

Heart Healthy Food Recipes

You may have heard that eating certain foods can increase your risk for heart-related conditions. Did you also know that eating certain foods can decrease your risk for being affected by heart-related conditions?

Whether you have been eating unhealthy for years or you simply want to fine-tune your diet, here are 7 heart-healthy nutrition tips.

  • Eat more low fat protein sources
  • Reduce your sodium intake
  • Eat more fruits and Vegetables
  • Control portion size
  • Eat more whole grains
  • Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol
  • Plan ahead and create daily menu

Here are few Heart Healthy Recipes that are low in sodium!

Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In separate bowl mix dry ingredients such as garlic powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, thyme and salt. Stir mixture with a fork until all the ingredients are well combined and they form a seasoning. This will be used as a rub to ensure the pork is well seasoned throughout. Sprinkle the rub over the tenderloin with a dry hand, then rub the pork with the seasoning over both sides of the meat, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat. Add the minced garlic and saute, stirring, for 1 minute. Put tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, searing each side using tongs to turn the meat. Transfer meat to a roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.

Recipe from the Food Network’s Low Sodium Category 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with more kosher salt ( I like these salty like French fries), and serve immediately.

Recipe from the Food Network’s Low Sodium Category 

Heart Health Matters

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, responsible for one in four deaths each year in the United States. 

In celebration of American Heart Month and to address the prevalence of heart disease in our community, we have partnered with Orlando Health’s Heart Institute to host a healthy eating seminar on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Downtown YMCA.

From asparagus to sweet potatoes, every bite of heart healthy foods provides necessary nutrients to aid in the prevention of heart disease. Join us and sample heart healthy treats as you enjoy an informative panel discussion on why heart health matters.

Program Agenda
9:00 am Cooking Demonstration & Health Screenings
10:00 am Panel Discussion with Orlando Health Heart Institute Cardiologists:
• Arnold Einhorn, MD
• Joel Garcia-Fernandez, MD
• Farhan Khawaja, MD

For additional heart health seminars hosted by Orlando Health, please click here.

Camp Wewa Celebrates the 25th Winter Retreat Anniversary

More than 130 teens, Camp Wewa alumni, Y volunteers and adult leaders participated in the 25th Silver Anniversary Wewa Winter Retreat, January 16-18, 2015 at Camp Wewa in Apopka, FL.

Youth from all over Florida and as far away as Alabama traveled to Camp Wewa for a fun-filled weekend of events that included events that included team building games, low and high ropes course, and spiritual and personal development.

The theme of this retreat was “A Celebration of Friends.” The program  focused on importance of making healthy friendships and relationships and the many skills and action steps that make that happen. With this foundation teens were empowered to be servant leaders and live healthier, happier lives.

Similar to the YMCA Christian Leadership Conference in North Carolina, discussion leaders also challenged the teens to be the “Best version of themselves they can be.” The teens explored this topic during one of four devotions, where they were asked “who” and “what” may be holding them back from successfully reaching their goals. They also discussed what motivating factors push them in the right direction.

To visit the events photo gallery, please click here.

For more information on Camp Wewa or the  2015 YMCA Blue Ridge Christian Values Conference, July 11 -17, 2015 in Black Mountain, NC, please visit 


More than 1,000 Guest and Leaders Gather for YMCA’s 24th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast

Commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, more than 1,000 elected officials, faith leaders and everyday citizens gathered for YMCA’s 24th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 19.

As the largest such prayer gathering in Central Florida, the YMCA convened the community to honor the legacy Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, Orlando’s first African-American elected official. This year’s event also honored the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights law inspired by Dr. King’s peaceful protests in Selma, Ala.

Commemorating that event, YMCA President/CEO Dan Wilcox said, “All of us today, stand on the shoulders of others. Be it our parents, pastors, teachers or great leaders like Pappy Kennedy and Dr. King, each of us owes a debt of gratitude to those who came before us. Today, through the Y, we hope you find new and meaningful answers to Dr. King’s most persistent question: What are we doing for others?”

As a young Civil Rights activist, keynote speaker, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black said he drew inspiration from Dr. King’s example and perseverance. “In the face of great adversity, Martin Luther King Jr. infused us with unstoppable optimism,” Black said. “By the grace of God, he showed us that we could leave the world better than we found it.”

“How is your life making people… compelling them… to make a commitment to transcendence?” Black asked, then suggested the following. “First, reach out to the marginalized and those who don’t look like you. Second, make a commitment to the values that Martin Luther King lived and died for, including the perseverance to attain laudable goals.”

“Finally, make a commitment to service,” Black said. “Martin was about serving. Imagine being a young graduate of Boston University and getting all kinds of prestigious job offers. And what does he do? He heads for Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. It was small church then and it’s still a small church today. But what a difference he made.”

The event’s other featured speakers included Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.  

Charlie Egerton, Chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Board of Directors, joined with event co-sponsors Roberta Walton, President of the Southwest Orlando Jaycees and PepsiCo Executive John Shumate, in awarding four $1,000 scholarships to outstanding high school seniors. Additional scholarship sponsors included Orlando Health, FordHarrison and Florida Hospital.

“This is an incredible tradition that honors our region’s best students,” Egerton said. “It also proves that the legacies of Pappy Kennedy and Dr. King are alive and well in the next generation.”

Scholarship recipients included Samuel Santiago, Colonial High School; Joshua Williams, Edgewater High School; Shayla Rhodes, Maynard Evans High School; and Winfred C. McKenrick II, Lake Mary High School.

Rev. Randolph Bracy, former pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church, received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. In presenting it, Roberta Walton praised Bracy as a “pastor’s pastor” and “giant in the community” who has done much to lift the lives of others.

In offering the closing prayer for Children Families and Communities, Pastor Renaut van der Riet, Chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Mission Committee, shared a story about his family of eight children, four of whom are adopted from Ethiopia. “My 5-year-old niece genuinely can’t tell which of kids are adopted,” van der Riet said. “And I pray today that she never figures it out. I also pray that when our children see us, they never see darkness or hate. I pray that they only see light and love, because the world must change and we are the ones to change it.”

24th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy MLK Prayer Breakfast features Chaplain Black and Sisaundra Lewis

JANUARY 19,2015 @ 7:45AM

The YMCA of Central Florida and the SW Orlando Jaycees present the 24th ANNUAL ARTHUR “PAPPY” KENNEDY MLK PRAYER BREAKFAST in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, on January 19, 2015 at 7:45 a.m.

This year’s guest speaker will be Chaplain Black,  the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate. Black served for over 27 years as a chaplain in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of rear admiral and ending his career as the Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy.

Entertainment will be provided by singing sensation and NBC’s “The Voice” finalist Sisaundra Lewis.

To purchase a ticket or for sponsorship opportunities, please email [email protected]

Dr. P. Phillips YMCA Celebrates Mission Expansion with a Groundbreaking Ceremony

More than 300 guests, community partners and members of the Dr. Phillips community gathered on the front lawn of the Dr. Phillips YMCA to celebrate the $9.5 million expansion and renovation of the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA. The celebration, which took place on Wednesday, November 5, was filled with warm reflections from community members, who shared how the Y has positively impacted their lives over the past 30 years.

David Knight, board chairmen at the Dr. Phillips YMCA, opened the ceremony with highlights from previous expansions and renovations since its inception in 1983.

Prior expansions and renovations made to the Dr. Phillips YMCA include:
• To meet the needs of the growing Dr. Phillips community, the Y expanded for the first time in 1993, adding more square footage to the existing facility.
• In 2000, the Y expanded to include a Teen Center to support programming for middle school and high school students.
• In 2007, the Y received a $2.7 million capital improvement, which included additional square footage and updates to the facility.
• In 2008, a zero depth swimming pool was added to improve family programming and accessibility for all.
• In 2009, the wellness floor received a major renovation, adding additional square footage and updated equipment. This renovation also included a new child development center, lobby, additional parking, additional restrooms on the soccer fields and updates to the men’s and women’s locker rooms.

Karen Frenier, President of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, explained that a partnership with the YMCA and Weight Watchers helped their employees lose over five tons. Currently the Dr. P. Phillips Y serves as an outpatient rehabilitation center, making therapy more accessible to local patients. The expansion will add private consultation rooms for therapy sessions with health care providers from Orlando Health.

Several Dr. Phillips YMCA board members were recognized for their financial contribution to the expansion. Collectively members from the local board donated $264,500 capital improvement funding and $1.8 million in an endowment.

Jim Ferber, President & CEO of the YMCA of Central Florida, thanked Dr. Phillips Charites for their ongoing partnership over the past two decades. The expansion would not be possible without the Dr. Phillips Charities $9 million gift.

The new expansion will include the following:Two new group exercise studios, providing more than 125 fitness class options, including Strength Training, Kickboxing, Zumba, Yoga, Latin Cardio, Body Ballet and more!

Enlarged spin room with new bikes and the latest technology, increasing capacity and providing more opportunities for strength training and conditioning.

Expanded lobby and new meeting areas for community members to come together, socialize and unite for a common cause.

New updated equipment outfitted with the mobile electronic features to help healthy seekers track and personalize their wellness journey.

New child development center with additional programming – providing a convenient, safe environment for kids, while parents work on staying healthy.

• The expansion will also include an all new teen zone – providing enrichment and career development support for maturing young adults.

Two new racquetball courts – providing an alternate option for cardio training, competition and comradery.

Private health consultation rooms for patients to meet with Orlando Health physicians and providers.

Visit the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA Facebook page for more updates on the expansion of the facility.

YMCA of Central Florida Celebrates Food Day | Friday, Oct. 24

Food Day is a year-round nationwide celebration of and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food culminating in a day of action on October 24 every year.

Created by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and driven by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders and citizens, Food Day aims to bring us closer to a food system with “real food” that is produced with care for the environment, animals, and the women and men who grow, harvest, and serve it.

At the Y, we are excited to celebrate Food Day, because we believe the food we eat plays a vital role in our health. Many of our Ys feature onsite Farmers Markets that make it easy for members to enjoy freshly picked, locally grown fruits and vegetables. At the YMCA Center for Health and Wellness in Oviedo, where diet and nutrition are a major focus, they’re even hosting a community garden and Good Eats Club where members share their favorite healthy dishes.

All are led by YMCA registered dietician Kim Letts, who also provides weekly workshops, weight loss programs and one-on-one counseling to help people plan meals around their specific needs. “Nutrition is a key component in preventing chronic disease,” Lett said. “And the Y’s prevention-focused, personalized programs are crucial in helping members reach their Healthy Living goals.”

In Decemeber of 2014, Gary Appelsies,a Board Certified Holistic Integrative Nutritionist, Natural Foods Chef, and Inspirational Speaker will join our team as Director of Healthy Eating to help us continue to make “healthy eating” apart of our wellness programming and services.

For more information on Food Day, please visit

YMCA Kicks Off Operation Christmas Child Gift-Filled Shoe Box Drive

For the 18th year in a row, the YMCA of Central Florida has joined forces with the Samaritan’s Purse in support of Operation Christmas Child, an annual gift-filled shoe box drive for children in need.

OCC logoOperation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, collecting and delivering more than 113 million gift-filled shoe boxes to children in more than 130 countries. Last year alone, the Y facilitated the collection of more than 25,000 gift-filled shoe boxes. In addition to the treats, small toys and hygiene items, many of the boxes contained personal messages of faith and encouragement for those who sent them.

To continue to help these children in need, we need the community’s support. Now through Nov. 23, individuals, families, churches and groups are invited to drop off a gift-filled shoe box at one of the Y’s 25 locations in Central Florida. Shoeboxes can include small toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement. Empty shoe boxes are also available at each Y location and can be returned by November 23.

On October 17 at 1 p.m., the Operation Christmas Child collection drive will officially be kicked off with the support of Mayor Buddy Dyer during a special event at City Hall .

To  get involved or to donate a gift-filled shoe box, please visit a local YMCA in your area. For a full listing of YMCA locations, please visit or call 407-896-9220.

Day of Sharing | October 7, 2014


Join us on Tuesday, October 7, 2014, as members and staff from our Family Centers celebrate our annual Day of Sharing. Staff and members are invited to “Share their Y story” or an experience at the Y that has impacted their lives. Members are also given opportunities to volunteer at the Y.

With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, Y volunteers give men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life the resources and support they need to be healthy, confident, connected and secure.

Volunteers of the Y:

  • Lead our Boards of Directors and committees
  • Raise funds to ensure the Y is accessible to all members of the community
  • Coach our sports teams and teach many of our classes
  • Motivate and support youth in building the character strengths, skills and relationships that lead to positive behaviors, better health, smart life choices, and the pursuit of higher education and goals
  • Extend a hand to help adults who want to do more, be more or live healthier
  • Advocate for the Y’s efforts to influence policies and initiatives that positively impact societal issues of importance to the nation, and your community
  • Participate in opportunities to give back and support neighbors


For more information on the Day of Sharing and volunteer opportunities, please contact your neighborhood Y location.


YMCA Sponsors Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival

The YMCA of Central Florida is a proud sponsor of the 7th Annual Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival on October 18, 2014 at the Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake.

Dragon Boat racing is the world’s fastest growing water sport. A team consists of 20 paddlers sitting two abreast, plus a Cox who steers the dragon boat from the rear and a drummer who sits at the front. The team of paddlers work in unison to propel the boat forwards from a standing start, the aim being to reach the finish line in the fastest time. Generally a race consists of between 4 and 6 boats. Teams can be all men, all women, or mixed crews with equal numbers of both men and women. Timing, strength and endurance are 3 key elements of a successful team, the fourth and most critical is teamwork.

Here is a fun example of a dragon boat team racing for the finish line!

At the Y, we believe group fitness experiences help build strong relationships and communities. We are proud to sponsor this fun and engaging team building event and are excited to invite our members to form a team and participate in this year’s Orlando Dragon Boat Festival.

To register a team, or for more information about the festival, click here or call 416-962-8899.

YMCA Member Headlines 2nd Annual Jazz on a Green Concert Benefiting the Lake Nona YMCA

Singing sensation and NBC’s “The Voice” finalist Sisaundra Lewis will be headlining this year’s Jazz on a Green.

Jazz on a Green, presented by CFE Federal Credit Union, is Lake Nona’s premiere jazz and social community event in support of the UCF College of Medicine and the Lake Nona YMCA Scholarship Campaign providing higher education, health and spiritual wellness to the youth and families of Lake Nona.

The concert will begin at 5 p.m. on November 15, 2014 at the Tavistock Green at the UCF College of Medicine.

Watch the video below for a special message from Sisaundra Lewis.

About Sisaundra Lewis
Sisaundra started her career with Grammy and Oscar Award winner Peabo Bryson, who invited her to tour the world with him as a backing vocalist and his new duet partner. Her acquaintance with Mr. Bryson led to a worldwide tour with Grammy and Oscar Award winner, Celine Dion. She spent several years working with Ms. Dion as her backing vocalist, vocal director and choreographer. Unrivaled talent, and passion for helping others, made Sisaundra the perfect choice for this year’s event. When Sisaundra is not traveling the world, she spends time with her family at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA.

To purchase tickets to the event, please visit the official Jazz on a Green website.

YMCA Partners with Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to Promote Safe Start Infant Water Survival Program

Drowning is the No. 1 killer of children under age 5 in Florida.

It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown or sustain serious, life-altering injuries. Children, as young as 6 months of age, can learn to save themselves in a drowning situation by using the self-rescue techniques taught in the YMCA of Central Florida’s Safe Start program. Unlike other swimming programs, Safe Start combines safe swimming lessons with lifesaving skills that teach your child to survive in the water.

Since 1999, more than 13,400 local children have learned Safe Start techniques. Those skills start with teaching children as young as 6 months to hold their breath under water, turn onto their backs and float unassisted.

Now, the YMCA of Central Florida has partnered with Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to teach more parents about Safe Start’s benefits. Literature about the program is currently being distributed to pediatricians across Central Florida, who will include it in the handouts parents receive at baby check-ups at six, nine, 12 and 18 months.

For more information about Safe Start, please visit the Safe Start program page.

World Cup Challenge: “Eat a Healthier Lunch”

Instead of hitting the drive-through for lunch, plan ahead and prepare your own lunch. When you make it yourself, you control what goes your meal. Eating out often means getting a lot of hidden calories – something most of us don’t really need.

Instead of regular soda or sweet tea, choose water or a sugar-free beverage to go with your meal. Each meal below is easy to prepare and contains about 400 calories.

Turkey WrapTurkey Wrap
Serves 1
1 large (10-inch) whole-grain tortilla
3 ounces sliced turkey breast
1/2 cup shredded romaine or other leafy green lettuce
1 tablespoon light Caesar salad dressing
2 tablespoons shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese
1 small apple

Preparation: Spread salad dressing on tortilla. Top with turkey, lettuce and cheese. Serve with an apple.

Tuna Salad SandwhichTuna Salad Sandwich
Serves 1
3 ounces tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise (Hellmann’s Low-Fat Mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 slices whole-grain bread
2 pieces romaine lettuce or other leafy green lettuce
1 small peach or fruit of choice

Preparation. Mix tuna, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise. Place on bread with lettuce. Serve with a peach or fruit of choice.

Spinach and Stawberry SaladSpinach and Strawberry Salad
Serves 1
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/3 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
1/4 cup light, red wine vinaigrette salad dressing
6 whole-grain crackers

Preparation: Combine all salad ingredients and toss with dressing to thoroughly coat. Serve with whole-grain crackers.

World Cup Challenge: “Eat a Healthier Breakfast”

This week, during the World Cup Challenge, try a new healthy breakfast recipe!

You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you skip it, your body will have gone too long without fuel. “Break-the-fast” by jump starting your morning with a healthy breakfast to get your body running at its peak. You’ll be mentally alert while keeping those mid-morning hunger pains at bay.

Each meal below is easy to prepare and contains about 400 calories, unlike a lot of “hearty” breakfasts that can easily exceed 1,000 calories!

YogurtYogurt and Berry Breakfast Parfait
Serves 1
6 ounces nonfat, plain yogurt, regular or Greek; choose soy yogurt for a vegan option
1 cup berries of choice*
1/4 cup granola or All-Bran Buds cereal (a high fiber choice)
* Choose one, or use two or more types of berries to make 1 cup total.

Preparation: Place yogurt in bowl. Add berries. Top with granola or cereal just before serving so the cereal won’t get soggy.

Black Bean & Egg Breakfast BurritoBlack Bean & Egg Breakfast Burrito
Serves 1
1 egg plus 2 egg whites (or use 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons salsa
2 tablespoons shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese
1 small, whole-wheat tortilla
1 cup skim milk

Preparation: Scramble eggs, beans, salsa and cheese. Place on tortilla. Roll it up and enjoy with a cup of skim milk.

Peanut Butter & Banana SmoothiePeanut Butter & Banana Smoothie
Serves 1
1 cup skim milk or plain soy milk
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 banana
6 ice cubes

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Add more ice for a thicker consistency. Note: Be sure to measure the peanut butter. Each additional tablespoon adds 100 healthy calories!


Bring Out Your Best: Summer 2014 YMCA of Central Florida World Cup Challenge

If you are looking to mix up your workout this summer, we have the perfect challenge for you!

Just as you’ve watched national teams progress through competitive brackets to earn the World Cup Soccer Trophy, the Y is challenging our members to do the same. Regardless of your age or ability, the YMCA World Cup Challenge will help you explore new exercise activities, improve your health and learn more about the Y.

The challenge follows the World Cup format and is broken into five distinctive “rounds” with each lasting approximately one week (round 1 is longer due to registration). During each round “players” must complete a designated number of Exercise Activities (based on the chosen division) and one Y Awareness Activity.

Y Awareness Activities may include: Learning more about Safe Start, the Y’s infant water survival program, or taking the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Quiz.

Sign up at your local Y. Once registered, you become part of a “World Cup Team”, coached by a Y staff member who will cheer you on and help you reach your personal goals. The challenge begins July 14 and runs through August 24. Registration is free for Y members and ends July 20.

For more information, download the World Cup Challenge brochure, or call 407.895.4290.

Did You Know Father’s Day Began at the YMCA?

As we prepare to celebrate dads this Sunday, let’s take a look back to how it all got started. Did you know Father’s Day began at the YMCA? It was founded in Spokane, WA, at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father, William Jackson Smart, had raised six children on his own.

After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day, Dodd told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

In 1972, President Nixon recognized Father’s Day as an official holiday. Looking for a good way to spend some quality time with your dad this Father’s Day? How about a game of pickup basketball at the Y or a day spent at one of our 36 sparkling pools? You could even give the gift of lifelong health and wellness through a Y membership or sessions with a personal trainer. No matter how you celebrate, the Y thanks and salutes all dads. You help make us who we are!

Winter Park YMCA to Host “Natural Fit” Block Party at Whole Foods Market

Join the Winter Park YMCA wellness team for an afternoon of fun and healthy living demonstrations at Whole Foods Market (1989 Aloma Ave.) on Thursday, June 5th from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

This “Natural Fit” block party themed experience will feature Zumba classes, fitness demonstrations, FREE food, music and prizes. Event attendees will also have a chance to win a free YMCA membership!

For more information, please call the Winter Park YMCA at 407.644.1509.

YMCA Synchronized Swimming Team Qualified to Compete at USA Nationals

The YCF Loreleis, a competitive and developmental synchronized swim team at the YMCA Aquatic Center, has been qualified to compete at the 2014 USA National Synchronized Swimming competition in Seattle, Washington June 27 – July 5.

The YCF Loreleis was founded in 1975 by Mary Rose, an award-winning synchronized swimmer. This is the first time in the past 24 year that this team has qualified to compete at the national level.

To help send the YCF Loreleis to the national competition, please visit the GIVE section of our website. Please be sure to designate “YCF Loreleis” as the recipient of your donation. For more information on synchronized swimming or other Aquatic programs, please visit the YMCA Aquatic Center location page.


YMCA Partners with Florida Hospital and NBA FIT to Host Youth Basketball Clinic

The YMCA of Central Florida partnered with NBA FIT, Florida Hospital for Children and the American College of Sports Medicine to host a basketball fitness and nutrition clinic at the South Orlando YMCA on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

During the event, NBA FIT instructors led more than 150 Central Florida children through basketball fitness drills, and obstacle courses by NBA FIT staff. Florida Hospital for Children’s Healthy 100 Kids program representatives provided information on the importance of nutrition and exercise to the children and their parents.

DSC_0050editFlorida Hospital for Children’s Healthy 100 Kids program provides exercise and healthy nutrition advice to overweight and obese children. Children and families can receive treatment at three YMCA locations, which include the YMCA Aquatic Center, Crosby YMCA and Blanchard Park.

The NBA FIT event, along with the Florida Hospital for Children’s Healthy 100 Kids partnership is a part of the Y’s commitment to helping families’ live healthier lives.

For more information on the Healthy 100 Kids program, please click here.

YMCA Kicks off the Summer Season with Water Safety Program

The YMCA of Central Florida kicked off the summer season on Saturday, May 17, with a Splash Bash Celebration, where more than 160 minority youth received free swim lessons. The celebration, promoting water safety and water survival techniques, was held at four YMCA locations, which included the Wayne Densch YMCA, South Orlando YMCA, Blanchard Park YMCA and the Osceola YMCA.

According to the USA Swimming Foundation, about 70 percent of African-American children and 58 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim. In an effort to close this gap among minority youth in Central Florida, the YMCA partnered with Star 94.5 FM, the area’s leading urban contemporary radio station, to inform African-American families and other minorities about the accessibility of water safety classes.


Splash Bash groupAccording to the Academy of Pediatrics, swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent. At the Y, swimming programs are available year-round for infants, children and adults. At the completion of the free 30-minute introductory swim lesson, Splash Bash participants received a water safety certificate and information on additional swim lessons.

As a non-profit organization, it is important that YMCA resources and programming are made available to the entire community. To ensure that swim lessons and other healthy living programs are affordable to all, the YMCA provides financial assistance to individuals and families in need. During the event, participants received information about the Y scholarship program and information about other youth development programs, including team sports, cheerleading, summer enrichment programming and after school care.


More than 400 guests and community leaders attended the YMCA of Central Florida’s Annual Meeting, which recognized the leading 2013 partners, volunteers, donors and staff who helped advance the Y’s cause to strengthen the foundation of our community. The event was held at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL on May 7, 2014.

During the program, four Y volunteers received a special recognition.

  • Lou Carrion received the annual John W. Sterchi Award. The John W. Sterchi Award is the YMCA of Central Florida’s highest honor recognizing outstanding lifetime support. Carrion, a tireless advocate for youth, helped develop the Hispanic Leaders program, which has now become a valuable component to the Y Teen Achievers program.
  • Steve Wingo received the 2013 Ronnie Walker Unsung Hero Award. The Unsung Hero Award is presented to a Y volunteer who has selflessly given their time and talent to the Y cause. Steve chaired the recent $4.5 million dollar capital campaign for the Frank Deluca YMCA in Marion County and he is a member of the YMCA of Central Florida Executive Board.
  • Joe Cleveland, a retired Chief Information Officer for Lockheed Martin, received the inaugural YMCA Mind Connect Award. Cleveland led the way in creating the YMCA Lockheed Martin Technology Center at the South Orlando Y and later at the Tangelo Park Y.
  • Barbara Roper received the first annual Metropolitan Advocacy Award. The Metropolitan Advocacy Award is new award that recognizes a volunteer leader who has devoted their life to the Y cause. Roper has dedicated more than 100,000 hours of her time to the Y cause across a span of 40 years.  She served as the first woman to chair the YMCA of Central Florida Metropolitan Board in 1980-1981, and she later served as Chair of the YMCA’s national board. The award was announced during a special video presentation recognizing Ropers lifetime support.

2013 YMCA Metropolitan Board Chair Glen Davis highlighted the Y’s past-year achievements in the three focus areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Davis also discussed the organization’s 2014-2018 Long Term Strategic Plan, which will include expansion of current facilities and a new facility in Clermont.

D61_3311_editThe YMCA of Central Florida honored its Spotlight Partner: Dr. Phillips Charities with a special video presentation. Dr. Phillips Charities Board Members: Jim Hinson, Ken Robinson, Dr. Ann Manley, Eva Tukdarian and Dr. Margaret Miller were present for the event.

D62_0516A special highlight of the evening included the announcement of an expanded partnership with Orlando Health.  Effective May 1, Orlando Health became the provider of health and wellness programs at five YMCA locations including: Dr. P. Phillips, Roper, Wayne Densch, South Lake and a future YMCA Family Center in Clermont. Orlando Health presented a check for $1 million, to be paid to the YMCA of Central Florida over three-years. This investment will help fund capital, operational and programmatic improvements, as well as supporting programs for those who cannot afford preventive based care.

The Y also thanked and honored its top major donors: The Roper Family, Winter Park Health Foundation, Darden, Wayne Densch Charities, Florida Hospital, Orange County Government, City of Orlando, Harris Rosen, WESH-TV, Tavistock, Walt Disney World, Osceola County, Lockheed Martin, The Bert Martin Foundation, Bank of America, Pepsi, Microsoft, Munroe Regional Medical Center and Frank DeLuca.

Each Y family center honored their respective Volunteers of the Year:

  • Teen Achievers, Lynn Nicholson and Dana Bell
  • Aquatic Center, Cliona Nestor
  • Avalon Park, Lucian Chenard
  • Blanchard Park, Steve Martin
  • Camp Wewa, Nate White
  • Cocoa, Andrea Spencer
  • Crosby, Sue Bellissimo
  • Downtown, Kathy Panter
  • Dr. Phillips, David Knight
  • Elementary Schools, Elaine Martinez
  • Frank DeLuca YMCA, StevE Wingo
  • Golden Triangle, Joel Tooley and Amy McCrory
  • Healthy Living, Dr. Thomas Wan
  • J. Douglas Williams, Bob Garrison
  • Lake Nona, Kristie Frieze, David Chong, Marshia Hale and Mark Benson
  • Middle Schools, Melanie Cleveland
  • Osceola, Miles Moore and Jeremy Mansfield
  • Oviedo, Deborah Pagan
  • Roper, Lori Burshan
  • South Orlando, Yolanda Webb
  • Suntree, Audrey DiFalco
  • Tangelo Park, Erick Green and Ernestine Swann
  • Titusville, Gene Loyd
  • WDW Resort: Lake Buena Vista, Marnita Fry
  • WDW Resort: Sherberth, Amanda Robertson
  • Wayne Densch, Felicia Moorer-Carmichael
  • Winter Park, David Meier

The Frank DeLuca YMCA received the Pinnacle Award for the sixth year in a row. The award honors a YMCA Family Center with exceptional achievements in revenue growth, volunteer support and financial stewardship. Ben Marciano, YMCA District Vice President of Operations, who manages the Frank Deluca YMCA, received this year’s Jim Ferber award for outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment to the Y cause and mission.

At the conclusion of the meeting Davis passed the gavel to Charlie Egerton, the newly installed 2014 Metro Board Chair. Charlie Egerton discussed his vision for the future and helped install ten new community leaders to the Metro Board. These new leaders, elected to serve a two year term, include the following: Sonja Nicholson, Broker/Owner, REMAX, Michael Wilde, Attorney, Baker Hostetter, Ken Robinson, President/CEO Dr. Phillips Charities, Pete Krzyzak, Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo, Paul Cavaliere, Director, Missiles and Fire Control, Lockheed Martin, Dr. Robert Ford, Professor (retired), UCF College of Business Administration, Eddy Moratin, Executive Director, LIFT Orlando, Paul Roldan, CPA/Owner, Allgan Financial Services, Jim Lewis, Regional V.P. & General Manager, Walmart Corp., Ocala and Pastor Willie Barnes, Macedonia Church Eatonville.


Join us on Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at your neighborhood Y Family Center for Healthy Kids Day!  This FREE community event is a great way for families to get up, get active and start developing healthier routines at home.

To learn more, click here: VIDEO: Healthy Kids Day April 26, 2014

Healthy Kids Day Activities will include games, contests, health screenings, family Zumba and yoga classes, swim test evaluations, pool and bicycle safety tips, healthy eating demos, arts and crafts and more.

Healthy Kids Day is also a great opportunity to register kids for swim lessons and the Y’s groundbreaking summer camp program, focused on Values, Reading, Wellness and Strengthening Families.

MEMBERSHIP SPECIAL – This weekend (April 25 – 27) only, we are waiving the joiner’s fee! In addition to saving up to $150, new members will enjoy significant savings on all Y-quality programs, including youth sports, summer camp, aquatics, adult sports leagues, preventative health and wellness programs and more.


More than 1,000 local leaders were present at the 20th Annual Celebration of Prayer Breakfast held at First Baptist Church of Orlando on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Major Dan Rooney (USAF Ret.), a patriot, founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and man of faith delivered a message on volition.

According to Rooney, “Volition is the power of choice. Every day you wake up, you have a choice. You can be positive or negative. You can choose to pursue your dreams and your passions, but understand one thing – your choices will culminate to write the legacy of your life.”

In his introduction, Rooney charged the audience to push the envelope of human emotion and to take away a new skill or perspective from his message that will in turn have a positive impact on our lives and the lives of the people around us.

DSC_0314_webAlso bringing an Easter message, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said, “There is no holiday, there is no occasion that is more special in the lives of Christians than Easter.” Jacobs explained that Holy Week is an opportunity for restoration and reflection. “Every day is an opportunity for renewal, every day is an opportunity to wake and live a better life, be a better person and a better Christian.”

In delivering the Prayer for Youth Development, Dr. Walt Griffin, Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, said that the common denominator between all attendees was a  mutual interest in the future of our children.

Offering the Prayer of Healthy Living, Sy Saliba, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Florida Hospital, asked God to “Give us the motivation, the will and the strength to live as healthy as we can, in the hope that one of these days, suffering, pain and sickness will be gone and there will be no more crying and no more tears.”

Kran Riley of Wayne Densch Charities delivered the Prayer for Social Responsibility. In closing, YMCA Board Chairman Glen Davis thanked Florida Hospital and specifically Sy Saliba for sponsoring the event and supporting the Y’s Christian mission.