Author Archives: MDOTTAVIO

Healthy Kids Day: Helping Kids Take on Summer

Register for Healthy Kids Day


With today’s families leading such stressful, hectic lives, it’s nearly impossible to make sure kids are getting enough time for exercise, reading and simple, old-fashioned outdoor fun.


In fact, according to the YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot, fewer than 20% of the nation’s children read books for fun, get enough exercise or eat adequate amounts of healthy foods. And with summertime just around the corner, it turns out that the challenges and consequences are even higher.

Far from fun and games, summer has become a time of weight gain and learning loss for too many kids, including those who are already at greater risk for obesity and school failure.

With some kids losing up to one month of learning and achievement, teachers have long characterized the problem as “summer slide.” Sadly, research shows the decline is even steeper − and often irreversible – for low-income kids who can wind up two to three grade levels behind their peers by fifth grade.

And according to The American Journal of Public Health, U.S. kids, one-third of whom are already overweight or obese, gain weight two to three times faster during the summer, often due to endless hours of sitting in front of TVs, computers or video games.

As part of the Y’s focus on prevention – and addressing critical gaps in health and education − we are celebrating Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, April 21. That’s when the YMCA of Central Florida, along with Ys across the nation, will invite 1.2 million kids and families to “Take On Summer” through fun activities that challenge kids both physically and mentally.

Locally, 17 Y Family Centers, including outreach Ys serving Pine Hills, Tangelo Park, Kissimmee and other fragile communities, will be hosting indoor and outdoor games, reading events, field sports, contests and more.

It will also be an opportunity for families to learn more about Y quality summer camps, all of which – in addition to a lot of fun – emphasize reading, physical activity, healthy eating and values. Parents can also ask about Y summer camp scholarships, awarded on the basis of need, which enable even more Central Florida kids to get up, get active and Take on Summer.

After all, playing and learning shouldn’t take a break just because school does. 

Register for Healthy Kids Day

Kids Playing

Healthy Kids Day, April 21 – Smart, Creative, Family-Friendly Fun

With nearly 1-in-3 Florida kids overweight or obese – and a majority reading below grade level, the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day is a great way for families to get up, get active and start developing healthier, smarter routines for summer.

Scheduled for Saturday, April 21, 2018, this fun, FREE, family-friendly event will be held in partnership with Publix Super Markets Charities at 17 YMCA Family Centers across Central Florida.

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 Y swim lessons, as well as YMCA summer camp programs that keep kids safe, active and learning when the school year ends.

And when families join the Y by April 21, they can also save up to $150 on membership, which includes youth and adult sports, aquatics, group exercise classes, preventative health and wellness, and more.   

PSMC Stacked“Research shows that when the school year ends, kids tend to lose up to two months of learning and gain weight two times faster,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development. “Through Healthy Kids Day, we want parents to know that the Y is here for them during the summer ─ and rest of the year ─ to help kids thrive in the classroom, on the playing field and in life.”

To learn more Healthy Kids Day, click here or contact your local YMCA Family Center.

Oviedo Y Undergoes Major Transformation to Keep Pace with Growing Community Needs

web3In support of its mission to improve community health, the YMCA of Central Florida has begun a major renovation to the Oviedo YMCA Family Center.

It is the fourth Y facility in recent years to undergo a significant renovation or expansion as the organization seeks to expand its impact through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

Included in the yearlong renovation will be new locker rooms, family changing rooms, a multipurpose area for health, wellness and nutritional classes, a new YMCA Child Development Center, a teen room and physical plant improvements.

Picture1 webThe project is being funded through a $3.2 million gift from Dr. Phillips Charities, which is the YMCA’s single largest philanthropic partner.

The gift was made in honor of Dr. Margaret Miller, a longtime member of the Oviedo Y who also serves on the Dr. Phillips Charities Board.

In late 2016, the Y also unveiled an $11 million expansion and renovation of the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA. With a focus on improving community health, the new facility is providing a new model for how other Ys, locally and nationally, approach Healthy Living.

EWM_9345The transformation, also funded through Dr. Phillips Charities, incorporates purposeful design, innovative technology and mission-based partnerships with Orlando Health and others to provide everything people need to get healthy – and stay healthy – within and beyond the four walls of the Y.

“As the Y strives to meet growing demand for health and wellness resources, the Y is investing heavily in capital projects to expand, improve and modernize our facilities,” said Dan Wilcox, YMCA of Central Florida President/CEO. “With chronic disease so prevalent yet preventable, the Y is striving to help all Central Floridians live healthier lifestyles.”

YMCAAerials03 paintIn 2016, the Frank DeLuca YMCA in Ocala completed a 20-month, $7.2 million expansion funded, in part, through a major gift from philanthropist Frank DeLuca. In partnership with Munroe Regional Medical Center, the Y is providing preventative health and education services in Marion County. In 2015, the Roper YMCA in Winter Garden unveiled a 7,000 sq. ft. renovation, including a new Health Performance Center, underwritten by the West Orange Healthcare District, Orlando Health and Health Central Hospital.


Y Teen Achievers Set New Record for College Acceptance and Scholarships

Teen Achievers photo webAs the YMCA Teen Achievers Program continues to grow and thrive, a record-breaking 10 students received onsite admission during the Achievers’ 2017 Spring College Tour and eight received scholarship awards totaling $152,000.

Now in its 27th year, Y Teen Achievers provides the extra mentoring and academic support that many youth need to make smart decisions and pursue their college and career dreams.

DSC04209The program’s annual college tours cap off a year of job shadowing, tutoring, college readiness sessions and community service projects that prepare youth to graduate from high school and continue on a successful lifelong journey. During the tour, students visit college campuses throughout the Southeast where they explore academic options and requirements, sample college life and meet with admission counselors.

In all, 63 ninth through twelfth graders participated in the 2017 tour, which visited Florida A&M University, the University of North Florida, Winston-Salem University, North Carolina Central University, Greensboro College, Bennett College, North Carolina A&T University and The Citadel Military University.

IMG_4784Since 1990, nearly 13,000 youth have completed the Teen Achievers Program. Ninety percent have graduated from high school and gone on to earn college admission, career certifications or join the military.

With an ultimate goal of preparing youth for life beyond high school, the Y Teen Achievers program is built on five pillars: Academics, College Knowledge, Positive Relationships, Life Skills and Positive Identity. It is one of a portfolio of YMCA Youth Development Programs that support children and teens’ healthy development from cradle to career.    

Central to the program’s success is strong participation by volunteer role models and mentors. Many are former Teen Achievers who have gone on to professional success and realize the importance of giving back.

To get involved, contact Mina Ford, Y Teen Achievers Executive Director, 407-896-9220 or email [email protected].

It’s All About Impact: Y Senior Leaders Advocate for Y Cause on Capitol Hill

Picture3Dan Wilcox, YMCA of Central Florida President/CEO; Mike Manuel, YMCA Metro Board Chair; and Wayne Humphrey, YMCA Senior Vice President for Public Policy, were among more than 100 Y leaders from across the nation who recently attended YMCA National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C.

During the event, the group met with lawmakers to promote broader awareness of the Y cause and mission. Also discussed were potential collaborations in areas where the Y is already meeting growing demand for quality youth programs, health and wellness resources, and outreach within fragile communities.

Picture5Local Y leaders met with Representatives Darren DeSoto and Stephanie Murray, HUD officials, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee. They also attended a Y-USA event honoring Senators Chuck Grassley and Al Franken for their advocacy on behalf youth, education and families.

Wilcox, who characterized the meetings as productive, said he looks forward to ongoing discussions with lawmakers and public/private partners at every level.

“As the Y of Central Florida seeks to improve the lives of 600,000 Central Floridians, our organization is partnering across our region, state and nation to make a real and lasting difference,” he said. “It’s all about impact. And by being strategic, collaborative and mission-focused, the Y is drawing influential advocates to our cause of improving lives and strengthening communities.”

YMCA Chef Gary Appelsies Inducted into the Orlando Sentinel’s Culinary Hall of Fame

Gary Appelsies, the YMCA’s Director of Healthy Eating, has been inducted into the Orlando Sentinel’s 2017 Culinary Hall of Fame.

Immediately following the Pulse Orlando tragedy, Appelsies created Facebook group, “Culinary Cares,” which rallied the support of more than 100 local chefs, caterers and restaurateurs who provided meals  – and comfort – to those who needed it the most.

In all, 5,000-plus meals, snacks and beverages were delivered to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida, the Zebra Coalition, Orlando Health, One Blood and other places where victims, their families and first responders gathered.

“In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, our community responded in huge and meaningful ways,” said Appelsies, a Board Certified Holistic Integrative Nutritionist and Natural Foods Chef.

Known for his great passion for fresh, delicious food, Appelsies is leading the Y’s efforts to empower people to develop healthier habits around lifestyle and nutrition. In addition to helping establish the Y’s Healthy Teaching Kitchen and Axum Market Café at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA, he also supports the Y’s diabetes prevention program and other medically based pilots to curb chronic disease.

As Appelsies’ reputation grows, he is also inspiring many other celebrated chefs to join the Y cause.  Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon, Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant and Wine Bar, Ryan Freelove of Market to Table, Collette Haw of Collette’s Clean Eats, Jamie McFadden of Cuisiners Catering and Nora Galdiano from Sysco are among those who are supporting the Y’s Healthy Teaching Kitchen and other initiatives.

YMCA Teen Achievers Receive $75,000 Grant from Orlando Magic Youth Fund

CIMG4912As YMCA Teen Achievers kick off their annual college tour, the program has received a $75,000 grant from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund (OMYF), a McCormick Foundation Fund, in support of college and career readiness among at-risk teens.

The grant will be used to expand YMCA Teen Achiever programs for students who live in Orlando’s Holden Heights neighborhood and attend Jones High School or Memorial Middle School. The OMYF has generously supported YMCA Teen Achievers for many years and this year’s grant represents a $25,000 increase over last year.

DSC04209By providing extra mentoring, academic support, enrichment, and college and career preparation, YMCA Teen Achiever has helped nearly 12,000 at-risk students achieve their college and career dreams. Fully 90% of Teen Achievers go on to earn college degrees, gain career certifications or join the military.

“The YMCA of Central Florida is deeply grateful to the Orlando Magic Youth Fund and the McCormick Foundation Fund for this generous grant,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development and Education Initiatives. “Through this support, YMCA Teen Achievers will be able to impact the lives of even more young people, many of whom will become the first ones in their families to attend college and attain a successful career.”

Teen Achievers is just one in a portfolio of innovative Y of Central Florida Youth Development programs that help children and teens learn, grow and thrive at every stage of development. With a focus on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families, the Y is improving kindergarten readiness, elementary reading scores, middle school achievement, summer learning and high school graduation rates.

15936353_1228429653859095_3839922196789419358_oOver the years, the Orlando Magic and Orlando Magic Youth Fund have invested more than $216,900 in support of the Y’s cause and mission. Through sports clinics, coaching support, volunteerism and special events, the Magic are also the preferred partner of the Y’s Youth Basketball program, which instills values, character and sportsmanship in more than 10,000 kids per year.

The Y Teen Achievers grant was announced during a Feb. 9 ceremony at the Amway Center themed around the NBA draft. In all, $1 million was awarded to 17 local nonprofits, bringing the Magic’s total contribution to local nonprofits to $22 million over the past 27 years.

During the presentation, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said that OMYF grants and funding have improved the lives of more than 2 million children.

“There are so many great organizations that are doing such great work and over the course of 27 years we’ve contributed, through the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, to more than 500 local organizations,” Martins said. “We need them to prepare our youth for a better future.”


Healthy Hearts. Healthy Families. Healthy Communities.

With February as American Heart Month, the YMCA of Central Florida is encouraging local families, seniors and individuals to get up, get moving and take charge of their health and wellness.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the nation’s number one killer, accounting for 1-in-3 deaths each year. Additionally, 80 million adults have high blood pressure, yet less than half have it under control. Due to inactivity, too much “screen time” and poor food choices, even our kids are at risk.

Yet the good news is that heart disease, just like type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions, can often be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. As a mission-driven organization committed to helping people achieve their fullest potential in Spirit, Mind and Body, the Y offers these suggestions:

  • Get moving. Schedule time every day for exercise, active play or even a brisk 10-minute walk after dinner. It’s fun, improves heart function, and helps every member of the family maintain a healthier weight and positive mindset.
  • Know your numbers, especially if you have a family history of high blood pressure. See your doctor, self-monitor and take steps to avoid heart disease and stroke.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Be choosey. When it comes to protein, opt for leaner cuts of meat, poultry and fish. Choose baked over fried. Limit saturated and unhealthy trans fats.
  • Go fresh. Replace high-calorie, low-nutrient carbohydrates and processed foods with fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables and heart-healthy grains and legumes.
  • Say no to salt. When cooking, replace salt with herbs, spices, vinegar or natural flavorings. Avoid highly processed, high-sodium foods like cured meats, frozen entrees or canned and packaged foods.
  • Read food labels. Skip items that have more than 140 mg. of sodium per serving.
  • Reduce stress. Long-term anxiety can elevate your heart rate, blood pressure and chances for artery damage.
  • Sleep more. Lack of sleep is associated elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven hours per night. Children require 10-12 hours.
  • Be happy. Just as depression contributes to a greater risk of heart disease, happiness seems to reduce it. Build stronger relationships with those you love and laugh often. Use your newfound health, wellness and stamina to give back and forge deeper roots in your community.

The YMCA of Central Florida is a mission-driven organization committed to improving the lives of all through a focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

New Year, New You. Starting and Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Chances are 2017 isn’t the first time you’ve resolved to lose a few pounds. In fact, last year, losing weight topped the charts as the most common New Year’s Resolution.

The pattern is familiar: You start your journey to a healthier lifestyle determined that this is the year you are going to make the change. You are dedicated, and don’t miss a sweat session for the first week. As the days go on, something happens that causes you to fall out of your new habit. Before you know it, your New Year’s Resolution has become a distant memory.

If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving – or sticking to – their New Year’s Resolution. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

According to Tiffany Wheeler, Wellness Director, at the Frank DeLuca YMCA Family Center, the key is to set  yourself up for success. “New exercisers often overwhelm themselves because they are so eager to see results. Instead of focusing on the scale and measurements, focus on overall improvement in physical performance.”

To help with this, Wheeler recommends finding a way to make your new lifestyle enjoyable, and achievable:

  1. Focus on one thing at a time. If you are new to exercise, focus on being consistent with your workouts. This means if your goal is to work out three days per week, focus on that, rather than trying to tackle your diet, too. Often, new exercisers try to change everything at once, and then get overwhelmed, triggering old habits. “Don’t stress yourself out and make it fun,” Wheeler says.
  2. Make fitness a family affair. Getting your spouse and kids involved is a great way to not only create healthy habits together, but to get the social support you need to achieve your goals. Plus, by including your family, no one feels left out, and you won’t feel guilty for spending time working toward your goals.
  3. Don’t take days off. This doesn’t mean to “work out” every day, rather to be consistent with some sort of physical activity. On rest days from your new fitness program, opt to take a walk or play an active game with family or friends. This keeps your body in motion and aids habit change for a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Eat appropriately for what you are doing. A lot of times, people with a weight-loss goal automatically try to cut calories by skipping meals or eating less. Instead, it’s important to remember that working out causes your body to burn more calories, in turn meaning that you will need more energy. What you eat, and how much you eat, is closely linked to your performance. “Make sure you’re getting enough calories – and good calories – so that you get the most out of your training,” Wheeler says.
  5. Remember, the first three weeks are the hardest. Studies say that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit, so stick with your goal and don’t give up. Once you’ve formed a habit, you can try something new.

Because the first three to four weeks are so important, the Frank DeLuca Y offers specialized programs to help members stay consistent with a new fitness program. Coach Approach, a program created by a behavioral psychologist, is designed to teach people who are new to exercise how to overcome obstacles and re-frame their thinking so that they can be successful. This way, working out becomes a lifestyle change, not a new year’s
resolution that fades to the back burner.

In addition to Coach Approach, the YMCA’s new Technogym equipment comes with the ability for users to create a MyWellness account to log workouts and track progress. Users are also assigned to a Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer so that they can receive virtual coaching for continued success and accountability 24/7.

“The Y really focuses on true health and wellness by offering programs that educate and support our members. Our mission is centered around our members’ success,” Wheeler says.

For information on how to start your journey to a healthy lifestyle in 2017, contact Javier Julio, Membership Director, at [email protected] or 352.368.9622.





Y’s 2017 Pappy Kennedy Prayer Breakfast Unites Community in Faith

Dr. Richard E. Lapchick delivers a message of hope and unity during Y’s 26th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

RGP_7918 webSpeaking to a capacity audience of more than 1,000 guests, Dr. Richard E. Lapchick, an internationally recognized human rights activist, shared a message of hope and unity during the YMCA’s 26th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast.

As the largest community-wide gathering of its kind, the event honors the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, Orlando’s first African-American elected official. It also supports the YMCA of Central Florida’s Christian-based mission to improve lives and strengthen communities.

DSC_0119webAs keynote speaker, Lapchick shared his experiences in growing up as the son of legendary New York Knicks Coach Joe Lapchick, who signed the NBA’s first African-American player. The resulting hostility experienced by his family shaped the course of his life, Lapchick said, prompting him to become a vocal opponent of South African apartheid and all inequality.

As Chair of the UCF DeVos Sport Management Program, Lapchick encourages graduates to use sports as a vehicle for improving lives and understanding. It’s also a message he has shared with Congress, the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Vatican, as well as on ESPN and within 16 books he has authored.

DSC_0054web“When you think of that miracle of sports – the huddle – there’s nothing else like it. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you can’t win unless everyone pulls together. If we could bring that lesson into our businesses, institutions and everyday lives, imagine the world we could have.”

Lapchick, who serves on the YMCA Metro Board, praised the Y’s role in nurturing values and acceptance among young people. “The YMCA stands up for everybody,” he said. “It also brings together volunteers and mentors who give hope and safe haven to youth who don’t always have much to hold on to.”

RGP_7820webThe event’s other speakers included Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO; Congresswoman Val Butler Demings; Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Fire Chief Roderick Williams; Michael Bruce Kennedy, eldest grandson of Pappy Kennedy; Derek Lewis, Senior Vice President & General Manager for Pepsi North America Field Operations;  Marcus Riggins, President of the Southwest Orlando Jaycees; Dr. Bridgett Williams, Chief of Staff to Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; and Orlando City Commissioner Samuel B. Ings.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings received the Southwest Orlando Jaycees Lifetime Achievement Award. The Jaycees, along with the City of Orlando’s MLK Commission co-sponsored the event, with Pepsi serving as the presenting sponsor.

One thousand dollar college scholarships were presented to six outstanding high school students. Their names, high schools and scholarship sponsors include:

  • Jai Brown, Crooms Academy; sponsored by Jennifer Roe of Jennifer Sutton Roe Designs
  • Sydney A. Capers, Dr. Phillips High School; sponsored by Florida Hospital
  • Anasia Clayton, Windermere Preparatory School; sponsored by the Southwest Orlando Jaycees
  • Miranda Kagolanu, Lake Howell High School; sponsored by SunTrust Banks
  • Akylah Cox, Dr. Phillips High School; recipient of the Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Founders Scholarship;Sponsored by Homer Hartage & The Family Foundation
  • Elijah Williams, Edgewater High School; recipient of the Kennedy Family Scholarship, sponsored by The Kennedy Family




Three Reasons to Sign Up for Your First 5K

Getting started on a fitness plan isn’t always easy, especially as the end of the year approaches. With the holiday season starting to kick in, schedules get busier, and your time to focus on yourself often takes a backseat to the demands of your work-life balance.

At the Y, we understand that this is a reality. That’s why we recommend setting your sites on something tangible to help you start – or continue – your healthy lifestyle. For more than 8 million people, that meant participating in a 5K walk or run in 2015. These races provide people of all walks of life with the opportunity to improve their fitness level, while surrounding themselves with hundreds of other like-minded individuals.

At the Y, that’s exactly why we host the Turkey Trot – to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together for a common purpose. You might not consider yourself an “athlete” or a “runner,” but don’t let that stop you. The 21st Annual Turkey Trot might be just the event you need to kick your fitness regime into gear. Here’s why:

Signing up for a 5K forces you to make a commitment. If exercise isn’t high on your priority list, participating in an event is a great way to change that. Not only have you signed up for the event, but you’ve paid the registration fee and locked the date in your calendar. This form of commitment makes it more likely for you to follow through with a training plan because you’ve invested more skin in the game than simply saying “I’ll start tomorrow.” Now that the first step has been made, it’s time to train.

Participation in a 5K allows you to set goals for yourself. As with any event, there is a deadline – in this case, the day of the race. This end-date often serves as motivation to train. Before you start your training program, think about what your goals are. Is your goal to finish the race in a certain amount of time? Is your goal to improve your endurance? Or, is your goal to simply complete the race, even if you walk the whole thing? Regardless of the goal you choose, put some thought into what you want to achieve as you train. This will help you not only help you stay motivated, but it will also help you increase your fitness level as you go.

Completing a 5K gives you a sense of accomplishment. Crossing the finish line is exciting, but more importantly, it’s empowering. You have succeeded at something you put your mind to, and probably something that you have spent a few months preparing for. Plus, as a participant of the Turkey Trot, you’ll be among more than 2,000 other
participants experiencing the same sense of pride as you.

With all of the energy and excitement of race day, being a part of the 21st Annual Turkey Trot is a special opportunity. And, the best part is, anyone can participate. So what do you say? Let’s take the plunge together! Register online for the Turkey Trot 5K or 10K walk/run today at Plus, check out our training series with our partners at the Big Hammock Race Series at

It’s time to lace up your sneakers and commit to your fitness. We’ll see you on race day!

“The miracle isn’t that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start!”

               Ann Trason


We believe a stronger community begins with a brighter future for our kids

At the YMCA, we believe all kids have big potential. That’s why we offer so many Youth Development programs that nurture young minds, strengthen growing bodies and inspire big dreams. Through the Y, kids find a place to call their own. A place where they hear, “you can do it, I believe in you,” every single day. A place where they can be kids, and where they can grow into so much more.

From six-month-olds to high school seniors, the Y nurtures kids of all ages with programs that encourage kids to get moving, thinking, and growing.

Babies and Toddlers
Early Childhood Development – nurturing young minds, good health and school readiness
Safe Start  prevents the tragedy of childhood drowning by teaching infants and toddlers how to survive an accidental fall into water

Elementary and Middle School
Elementary After School – safety, reading, homework help, values and wellness
Middle School After School – hands-on learning, reading, enrichment, mentoring and wellness
Healthy Weight & Your Child – encouraging healthier lifestyles, reversing childhood obesity
Summer Camps – fun, interactive summertime learning to boost kids’ brains and bodies

High School
Teen Achievers – empowering at-risk youth to achieve college and career dreams
YMCA Teen Ambassadors – instilling values, compassion and leadership skills
YMCA Christian Values Conference – strengthening teens’ faith, goals and values

All Ages
Youth Sports – instilling values and skills that help kids succeed on and off the playing field
Swim Lessons – safety, confidence and introducing kids to a great, lifelong sport


The Y’s on a Mission to Nurture the Potential of Every Child and Teen

Most people know the Y as a place where kids learn how to swim, shoot hoops and become better athletes.

But at today’s Y, kids are just as likely to have a reading coach as a soccer coach. And when we celebrate home runs, we know the biggest victories often take place in the classroom.

From infancy through college, the Y of Central Florida is helping kids enter school ready to learn, close the achievement gap and grow up to become successful, confident adults.

Because it’s the Y, we also instill important values – qualities like caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith – which make everyone stronger.

From early childhood development and learning-based after-school programs to innovative summer camps and teen mentoring, the Y is on a mission to help kids thrive, from cradle to career

YMCA Child Development Centers Guidance Policy

January 2018

Our vision is to provide a high-quality, safe, and stimulating environment for your children. In order to meet that vision, and to help us grow, we need your involvement and feedback. We take your concerns very seriously and make every effort to address issues within our Centers. In order to assist with this, we have outlined a process and provided contact information for parents to share concerns or feedback easily. We also welcome any new ideas or positive feedback. Please feel free to share it with your teachers, the directors, or senior management.

The process:

An informal concern is initiated by discussing a situation with the parties involved.

  • STEP 1: The concern may be shared by the parents with the appropriate teacher. Every opportunity should be given to the teacher to address the issue first. If the issue has not been resolved, a parent may follow the chain of command outlined below.
  • STEP 2: A Learning Center Director may be contacted if the parent is not satisfied. They may be contacted by phone, face to face, or by email.
  • STEP 3: If the parent wishes to continue to address the issue, the parent may contact the District Vice President. They may be contacted by phone, face to face, or by email.
  • STEP 4: After addressing the issue with the District Vice President and if the parent is not satisfied with the resolution the concern may be reviewed by the PAB (Parent Advisory Board).
  • STEP 5: The parent may contact the PAB Chairperson or Secretary to schedule time at an upcoming PAB meeting. The PAB would hear the concerns and make recommendations to the MAC (Management Advisory Committee). The MAC consists of management from the YMCA and Walt Disney World and provides advice and recommendations regarding the operations of the center. PAB chairperson will contact the parent to provide an update of the recommendations that have been shared.

Lake Buena Vista Center:
Executive Director: Michelle Foley [email protected]

Sherberth Center:
Associate Executive Director: Erica Catania [email protected]

Both Centers:
District Vice President: Nicci Bucher [email protected]

Strong Curriculum. Measurable Outcomes.

When it comes to giving youth the brightest possible future, few things are more important than a good education. But schools can’t do it all. And many families simply lack the resources to fully prepare their children and teens for the future. That’s where the Y comes in.

With a strong portfolio of out-of-school-time programs, we’re moving the needle on:

  • Kindergarten Readiness
  • Elementary and Middle School Reading Scores
  • Summer Achievement
  • STEM Learning
  • Enrichment
  • College & Career Prep
  • School Attendance (Reducing Absenteeism)
  • Juvenile Crime
  • Parental Involvement
  • Values, Wellness & Strengthening Families

Click below to learn more about the Y’s CURRICULUM, IMPACT and OUTCOMES.

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge EducationalInitiative_Flyer


YMCA Chef Rallies Culinary Community to Provide 5,000+ Meals Following Pulse Shootings

IMG_0832 In times of celebration and sorrow, food brings people together and offers comfort.

So when Orlando was rocked by the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, Gary Appelsies, YMCA Director of Healthy Eating, knew what to do.

By creating the Facebook group, “Culinary Cares: In Support of Pulse IMG_0865Orlando,” Appelsies rallied local chefs, caterers, restaurateurs and others to deliver more than 5,000 meals – and comfort – to where it was needed the most.

More than 100 businesses responded by delivering meals, snacks and beverages to Orlando Health, local LGBT centers, One Blood and other locations where victims’ families and first responders gathered.

IMG_0882“In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, our community responded in huge and meaningful ways,” said Appelsies, a professional chef and certified nutritionist.

“Food comforts people and provides emotional support. Food feels good. It brings people together. It was humbling to help in any way we could.”


The Y is Here to Help Our Community Heal

As Central Florida continues to deal with the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, the Y is committed to helping our community heal and move forward.

Many of our Y staff and members have personal connections to the victims. Others,  including first responders, medical personnel and victims’ families, will be turning to the Y to help them overcome stress, grief and trauma.

We’re ready with counselors, pastors and others who can provide support to those who need it. Likewise, Y staff is ready to simply listen, share a cup of coffee or offer an encouraging word.

As a Christian-based organization, our local Ys also have Mission Committees comprised of volunteers who work together to unite our communities in faith, prayer and understanding. Many other meaningful volunteer opportunities are available. There may be no better time to meet your neighbors, give back and get involved.

Despite great sorrow, times like this bring us closer together. They also highlight the overwhelming goodness that exists in our community – and what can be achieved when people of passion and purpose work together for the common good. At the Y, it’s what we do every day. If you’d like to speak to a counselor, pastor or Y staff member, inquire at your local YMCA membership desk. To volunteer and get involved, click here.


Mike Manuel and 10 Community Leaders Elected to the Y Metro Board

At the Y of Central Florida’s annual meeting on May 13, Mike Manuel was re-elected to chair the 2016-2017 Metropolitan Board of Directors. As the Y’s top volunteer officer, Manuel will work with 61 other volunteer board members and staff to expand the Y’s impact in Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

Manuel, a former finance executive with EXP US Services and Wachovia Bank, has been an active YMCA volunteer leader for several years. In addition to serving on the Y Metro Board’s executive and audit committees, Manuel also led our 2014-2015 Annual Support Campaign, which raised $3.3 million and helped connect more than 50,000 people to Y programs and services.

A graduate of Florida State University, Manuel has also been an active volunteer with the Florida Hospital Foundation Executive Board, the American Cancer Society, Seminole Boosters Inc., Heart of Florida United Way, and the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation.

“I’m honored to serve a second term as YMCA Metro board chair,” Manuel said. “It’s an exciting time to be involved with the Y, which is experiencing one of the most dynamic periods of growth and impact in its 135-year history. Through the commitment of a strong board, the Y’s staff and executive leadership, and more than 23,000 donors, volunteers and advocates, our Y association is on track to improve more than 600,000 lives per year.

Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO characterized Mike Manuel and all of the Y’s new board members as “highly accomplished individuals whose expertise represents nearly every profession and walk of life.”

“The strength of our Y is directly attributable to the sustaining support of Dr. Phillips Charities, as well as the commitment of volunteer leaders like Mike Manuel,” Wilcox said. “Through this, the Y is impacting our community in big and small ways – everything from improving community health and school achievement to strengthening at-risk families.”

In addition to Manuel’s election, 10 new board members were elected for two-year terms, 2016–2017. They include:

  • Aubrey Anthony, YMCA Teen Ambassador and emerging Y leader.
  • Pete Barr Jr., President & CEO, & Barr
  • Karen Brown, Partner – Assurance Services, Ernst & Young
  • Keith Durkin, Partner, Broad & Cassel, Attorneys At Law
  • Arnold Evans, President/CEO, SunTrust Bank, Central Florida
  • Andy Gardiner, Vice President, External Affairs & Community Relations, Orlando Health
  • Charlie Puckett, CPA, McDirmit, Davis & Company, LLC
  • Christopher Rolle, Jr., Orlando Market President, BB&T Bank
  • Keith Thomas, President, Thomas Design International
  • Tyra Witsell, Retired Division Manager, Orange County Citizens Commission for Children


About the YMCA of Central Florida

The YMCA of Central Florida is one of the area’s largest nonprofits, serving more than 415,000 Central Floridians per year through a focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. With a Christian-based mission to improve lives and communities, it operates 27 YMCA Family Centers across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties. And this mission is expanded beyond the four walls of the Y through community-based programs to combat chronic disease, boost children’s after-school safety and learning, and strengthen fragile families. In 2015, this YMCA Association of over 1,800 employees engaged 23,000 donors, volunteers and advocates, who joined together for the common good. To ensure that the Y remains available and accessible to all, it also provided $5.4 million in program and membership assistance to more than 50,000 children, families and seniors.





YMCA ANNUAL MEETING: Impacting Our Community in Big & Small Ways

af7e1e3b-96f7-453e-a433-e0412c99197a[2]Nearly 300 guests and community leaders recently gathered for the YMCA of Central Florida’s Annual Meeting, which recognized the leading donors, volunteers and staff who helped advance the Y’s cause in 2015.

The event was held at the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center on May 12.



Mary Jane ArringtonMary Jane Arrington, Osceola County Supervisor of Elections, received the John W. Sterchi Award, the Y’s highest honor for those who provide a lifetime of support to the Y. Mary Jane has been a longtime champion of the Osceola Y, having chaired its first capital campaign in 2000, as well as successive capital and scholarship campaigns.

She also serves on the YMCA Metro Board and Executive Committee, as well as her Osceola YMCA Family Center Board.


D75_7990Renaut van der Riet, Lead Pastor of Mosaic Church, received the YMCA’s Ronnie Walker Unsung Hero Award for outstanding volunteerism. As a member of the YMCA Metro Board and Chair of its Mission Committee, Renaut is building new faith partnerships to help expand the Y’s Christian mission. He is also the founder of Axum Coffee and Axum Market Cafes, a faith-based nonprofit that will be bringing the Y’s mission to life through its operation of the new Healthy Living Café, due to open soon at the Dr. P. Phillips Y.


0f818be0-8173-4937-8816-f4385914f0f6[1]Sandy Hostetter, President of Valley National Bank, received the 2015 Barbara Roper Advocacy Award recognizing volunteers who exemplify Barbara Roper’s trailblazing advocacy and passion for the Y. As a Y leader for more than 25 years, Sandy serves on the YMCA Metro Board and Executive Committee.

She is also a former chair of the Metro Board and Annual Support Campaign. Most recently, she served on the steering committee that developed the Y’s 2014-2020 strategic plan.


c314bc4e-0e96-4e55-8581-e47d56d9472d[1]The Warden Family received the Dr. P. Phillips Champion of Youth Award for its unyielding commitment to improving the lives of children.

Through the Bert W. Martin Foundation, Andy Warden and his family have supported a wide range of YMCA youth initiatives, including Camp Wewa and Y Links2Learning, which keeps at-risk kids safe, instills values and nurtures out-of-school time learning.



f32e756c-1ab4-4866-b54e-d9c21f9ed59f[2]Mike Manuel, 2015-2016 Metro Board Chair, recapped the year’s top achievements in Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO gave an update on the Y’s 2015 capital projects, including the grand re-opening of the Frank DeLuca Y, a major “Healthy Living” renovation at the Roper Y, and the first phase of completion for the Dr. P. Phillips Y’s $9.5 million expansion.



a50a994a-fc26-49d7-9aea-a980d29cb2d8[1]In honoring the Y’s Lifetime Donors, Dr. Phillips Charities received special recognition. In 2015, Dr. Phillips Charities donated $2.9 million in gifts to the Y, bringing its lifetime total support of our organization to more than $42,204,000.

In honor of the late Jim Hinson, Dr. Phillips Board and staff received “Heart of Gold” medals for their commitment to improving lives through the Y. Accepting the awards were Jim Ferber, Rita Hinson, Dr. Margaret Miller, Harvey Burnett,  John Hillenmeyer, Eva Tukdarian, Sara Van Arsdel, Wendy Oliver and Dan Wilcox.


The Y thanked and honored each of its 10,000-plus donors, including scores of Lifetime Donors who have given more than $500,000. Top honors in this category went to Orange County Government, the Winter Park Health Foundation, Walt Disney World and Darden.    The Pinnacle Award, recognizing outstanding achievements in Y program and family center growth, went to the Downtown Y, the Frank DeLuca Y and the YMCA Middle School Program. And Dan Ickes, YMCA COO, received the 2015 Jim Ferber Award for exceptional leadership on behalf of the Y cause and mission.

During the business portion of the meeting, Mike Manuel was re-elected to serve a second term as Metro Board Chair. Ten new Metro Board members were also elected, including Aubrey Anthony, YMCA Teen Ambassador and emerging Y leader; Pete Barr Jr., President & CEO, &Barr; Karen Brown, Partner , Assurance Services, Ernst & Young; Keith Durkin, Partner, Broad & Cassel, Attorneys At Law; Arnold Evans, President/CEO, SunTrust Bank, Central Florida;  Andy Gardiner, Vice President, External Affairs & Community Relations, Orlando Health; Charlie Puckett, CPA, McDirmit, Davis & Company, LLC; Christopher Rolle, Jr., Orlando Market President, BB&T Bank; Keith Thomas, President, Thomas Design International; and Tyra Witsell, Retired Division Manager, Orange County Citizens’ Commission for Children.


YMCA Offering Complimentary Swim Instruction to Prevent Childhood Drowning

With pools, lakes and beaches all around us, drowning is a leading cause of death among Florida kids, ages 1 – 14.  

To help kids stay safe in and around the water this summer, the YMCA of Central Florida is offering 10,000 complimentary swim lessons to children ages 4 to 12 during our Safety Around Water event, April 25-28. 

Introductory lessons will be provided by certified Y swim instructors, who will teach basic stroke development, personal safety water survival skills. Lessons will be offered at no charge to the public at 20 neighborhood YMCA Family Centers across Orange, Osceola, Brevard, Seminole, Lake and Marion counties.

Rowdy1“Each year, the number of Florida children who die from drowning is enough to fill three to four preschool classrooms,” said Rowdy Gaines, YMCA Vice President of Aquatics and a three-time Olympic gold medal swimmer. “Among African-American and Hispanic children, the risk of drowning is even higher and for every child who drowns, many more suffer a permanent disability. Yet the tragedy of drowning is largely preventable when children learn basic water safety techniques.”

Rounding out Safety Around Water will by YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day on Saturday April 30. That’s when Y family centers will be offering free, family-friendly games, activities and resources to keep kids safe, active and learning when the school year ends.

McDonald’s of Central Florida has stepped forward to co-sponsor the event, which supports the safety and well-being of local kids and families. “On behalf of McDonald’s of Central Florida, we are excited to participate in this amazing initiative that benefits our community’s children,” said Ania Nitzsche, Central Florida McDonald’s Owner/Operator. “With the summer season just around the corner, the timing for Safety Around Water week couldn’t be more ideal and we’re glad to partner with the YMCA on this important program.”

In addition to McDonald’s of Central Florida, other Safety Around Water sponsors include the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA), Ron Jon Surf Shop and Melissa Mishoe.

To register for complimentary lessons, visit your local Y by April 20. To be contacted by a Y staff member, click here and complete the form.


Elizabeth Smart Inspires the Faithful During the Y’s 22nd Annual Celebration of Prayer

D75_1600Bringing the Easter message home to 800-plus area residents, best-selling author and inspirational speaker Elizabeth Smart said that the power of prayer is real and can transform lives in astonishing ways.

As keynote speaker for the YMCA’s 22nd Annual Celebration of Prayer, Smart began by thanking everyone who prayed for her during the 2002 kidnapping, which captivated the nation.

At age 14, Smart was taken from the bedroom of her Utah home by a stranger who claimed her as his “wife.” She was then held captive and emotionally and sexually abused her for nearly a year. Believing at first that she’d never survive – and often praying she wouldn’t – Smart found the strength to endure by remembering the love of God and her family.

DSC_9808“No matter what happened to me, no matter how broken I felt, I knew my family and almighty father would always love me,” Smart said. From that point on, she said she found the will to survive.

Now 28, married and attending Brigham Young University, Smart is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, My Story. Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she also promotes the national AMBER Alert, as well as legislation to protect children.

D75_1249“For more than two decades, the Y of Central Florida has been uniting our community and strengthening the Y’s Christian mission through Celebration of Prayer,” said Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO.

“As we usher in the Easter season, Elizabeth Smart reminds us that prayer can help us overcome any adversity and lead fuller, more purposeful lives.”

Other Celebration of Prayer speakers included Michael Griffin, Vice D75_1530President of Public Affairs for Florida Hospital, which was the event’s sponsor, as well as Orange County Sheriff Sheriff Jerry Demings, Osceola Supervisor of Elections Mary Jane Arrington and U.S. Congressman Daniel Webster.

Seizing the Teachable Moment to Help Kids Develop Social Skills

Healthy emotional development is critical in the first five years of a child’s life. Everyday social interaction with parents, caregivers and others provides the foundation for all areas of a child’s brain development. It’s also the gateway for encouraging children to develop the self-control, focus and confidence they’ll need to be successful in school and beyond.

At the YMCA Child Development Centers at Walt Disney World Resort, we pride ourselves in providing the consistent, nurturing care that helps your child feel safe, secure and able to learn new skills at every age.

Take toddlers, for instance. As they learn to interact with others, it’s not uncommon for them to behave badly toward adults or other children. While it’s perfectly normal behavior, it’s also a teachable moment when Y staff help children learn how to manage their emotions, impulses and actions.

In keeping with the Y’s approach in the classroom, offers additional suggestions you might find helpful at home:

  • As much as possible, provide consistent care and predictable routines. This helps kids experience the world as a safe, secure place where needs are met, surprises are few and distress is fleeting.
  • Help children learn the right language to express their feelings. Being able to identify emotions is the first step in controlling them. Use story books, every day experiences and dinner time conversation to help your child understand their feelings, the feelings of others and develop stronger language skills.
  • Provide simple choices. Nurture your child’s judgment and decision-making skills by encouraging them to make age-appropriate choices on what to wear, what to eat, etc. They’ll feel more confident, self-aware and in control.
  • Don’t forget interactive play. Simple games can teach kids about fairness, following rules and taking turns – not to mention coping with the occasional disappointment of losing.

If you have questions about your child’s behavior or need additional advice, feel free to check with the Y’s child development experts. We’re here to support you, your child and family in every way we can.




National Nutritional Month: Let’s Trade Diet Stress for a Healthier Balance

by Gary Appelsies, YMCA Director of Healthy Eating 

Igreen and red healthy foodt’s March and it’s national nutrition month. Most of us are still reeling from that January let down of the all American resolutiona to “diet and get healthy!” Yes, we jumped on the band wagon with all good intention only to find that the “diet” we chose is limiting and disappointing. Now it’s March and we are thinking of the spring and summer, looking good for our beach days and spring outings. It’s time for renewal and another chance.

The other day I was in shock.  I was watching a news report that went on to say “America’s obesity problem linked to over eating.” Wow, what a statement.  I don’t want to sit here and place blame, but what about exercise and being well-rested.  Why are we simply blaming people for overeating?

Diets Come & Go, But Lifestyle Change Lasts
We have all done at least one of them.  A diet by any other name is just a diet.  A diet as far as I am concerned is not all about food.  It is a lifestyle change.  So, with all the diets out there, how come we are all still a little, well you know. Pudgy?  Diets come and go, but our combined weight pretty much has remained the same. That’s because not one of these diets is sustainable past the three hours, 48 hours or sometimes seemingly 200 years it takes to give it our all.

healthyfood-1So, is there a “diet” that is truly sensible?  One that is sensible, delicious and good for you? Probably not! But if I had to nominate the next best thing it would be the Mediterranean diet. It is a diet basically rich in healthy olive oils, grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish. This diet also uses less meat and dairy products than our modern American diet with a focus on whole real food.

I like it because it is not punishing, it’s not excessive, anti-food or anti-social. It’s comfort.  I imagine myself sitting by the sea, enjoying a lazy breakfast of fruit and yogurt. There’s also lunch or dinner with grilled, fresh fish drizzled with olive oil, some fresh herbs and roasted summer vegetables.  Now, I can do that!  In fact I do do that.  What’s not to like about a diet that you are already on and hadn’t even noticed?

healthyliving_december2011Big Picture: Healthy Balance in Spirit, Mind and Body
So all we have to do is eat healthier and we’ll live forever? Right? Sadly, no. It not just what we eat. It’s also how we live!

You can eat the healthiest food in the world, but if you are enjoying it while slouching in front of the TV or gulping it down while weaving in and out of rush hour traffic, it won’t help. At the Y, we believe in full, big picture of health and achieving a proper balance between Spirit, Mind and Body.

That’s why, in addition to helping people make healthier food choices, we also help them get up, get moving and become more physically active. We help them prevent disabling, chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. And we help people reduce stress and forge closer connections with their families, neighbors and communities.

During national nutrition month and beyond, the Y is committed to helping people achieve their healthiest best in every aspect of life. So let’s start worrying less – especially about sticking to impossible diets – and enjoy a healthy, balanced life that leads to longer, stronger years.

As the YMCA’s Director of Healthy Eating, Gary Appelsies is a Board Certified Holistic Integrative Nutritionist, Natural Foods Chef and Inspirational Speaker. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Gary also holds a degree in business from Pace University and a master’s degree in Nutrition Science from University of Bridgeport, CT. Gary is currently leading the Y’s efforts to help people improve their diet and nutrition through personalized programs, healthy cooking demonstrations and a growing number of cafes in our local Ys that provide fresh, healthy meal options that people can enjoy after a work out or on the go.  


Best Selling Author Elizabeth Smart to Headline YMCA’s 22nd Annual Celebration of Prayer

Please join us for the 22nd Annual YMCA Celebration of Prayer, a community-wide prayer breakfast event that ushers in the Easter season and unites our community in faith, prayer and understanding.

Thursday, March 24, 2016
7 a.m.
First Baptist Church of Orlando
3000 S. John Young Parkway
Orlando, Fl 32805 

This year’s guest speaker will be New York Times best selling author, Elizabeth Smart.  

When Elizabeth, at age 14, was abducted from her Utah home in June, 2002, it became one of the most widely known child abduction cases of our time. Following her safe return to her family, Elizabeth bravely testified against her captor, thus revealing the private nightmare she endured for nine months.

Today, as an inspirational speaker and the New York Times best-selling author of “My Story,” Elizabeth shares how her deep faith helped her survive and recover from the ordeal. She has also emerged as a leading child safety advocate. Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she has promoted the national AMBER Alert, as well as legislation to prevent further child abductions.

Now married and attending Brigham Young University, Elizabeth is a sought-after speaker whose message of faith, hope and empowerment inspires others to overcome adversity and lead fuller, purposeful lives.

To purchase tickets or learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact [email protected] or call (407) 896-9220.

Altamonte_2cIndividual tickets $50. Corporate tables $300.

Celebration of Prayer is generously sponsored by Florida Hospital, which shares the Y’s passion for helping people achieve their healthiest best in spirit, mind and body.

The Y: Where Early Childhood Learning Meets Fun

Despite mounting pressure to start formal education sooner than ever, research shows that our youngest children benefit most from a fun, active learning environment that encourages them to explore the world around them.

Disney kids 3 webThis “Learning Through Play” philosophy best describes the Y’s approach to early childhood learning at our YMCA Child Development Centers at Lake Buena Vista and Sherberth.

In fact, what looks like play is actually disguised learning as children interact with each other, explore new experiences, communicate, solve new challenges, practice new skills – and just have fun!

At the Y, we realize play critical is for children’s social, emotional, physical, and Disney kids webcognitive development. And through our research-based curriculum, we give kids plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and thrive while preparing them for kindergarten and beyond.

Here are just a few of the ways we make your child’s day fun, interactive and enriched with learning:

  • Circle time is a group gathering during which we share our ideas, plans and observations. Circle activities are designed to stimulate youngsters’ thinking, enrich their social skills, and expand their attention spans.
  • Gross–motor activities give children the opportunity to use their muscles as well as their imaginations as they engage in fun, healthy exercises, such as running, jumping, and climbing.
  • Fine-motor activities help improve small-muscle development and eye-hand coordination. Some common items found in the fine-motor/manipulative area include puzzles, beads and laces, pegboards, crayons and scissors.
  • Art activities help youngsters creatively express their thoughts and feelings. They help reinforce fine-motor skills and concept development in areas such as colors, shapes, and size relationships.
  • Dramatic-play activities help children express themselves, practice life skills, improve social skills, increase self-esteem, build vocabulary, and solve problems. And, well, dramatic play is just plain fun!
  • Music activities promote youngsters’ listening skills, creative expression, and social skills. In music, children can explore sound, volume, tempo and rhythm.
  • Science activities offer children many hands-on opportunities for observation, exploration, investigation, making predictions, and experimentation.
  • Sand and water activities allow youngsters to experiment with textures and the properties of different substances. These activities also promote the development of other skills, such as math, science, and language.
  • Block play gives children experience with many different concepts, such as shape and size discrimination, spatial relationships, number skills, balance, organization, cause and effect, and classification. Cooperative play skills, problem solving, and creativity are also promoted in block play.
  • Storytime is designed to help youngsters develop an appreciation and enjoyment of literature. Reading activities enhance children’s vocabulary and comprehension skills, and also expand their knowledge base.


YMCA After School Programs Expand to Serve Even More Kids and Families

At a time when local kids and families need more support than ever, the YMCA has expanded its innovative after-school learning programs to three additional counties across Central Florida.

Modeled after the longstanding success of the YMCA After School Zone program, the new programs are providing after-school safety, learning and wellness for an additional 1,000 middle school students throughout Brevard, Lake and Osceola counties.

That’s in addition to 3,200 children per day the Y already serves though out-of-school time programs it operates onsite at 14 Orange County elementary and middle school locations.

Frank DeLuca Science webThe newly created programs, which include summer learning sessions, have been established in schools where the majority of children qualify for free or reduced lunch programs due to lower income.

In Lake County, four new after-school sites were funded through a five-year, $3 million 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. Five additional programs in Osceola and two in Brevard are being funded through $1 million in Florida legislative budget appropriations championed by State Senate President Andy Gardiner, Senators David Simmons and Darren Soto, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Representative Tom Goodson.

McCoy girl web“At a time when so many families are working two or three jobs to survive, the Y is proud to provide quality, affordable out-of-school-time programs that keep kids safe, active and learning,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development. “In addition to providing peace of mind for busy parents, the Y is helping students improve their reading scores, close the achievement gap and prepare for future success.”

The new programs are modeled on the success of the YMCA Afterschool Zone Program, funded through Orange County Government, which has served more than 191,000 students since 1999. Since then, 80% of students have been able to maintain a 2.0 GPA or better, while having higher rates of school attendance and lower rates of juvenile crime.

Two Top Education Experts Join the Y’s Early Learning Centers at Walt Disney World Resort

Two top experts in the fields of education and child development recently joined our YMCA Family Centers at Walt Disney World® Resort. Dr. Kinyata McGee-Swope, who holds advanced degrees in education, is the new Executive Director of the Y’s Sherberth location. And Mary Anderson, 25-year YMCA early learning professional, has assumed leadership of the Lake Buena Vista location.

Mary replaces Nicci Bucher who has been elevated to the Y’s new District Executive Director of Early Learning Programs.

Kinyata McGee-SwopeDr. McGee-Swope is a Chicago-based child development and educational expert who holds a Ph.D. in Teacher Leadership from Walden University and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy from National-Louis University.

She’s also been certified as an Infant Specialist through Erickson Institute, one of the nation’s top child development graduate schools.


Mary AndersonWith a 25-year career within the Y movement, Mary Anderson has has served in executive child development roles with the YMCA of Greater St. Paul in Minnesota and the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

During this time she oversaw education, literacy and kindergarten readiness programs, as well as curriculum development, quality control and accreditation,


nicci bucher webAs the Y’s new District Executive Director of Early Learning Programs, Nicci Bucher will oversee both YMCA Early Learning Centers at the Walt Disney World® Resort. She will also serve as project manager for strategic planning and technology implementation. Nicci has served with the Y for 11 years, most recently as Executive Director of the Lake Buena Vista Family Center.

“Top experts in the fields of education and child development, combined with a highly trained, caring staff, are key components of what sets our YMCA Child Developments Centers apart,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Executive Director of Youth Development. “We are excited about the expertise of Dr. Kinyata McGee-Swope, Mary Anderson and Nicci Bucher as we continue to exceed expectations in serving the needs of Disney Cast Member families.”

For more than a decade, the YMCA’s Childhood Development Centers at Walt Disney World® Resort have been providing Disney Cast Member families with quality, affordable early learning programs, extended-hour child care, family-strengthening programs and more. 







98% of YMCA Kids Enter Kindergarten Ready to Learn

From the time they’re born, children learn all the time and everywhere they go. In fact, research tells us that kids’ most important learning takes place before age 5.

IMG_0225(web)That’s why the YMCA Early Learning Centers at Walt Disney World Resort give kids a jump start on school through innovative, accredited Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) programs.

With a solid focus on pre-reading, pre-math and social skills, 98% of kids who complete the program enter kindergarten ready to learn!

How does the Y do it?

  • It starts with the  Y’s mission-based commitment to help every child reach their full potential.
  • It’s supported through a research-based curriculum that promotes early literacy and math skills, character development, health and wellness, and closer family relationships.
  • Because we’re the Y, we make learning fun.
  • Our caring, highly trained staff is attuned to each child’s unique developmental needs.
  • We help instill values like caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, faith and empathy.
  • And as the nation’s largest provider of quality, affordable child care, the Y always partners with parents to ensure that  their kids are safe, active and learning.

In addition, the Y offers: 

  • Extended-hour child care and flexible schedules to meet the needs of busy working families — 365 DAYS PER YEAR.
  • National program accreditation through A.P.P.L.E (Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment)
  • Family wellness, including healthy cooking demos and an on-site wellness specialist who provides daily, structured activities around physical fitness and nutrition.
  • An on-site nurse who provides wellness checks and preventative health care.
  • Behavior specialists for monthly parenting seminars, individual assessments and more.
  • Balanced, nutritious meals and snacks, based on USDA guidelines to help kids grow up healthy, smart and strong.

Want to know more? Click here to visit our YMCA Family Center at Lake Buena Vista or our  YMCA Family Center at Sherberth.





Today More than Ever, It Takes a Village To Raise a Child

A new study by the Pew Research Center tells us something that working parents everywhere already know: Today’s families are stressed, tired, rushed and finding it harder than ever to achieve a proper work-life balance. And while nearly 60% of all kids now grow up in homes where one or both parents work, public and private programs to help families cope still lag far behind.

According to the New York Times, the tension is affecting American family life, with nearly 45% of parents believing they spend too little time with their kids and 59% of mothers stating that they don’t have enough leisure time.

At the Y of Central Florida we know that families are under great stress and we’re doing everything we can to alleviate it.

By operating quality, affordable early-learning, after-school, teen and summer programs, we keep kids safe, active and learning during all the time parents can’t be there. We also provide plenty of opportunities for families to spend fun, meaningful time together — everything from family Zumba classes and Saturday soccer games to Fun Friday activities and ways to volunteer and give back.

Through the Y’s academically focused curriculum, we’re also addressing some of the most pressing education challenges of the day – boosting student achievement and reading scores, reversing summer learning loss and helping young people graduate on time with positive options. Values are also important at the Y. By teaching honesty, caring, faith, respect and responsibility, we help instill the values that every parent wants for their child.

As the Y’s commitment to youth and families deepens, we’re also attracting great partners. Walt Disney World Resort, Heart of Florida United Way, Orange County Public Schools, Orange County Government, Y-USA, BELL and many other public and private organizations are joining with us to make a difference.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. And as a working mom myself, I’m proud to be part of the Y’s efforts to create a strong community of support around today’s busy families.

Shannon L. Matthews, MS
Vice President, Youth Development & Education Initiatives
YMCA of Central Florida 

Dr. Vikki Kennedy Johnson Inspires 1,000+ YMCA Guests to Carry on the Dream

D75_4785Gathering in faith, hope and understanding, more than 1,000 guests and local leaders attended the YMCA’s 25th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Vikki Kennedy Johnson, acclaimed pastor, author and broadcaster, served as keynote speaker for the anniversary event. As the granddaughter of Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, Orlando’s first black elected official, she urged guests to carry on the dream that inspired her grandfather and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Like Dr. King, my grandfather had a dream that everyone would get along and be decent to one another if only given a chance,” said Dr. Kennedy Johnson. “There’s power in a dream, but the challenge for us today is to embody the dream, persevere and make a difference. When we embody God’s dream for our lives and the earth, we will realize His blessings and live in unity. Are we there yet? We’re close, but there’s still a way to go.”

DSC_5702Dan Wilcox, YMCA of Central Florida President/CEO, spoke about the Y mission-driven role to unite and strengthen communities. “It is upon each of us to continue pushing for positive change,” Wilcox said. “Today, and every day, our organization is working to improve the lives of all people. “We hope you’ll join with us through the Y’s cause and mission to be a force for positive change.”

The event’s other speakers included Orlando City Mayor D75_4918Buddy Dyer, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, former Orange County Commissioner Homer Hartage, and Marcia Hope Goodwin, Director of the City of Orlando’s Office of Community Affairs and Human Relations.      

LaRue Howard of the River of Life Christian Church, along with the  Experience Center Praise Choir provided  the morning’s musical entertainment.

Mike Manuel, Chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Board of Directors, joined with event co-DSC_5808sponsors Marcus Riggins, President of the Southwest Orlando Jaycees and PepsiCo Executive Derek Lewis, in awarding scholarships to four outstanding high school seniors.

Recipients included Vivek Suri of Winter Park High School; Ajalie Coryat of Lake Nona High School; Mitchina Dorson of Maynard Evans High school; and Neil Rios LaVerde of Colonial High School.

D75_5183Tiffany Moore Russell, Orange County Clerk of Courts, received the Southwest Jaycees’ Lifetime Achievement Award for dedicated public service.

In addition to the YMCA, the prayer breakfast’s other sponsors include PepsiCo, the Southwest Orlando Jaycees and the City of Orlando’s Martin Luther King Commission.

Human Rights Activist Dr. Richard Lapchick to Headline the YMCA’s 26th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast

Please join us for the 26th Annual YMCA Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The keynote speaker for this YMCA signature event will be will be Dr. Richard Lapchick, an internationally recognized human rights activist and pioneer for racial equality.

Monday, January 16, 2017
7:45 a.m.
First Baptist Church of Orlando, Faith Hall
3000 S. John Young Parkway
Orlando, FL 32805

webOften described as “the racial conscience of sport,” Lapchick serves as Chair of the UCF DeVos Sport Business Management Program, which encourages graduates to use the power of sports to improve lives and create a more inclusive, welcoming society.

The acclaimed author of 16 books, Lapchick has appeared before Congress, the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Vatican. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN, The Sports Business Journal and serves as a consultant on diversity and inclusion to leading businesses and sports organizations.

LaRue (web)Lapchick is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Arthur Ashe Voice of Conscience Award and the Harvard Global Health Catalyst Award. He was inducted into the Commonwealth Sports Hall of Fame in the category of humanitarian along with Nelson Mandela and Arthur Ashe. Lapchick also serves on the YMCA of Central Florida’s Metropolitan Board of Directors.

He is the son of legendary New York Knicks Coach Joe Lapchick who in 1950 signed Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton as the first African-American athlete to play in the NBA.


MHG (web)Each year, this YMCA event brings together more than 1,000 civic leaders, pastors and everyday citizens to honor the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, who was Central Florida’s first African American elected official.

By uniting the community in faith, prayer and understanding, it also supports the Y’s Christian-based mission to improve lives and strengthen communities.


Individual tickets: $45, Table Sponsorship: $500. To purchase tickets or learn more about sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected].

room (web)To view a video of last year’s Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, click here. To learn more about this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Lapchick, click here.

The YMCA of Central Florida proudly presents the Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast in sponsorship with the Southwest Orlando Jaycees and the City of Orlando’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Commission.   Pepsico, Inc. is the presenting sponsor.





At the Y, Kids and Learning Go Hand-in-Hand


Learning is a lifelong continuum
that starts at birth and never ends. At the Y, we’ve developed evidence-based programs and curriculums that support children’s learning at every stage of development.

From our Disney early learning centers and After School Zone Program to summer reading pilots and teen leadership activities, the Y partners with parents, teachers and our community to support kids’ out-of-school time learning, safety and success.



  • Help pre-school children enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • Boost grade-level reading for elementary and middle school students
  • Keep every child on track, academically, from kindergarten to high school
  • Encourage healthy habits to reduce childhood obesity
  • Instill values to prevent bullying
  • Help families reduce stress and grow stronger


YMCA Early Childhood Development Centers
Creating a warm, welcoming learning-rich environment that nurtures the physical, emotional and cognitive development of more than 600 children per day, birth to age 5, at our two Disney child development centers and the Lake Nona YMCA.




McCoy math webYMCA Elementary Out-of-School Time Program
Providing educationally focused reading and literacy activities, homework help, character development and daily fitness activities for more than 36,000 children per year through YMCA after-school and summer programs offered at 39 area elementary schools.




IMG_1045YMCA After School Zone and Middle School Programs
Keeping more than 7,614 children per year safe, active and learning during out-of-school time through hands-on learning activities in reading, math and science. Enrichment activities include career and character development, music, art, robotics, rocketry and more. Offered at 28 middle school locations in Orange, Osceola, Brevard and Lake counties.



REaders theater(web)YMCA Summer Camp
Preventing summer learning loss  and weight gain for more than 25,400 youth
through activities designed to keep kids’ minds ─ and bodies ─ active.

With a special emphasis on reading and enrichment, kids have a chance to explore new talents and interests, while parents work without worry.



McCoy girl webYMCA Summer Reading Pilots
Helping at-risk youth close the achievement gap through research-based pilots proven to help students gain, on average, one year of reading in just five weeks.




Merry Fitness. Holiday Help From the Y

’Tis the season of temptations. For most of us, the battle of the bulge begins with Thanksgiving dinner and lasts through New Year’s. Add in all the extra stress, holiday treats and meals on the run, and the calories really start to add up.

Ryan HoleskoRyan Holesko, YMCA Wellness Specialist has some great tips for keeping the entire family fit, active and healthy during the holiday season and beyond.

Ryan is a graduate of Kent State University, where he earned a B.S. degree in exercise science. He also has extensive experience in Kids Playingtraining young athletes and inspiring people of all ages to make healthier choices around food and fitness.

“I believe that teaching kids how to eat healthy, play outside every day and get a good night’s sleep is the key to ending the youth obesity epidemic,” Ryan said. “I’m proud to help our Y kids and families stay healthy!”

Holiday Tips From Y Wellness Specialist Ryan Holesko: 

  • Do your best to make time for healthy, home-cooked meals. Even quick, easy options are better than fast food fare.
  • Get everyone on board with a plan to step-up physical activity. Make it fun with a family basketball game, a swim at the Y, or simply power-walking through the mall.
  • Create healthier versions of your favorite holiday recipes. Substitute low-fat milk or yogurt in the mashed potatoes and skip the top crust on the apple pie.
  • When attending evening parties where the focus is on food, stick to healthy snack and meal options during the day.
  • As parents, don’t skimp on your own exercise routine. You’re not just burning stress and calories, you’re also boosting your mental outlook, energy and metabolism.
  • Recognize what triggers you and your family to overindulge. If it’s stress, fatigue or over-scheduling, cut back and focus on what matters most — creating a happy, harmonious holiday and stronger family bonds.

Need more encouragement? Click here for the YMCA’s Merry Fitness Three Day Guest Pass.

YMCA Mourns the Passing of Longtime Teen Advocate Tracey Sullivan

It is with great sadness that the YMCA of Central Florida announces the passing of one of our strongest advocates for youth, Tracey Sullivan.

As a 43-year volunteer leader with the YMCA Christian Values Conference and other pivotal Y programs, Tracey nurtured the faith, values and potential of thousands of teens, all of whom she considered “her kids.”

In doing what she loved most, Tracey led groups of high-school students to the Y’s annual Christian Values Conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as to state and national YMCA Youth in Government activities. She also established a teen values retreat at the Y’s Camp Wewa, which is offered each winter.

A former Lake Brantley high school teacher, Tracey said that teens held a special place in her heart: “My passion and compassion is with teenagers. It’s a tough age. They want to talk about what they think, what they feel and what they believe in, but they’re not always listened to. The Y is here for teens when they need us most.”

To ensure that all youth, regardless of their ability to pay, have the opportunity to attend the YMCA Christian Values Conference, Tracey and her husband, Tim, established the Tracey and Tim Sullivan Endowment Fund in 2014.

This summer ─ during Tracey’s 43rd year of helping lead the conference ─ she was honored with the Y’s first annual Tracey Sullivan Award, which recognizes outstanding volunteers who make this life-changing week possible. Looking on were many former teens, now successful adults, whom she once mentored.

“Tracey Sullivan’s deep personal faith and trust in the Y mission have inspired generations of young people to grow up stronger, healthier and better,” said Dan Wilcox, YMCA of Central Florida President/CEO.  “We are humbled and grateful that Tracey chose to make a difference through the Y.  And we offer our deepest sympathy to Tim and her family during this difficult time.”


Work Without Worry. Reduce Holiday Stress  

Talk about stressful. The average American spends 42 hours on holiday activities ─ adding the equivalent of a full week of work on top of already busy schedules. Not surprisingly, research shows that women feel more holiday stress than men ─ and parents, in general, feel more pressure than others.

Kids react, too, when their normal routines are disrupted. With that in mind, here are a few tips from the Y to keep the Grinch at bay:

Work Without Worry
Let us take care of the kids while you take care of everything else. Your YMCA child care centers are open extended hours, 365 days per year ─ including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. During school breaks, we also offer special programs to keep older siblings (through age 12) busy, active and learning.

Don’t Over Schedule
Even the most well-intentioned families can only handle so many school functions, social gatherings and trips to the mall. Kids, especially, need time to unwind. Try to keep their schedules as normal as possible and make sure they plenty of unhurried time to slow down, rejuvenate and just be kids. (Think the Y)

Get Up, Get Moving
Exercise not only relieves stress, improves mental outlook and prevents holiday weight gain, it’s also a great way for families to have fun and grow stronger. At the Y, we can help you get started. With more than 20 YMCA Family Centers across Central Florida, we have a nearby neighborhood Y and FREE GUEST PASS for just for you.

Eat Well
More than any other time of the year, good nutritious, well-balanced meals are a way to keep the family healthy and connected. Try not to skip meals, especially before parties where you’ll be tempted to overindulge. Treats for the kids are inevitable, but try to keep them limited, as too much sugar can disrupt bedtimes and good behavior.

Have Fun. Play Games
Games are a good way to keep things light and fun, while also engaging the whole family. In addition to board games and charades, consider high-energy outdoor activities like treasure hunts, a family “hoops” contest or backyard hide-and-seek.

Demonstrate the Spirit
Kids learn by watching us. If we want them to grow up as generous and charitable, we have to show them how. For holiday gift-giving, consider “adopting” a child or family in need, serve a meal at a local shelter or give back and volunteer through the Y.



A Great Place for Kids – and Families – to Grow and Thrive

As a mission driven organization dedicated to Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, the YMCA of Central Florida is committed to providing convenient, high-quality child care to help Disney Cast Member families stay strong ─ and raise the next generation of Disney Dreamers and Doers!

Walt Disney World Resort YMCA Family CenterFrom the first day your child joins us, the Y focuses on helping them reach their fullest healthiest potential ─ one lesson, one active playtime, one nurturing interaction at a time.

As parents, teachers and child development professionals, Y staff members recognize that even the youngest children are learners.

That’s why our educationally focused curriculum:

  • Meets the developmental needs of children ages six weeks through pre-kindergarten (also to age 12 for school holiday and summer camp programs.)
  • Enriches cognitive, language, social, emotional, physical and creative development.
  • Provides opportunities to create, explore the environment and develop problem solving skills.
  • Fosters good values, qualities like caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and empathy.


Walt Disney World Resort YMCA Family CenterFamilies are at the Heart of All We Do
In today’s busy world, it’s no secret that families need all the help we can provide. And the YMCA is proud to partner with Walt Disney World and Heart of Florida United Way to do just that.

Unique in the nation, the YMCA Child Development Centers at Walt Disney World focus on the well-being of every member of the family.

Families who are healthy in Spirit, Mind and Body raise healthy, well-adjusted kids, so we help you create a healthy, happy home through:

  • Parenting seminars
  • Healthy eating and cooking demonstrations
  • Family activities, including dance, fitness and yoga
  • On-staff nurse for preventative health and wellness checks
  • On-staff wellness expert to help your family adopt healthy eating and fitness routines

At the Y of Central Florida, we’re here for kids, families and people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. It’s how we Empower Our Community for Good.

YMCA’s Festival of Trees Celebration Honors the Warden Family and other Major Donors

D75_6309web On Sunday, Nov. 15, more than 600 of the YMCA’s most generous donors, including the Warden Family, gathered for the YMCA’s annual Festival of Trees appreciation event at the Orlando Museum of Art.

It was the 14th year for the celebration, which thanks and recognizes major donors whose charitable giving supports the Y’s cause and mission.

During the event, the Y presented its 2015 Dr. P. Phillips Champion of Youth Award to the Warden Family, led by Andy Warden.

D75_6387webThroughout the years, the Warden Family Foundation has generously supported many Y causes, including Camp Wewa, which instills faith, values and leadership skills in our young people.

The foundation also donated a major capital gift in 2013 to establish the Y Links2Learning Golf Center at the South Orlando YMCA. Located within the Oak Ridge Road/OBT corridor, this Y provides after school safety, learning and mentoring for at-risk youth, while strengthening local families and communities.

D75_6321webDan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO, praised the generosity of Warden Family, as well as the leadership of all of the Y’s major donors. “Our YMCA and community are stronger for your compassionate leadership,” Wilcox said. “You set a power example for others to follow, and you remind us that anything is possible when we work together to improve the lives of others.

(For additional photos, click here to visit YMCA’s Facebook Page)

Previous Recipients of the YMCA’s Dr. P. Phillips Champion of Youth Award 

  • 2002: Dr. P. Phillips Foundation
  • 2003: Charles Bailes, III
  • 2004: Tracy Swanson
  • 2005: James Downing
  • 2006: Greg Nelson
  • 2007: Bill Browder
  • 2008: Winter Park Health Foundation
  • 2009: Mary Jane Arrington
  • 2010: Richard Crotty
  • 2011: Leonard Williams, Sr.
  • 2012: Evans Hubbard
  • 2013: Tyra Witsell
  • 2014: Glen Davis
  • 2015: The Warden Family

YMCA’s Rowdy Gaines Receives 2015 USA Swimming Award

The Y of Central Florida is excited to announce that our very own Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Vice President of YMCA Aquatics, has been honored with the 2015 USA Swimming Award.

Considered swimming’s highest honor, the award recognizes recipients’ outstanding contributions to the sport.

“I am incredibly humbled by this award, mainly because I think swimming has given me so much more than I could ever imagine delivering to it,” Rowdy said. “We are a family and I always have been and always will be a proud part of the greatest sport in the world.”

Since joining the YMCA family in 2014, Rowdy has reinvigorated the Y’s entire aquatics program ─ everything from bringing prestigious national aquatic events to the YMCA Aquatic Center and revamping the YMCA Swim Academy to sharing his passion for water safety and childhood drowning prevention.

As a father and grandfather, Rowdy has been a vocal advocate for Safe Start, the Y’s innovative infant water survival program. During YMCA Splash Week, he also led efforts to raise funds and awareness to provide free swim lessons to nearly 15,000 local children, including many whose families could not afford instruction.

In addition to his most recent recognition, Rowdy is a member of International Swimming Hall of Fame and is considered one of the sport’s top ambassadors. He is also a well-known TV analyst for NBC sports.

Congratulations, Rowdy! You’re an inspiration to all of us!

YMCA Honors the Memory of Jim Hinson

The YMCA of Central Florida wishes to honor the memory of Jim Hinson, Former President, CEO and Chairman of Dr. Phillips Charities, who recently passed away.

Hinson transformed Dr. Phillips Charities into one of the most generous local charitable organizations with the YMCA of Central Florida as its primary support agency.

The YMCA of Central Florida has benefited greatly from this generosity, as have countless other local arts, cultural, educational, health and social service organizations. 

DSC_7126webHinson had a special love for the Y and believed deeply in our cause and mission. Over the past three decades under his leadership, Dr. Phillips Charities has invested significantly in our Y association, thus enabling us to further our mission in Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

“Jim Hinson was a kindhearted, visionary leader who challenged our Y to think bigger and aim higher,” said Dan Wilcox, President/CEO of the YMCA of Central Florida. “In the history of our organization and community, Jim Hinson will be remembered as a true servant leader who brought people and organizations together in service to others. His legacy will live on at the Y and in the lives of the more than 235,400 children, families and seniors we serve each year.”

Jim HinsonwebOver the years, Dr. Phillips Charities has invested more than $41.8 million in the Y of Central Florida. In addition to funding capital projects at numerous YMCA Family Centers, this generosity has also enabled the Y to go into ─ and remain ─ in fragile communities like Pine Hills, Tangelo Park, Titusville and Kissimmee — where Y programs and services are needed the most.

One of Jim’s greatest prides was Safe Start, the YMCA Infant Water Survival Program he helped establish in 1999. On his desk, he kept a book of letters from grateful parents whose children had survived the tragedy of drowning thanks to the Y Safe Start program.

80 Local Teens Attend YMCA Christian Values Conference at Blue Ridge

As part of a mission-driven commitment to youth and Christian values, the Y of Central Florida recently sent 80 promising teens to the YMCA’s Christian Values Conference in North Carolina.

BR1 WebSet against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the week-long conference gives kids a chance to deepen their faith, develop positive values, and network with peers to create a better world.

During the conference, we also proudly honored Tracy BR TS webSullivan, a Y of Central Florida volunteer whose compassionate heart for youth has touched generations of kids. This was Tracy’s 43rd year representing our Y at the event. In recognition, the assembly presented her with the first annual Tracy Sullivan Award, honoring outstanding volunteer contributions that make this gathering possible.

BR4 webEvery year, we see teens’ lives changed by what they experience during this incredible week. Here’s a letter from one attendee’s parents, which really sums it up:

This was our daughter Allison’s first time to go to Blue Ridge, and she came home feeling rejuvenated, inspired, encouraged and spiritually fed.  As parents, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience for our child.  Upon arriving home, she talked non-stop all weekend about the amazing experience she had on the mountain.  She told us about the daily devotions, “family” time and activities, new-found friends from all over the Southeast, and the constant encouragement she received from Y adults and leaders.

We can’t thank you enough…and we couldn’t have sent her without the help of a generous YMCA scholarship. Allison is already planning on how to save money to attend next year’s conference. And our family is praying about how we can give back and hopefully sponsor future teens. We can’t wait to see how God answers our prayers!!

God Bless,
Vicki and Randy Dooling

The Y is here for families this fall: Youth sports and out-of-school time care

With summer winding down, the Y is here this fall to help every member of the family – starting with kids – to get back to a healthier, more active routine.

Flag football, soccer and other YMCA youth sports are a great way to engage the entire family – as players, volunteer coaches, sideline cheerleaders, or as part of a larger focus on family fitness.  We’re also here to provide quality out-of-school time programs that keep kids, safe, active and learning when parents can’t be there.

At the Y, we pride ourselves in helping kids develop not just strong athletic and academic skills – but also character-building qualities, including caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith. Lessons learned on the playing field can influence a child’s entire future, helping them excel in personal relationships, the classroom and life. Above all, kids learn that things don’t always go their way, and respecting themselves and others is more important than any game day win.

While youth sports – and more importantly, Youth Development – may be disappearing from schools, it’s flourishing at the Y. And with nearly 4,000 kids per year receiving YMCA scholarship assistance, we make sure every child who wants to play, has the opportunity to do so.

So come on, let’s get going. It’s time to sign up, suit up and head to the Y. We’re ready to help every member of the family get moving and living better. To register or learn more about YMCA youth sports and after-school programs, visit or stop by your local YMCA family center.

Dan Wilcox
YMCA of Central Florida

Big, Huge Summer of Fun, Discovery and Learning at the Y

It continues to be a big, busy summer of fun, discovery and learning for more than 24,000 kids who are taking part in YMCA Summer Camp, Summer Learning and Teen Leadership programs.

REaders theater(web)By blending learning with fun — along with a curriculum focused on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families  YMCA campers are on track to enjoy 8 million minutes of reading time this summer.

Sound like homework? Not at the Y, where hands-on learning activities like Reader’s Theater, arts, skits and games encourage kids to interact with books – and each other – in fun new ways.

In fact, most kids don’t even realize their learning. They’re just having a great time boosting brain power, while exploring new talents, skills and interests – things like rocketry, robotics, photography, sports, music and more.

rocket webJust ask any of the 300 YMCA middle school campers who took part in the Y’s third annual rocketry competition at Glenridge Middle School. Working with Y mentors, staff and science teachers, the kids worked in teams to build, test and launch model rockets – all the while learning about science, technology, engineering and math.

Culinary web

Another group of Y campers – and aspiring chefs – had a chance to present their best culinary creations to a panel of local food judges who offered professional advice, encouragement and mentoring.

McCoy girl web Over at McCoy Elementary, more than 120 at-risk children are getting much-needed academic support through the YMCA’s Summer Scholars Learning Program.

Modeled on a successful pilot the Y launched two years ago with Y-USA and BELL, the program is proven to help kids gain half a year of learning in just five weeks.

Similar YMCA intensive learning programs are  taking place at 10 middle school locations, where many of the kids are at highest risk for school failure.

blue ridge webIn nurturing the next generation of Y leaders, our organization proudly sent 80 promising teens to the YMCA Christian Values Conference at the Blue Ridge Assembly Hall in North Carolina.

It was a great week of faith, friendship and learning for the teens, who share in the Y’s commitment to bring on a better world.

Summer may be winding down, but learning goes on year-round at the Y. Click here to learn more about YMCA out-of-school-time learning programs for kids of all ages.

A Message to Parents from YMCA Vice President Shannon Matthews

As parents, we know that raising healthy, happy kids is probably the hardest, yet most rewarding job we’ll ever do. Unfortunately, finding quality, affordable child care – the kind that nurtures and cherishes our children the way we do – is often our second biggest challenge.

At the Y, we understand this. It’s why we’ve been partnering with Walt Disney World for more than a decade to provide cast member families with the specialized programs, extended-hour child care and the wrap-around support they need and deserve.

Much more than simple day care, the YMCA Early Childhood Development Programs at Sherbeth and Lake Buena Vista represent the best of what research and common sense tell us what children need:  Healthy beginnings; consistent, positive interaction with caring adults; age-appropriate learning activities; and plenty of opportunities for fun and making new friends. 

Guided by educational experts, wellness specialists and a research-based curriculum, our Y programs focus on every aspect of childhood development.  From nurturing the cognitive and emotional needs of infants, to helping preschoolers develop literacy skills and healthy habits, the Y has it covered.

We also nurture families. In partnership with Heart of Florida United Way, we’re helping parents improve work-life balance, access preventative health and wellness services, and create healthier, happier homes.

At the Y, we’re here for you. And we’re honored to play such an important role in helping children learn, grown and thrive.

Shannon Matthews, MS
YMCA Vice President
Youth Development and Education


Y Inspired: Recovering From Major Illness

When Quinton English fell ill two years ago, he thought it was the flu. Saying goodnight to his wife, Betty, and daughters, Katie and Taylor, he hoped he’d feel better in the morning.

But when he didn’t wake up, it was his dog, Levi, who alerted the family that something was very wrong.

fam photo (web)

“It all began with a bark and quick action by Betty,” said Quinton, a Dr. P. Phillips Y member who had contracted bacterial meningitis. “By the time the paramedics arrived, I was comatose and barely alive.

Crediting divine intervention and quick work by physicians at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, Quinton survived. But re-learning how to walk, talk and fully function was difficult.

While at Orlando Health’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center, Betty’s strength sustained him, while daughter Katie’s motivation kept him motivated and focused.  Following his release, Taylor accompanied him daily to the Dr. Phillips Y to work on rebuilding his strength and stamina.

“I arrived in a wheel chair and weighed 138 pounds, but my family’s support, prayers and the Y staff kept me going.”  

Now fully recovered, Quinton says the Y helped him regain more than his health. “I went from being a dues-paying member to becoming very aware of what others are going through. The Y is here for all of us. And for that I’m very grateful.”

Healthy Kids Day April 25: Keeping Young Minds & Bodies Active

With nearly 1-in-3 Florida kids overweight or obese – and a majority reading below grade level, the Y’s Healthy Kids Day is a great way for families to get up, get active and start developing healthier routines at home.

Scheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at each of our 27 Y family centers, the event is being co-sponsored by our great partner, Orlando Health.

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.

A special membership deal makes it even better. For one day only – April 25 – all YMCA joiners’ fees will be waived.

In addition to saving $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.

“Research shows that when the school year ends, kids tend to lose up to two months of learning and gain weight two times faster,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Education. “Through Healthy Kids Day, we want parents to know that the Y is here for them during the summer ─ and rest of the year ─ to help kids thrive in the classroom, on the playing field and in life.”

To learn more Healthy Kids Day, the benefits of Y membership, summer camp and swim lessons, contact your local YMCA Family Center. For the Healthy Kids Day flyer, please click here.



Easy Menu “Swaps” for A Healthier Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. Many are still struggling with the dreaded “holiday weight gain.” So what is one to do when preparing to host a game day party?  Create winning food for yourself and your guest.  We guarantee a victory!

Remember, the key is moderation and control:

  1. Consider using a smaller plate when selecting your snacks. This will help you to eat less.
  2. Pace yourself especially when consuming alcohol.
  3. Drink plenty of water it will keep you feeling full and bonus you stay hydrated.
  4. We tend to eat more when we are in the company of others, so pay more attention to the action on the field rather than the food on the table.

Easy Swaps:

Deep fried hot wings: Bake the wings in the oven, and then finish under the broiler for that crispy skin. Grilling works great too.

Chili: Use ground turkey or shredded chicken instead of ground beef and use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  Or leave the meat out all together for great vegetarian chili.

Dips: Replace the sour cream by using Greek Yogurt, serve humus with whole grain pita.

To ensure that you have a healthy nutritional component to your Super Bowl party add in these items too. Yogurt dip, nuts, fruits (especially berries), multigrain or whole-grain crackers and chips, guacamole, salads, fresh vegetables and water with lemon or citrus garnishes.

Florida Hospital For Children’s Center for Child & Family Wellness: The Y Connection

Getting fit and physically active are major components in helping kids improve their wellness and maintain a healthy weight. That’s why Florida Hospital for Children partners with the Y to provide greater access to top-notch fitness opportunities, as well as team of pediatric experts focused on all aspects of kids’ health.

Since 2014, Florida Hospital for Children’s Center for Child & Family Wellness has operated its entire pediatric practice at three YMCA Family Centers: The Blanchard Park YMCA, the Peggy and Philip B. Crosby YMCA Wellness Center and the YMCA Aquatic Center. 

This unique partnership provides broader access to community-based care, especially for kids and families who are most likely to be impacted by childhood obesity. According to the American Heart Association, about one in three American kids and teens are overweight or obese. Children from low-income families more likely to be affected, putting them at greater risk for lifelong health challenges.

The Florida Hospital program is led by Dr. Angela Fals, a pediatric weight specialist, as well as a multi-disciplinary team comprised of Dr. Indira Abraham-Pratt, a child clinical psychologist; Michael Woodall, an exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer; and Christopher Schnell, a clinical registered dietitian certified in pediatric weight management.

According to Dr. Fals, obesity is complex problem that often affects entire families. That’s why the program teaches kids, as well as their parents, how to adopt healthier lifestyles, while also addressing the social, emotional and nutritional issues associated with childhood obesity.

Research shows that ongoing, personalized support is also essential to achieving long-term change. For that reason, the six-month program takes a “one-on-one” approach to wellness that includes regular medical visits, behavioral counseling, nutritional supportindividualized fitness plans, social activities and family workshops focused on healthier eating, cooking, gardening and more.

Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO, said that the partnership between the Y and Florida Hospital delivers on both organizations’ commitment to encourage preventative health and wellness at every stage of life. “The Y is honored to partner with Florida Hospital in giving kids a healthier start,” Wilcox said. ”The healthy habits children develop now will help them reach their fullest potential and live stronger for years to come.”

To request more information about Florida Hospital’s Center for Child & Family Wellness programs at the Y, click here.

Retiring Dec. 31 With a Strong Plan for the Future

 (Presented during Aug. 28 YMCA Metro Board Meeting)  

Dear Y Friends and Family,
After careful thought and deliberation, I’ve decided to retire at the end of the year. My wife, Deb, and I have given it a lot of thought and prayer and have decided that this is a good time to spend more time together as a family.

We’ve had a wonderful 41-year career with the Y and have met some of the best people a community could offer in every stop along the way – Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and now Florida. Deb and I agree that Orlando has been the best. This is home and we plan to stay here – and no, I’m not sick.

The board has been large, more than 50 members on average. Some board members stayed for a short time, D60_1526 others have given a lifetime to the Y. When you have that kind of commitment – people who have given a lifetime of consistent support, encouragement and giving – it motivates us to give nothing but the best effort. It’s also very inspiring to other board members and staff, and we don’t take that type of commitment lightly.

D60_1465 (web)We – the board and me as CEO – have always been on the same page. The rapport between the staff and the board has been exceptional. For 21 years, we’ve had an incredible relationship and I will always value, appreciate and remember it.

It has been an honor to be associated with one of the finest Ys in North America. We have D60_1597(web) accomplished wonderful projects and helped thousands of people along the way. I often say that God has had a firm hand on the steering wheel. We have never strayed from our mission and vision, and without it we could have never accomplished what we did.

There are many people I want to thank, but I’ll save that for another time and another day. I hope you are as excited as Deb and I as we look forward to the next chapter of our lives. We are not done. We still have a lot of things to accomplish.

God Bless,

23,900 Kids Smarter, Healthier And Ready For School

From reading great books and sailing in the Keys to racing rockets and exploring careers, more than 23,900 kids enjoyed a jam-packed summer of fun, growth and learning at the Y.

Families were involved, too, through Fun Friday activities, Reader’s Theater performances, athletic events, swim lessons, field trips and family fitness challenges – not to mention livelier dinner conversations as kids shared their daily adventures. With so much going on, we wanted to share a few highlights.

Reversing Summer Learning Loss – 8 Million Minutes at a Time
To help kids progress – not regress – with summertime learning, the Y’s camp curriculum included at least 60 minutes of daily reading time, as well as comparable amounts of time devoted to values, wellness and strengthening families. When you add it up, the outcomes are incredible. In fact, 82% of campers with “high attendance” increased their reading proficiency by 3 months – or one week of progress for every week of camp.

8.0 Million Minutes of Reading To help close the achievement gap
3.8 Million Minutes of Values To combat school violence and bullying
8.5 Million Minutes of Wellness To prevent childhood obesity
4,936 Camp Time Family Visits To strengthen family bonds

Five Months of Reading Gains in Just Six Weeks
5 Months of Reading GainsThanks to the Y’s partnership with Chase and Orange County Public Schools, 1,245 youth from 10 local middle schools advanced to higher levels of reading through the Y’s Summer Climb Reading Program.

Launched as a successful pilot last year, the program combines iPads, digital reading labs and high-interest topics to engage kids while gradually challenging and boosting their reading levels. Early outcomes show that 2014 results outpaced last year’s success, when students achieved five months of reading gains in just six weeks.

Soar with reading (web)Soar With Reading
For more than 400 elementary school kids, camp kicked off with the Soar with Reading event, sponsored by Orange County Public Schools, Jet Blue and Orlando City Soccer. In keeping with the World Cup theme, campers received a copy of that latest Magic Tree House book, “Soccer on Sunday.”



Rocket competition(web)Y Rocket Scientists
With a future as bright as the stars, Alexander Ortiz from Union Park Middle School advanced to the national rocket championships in Huntsville Alabama thanks to a first-place showing in the YMCA’s 2014 Rocket Competition. Alexander was one of 189 middle school students taking part in the Y event, sponsored by Orange County Public Schools, NASA and The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

REaders theater(web)

Reader’s Theater
Proving that summer learning can be fun, hundreds of Y campers took part in Reader’s Theater, an integrated literacy program that encourages students to write scripts, act and produce plays based on their favorite books. As an added bonus, parents were invited to attend “opening night” performances.



Confidence(web)Splash of Confidence
As a Splash and Sports camper at the Roper Y, 8-year-old Jordan became a strong swimmer and confident kid this summer.

According to his mom, “My son used to be terrified of the water. Within two weeks of being in camp, he went from being a beginner to intermediate swimmer who no longer needs a life jacket. Jordan has gained so much confidence. As a parent, that puts a huge smile on my face. I couldn’t be happier with the Y’s impact on my son.”


Values(web)YMCA Christian Values Conference
More than 140 teens and youth mentors joined with peers from around the country to share their faith during the Y’s annual Christian Values Conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the largest delegation ever from our Y, which keeps our Christian mission front and center.



wewa2Reaching Higher at Wewa
As it has for decades, YMCA Camp Wewa inspired more than 1,250 youth grow in spirit, mind and body this summer. Rich traditions that nurture leadership, values and exploration combine to create a great residential camping experience that’s shaped generations of Central Floridians. New this year: Two 16-foot climbing walls with cascading water. Like all Wewa activities, they encouraged kids to try new challenges and always reach higher.


Healthy Lunch Box (web)Healthy Lunchboxes
To combat childhood obesity and foster healthy habits, Y campers were challenged to trade chips, candy and soda for fresh fruit, vegetables and water. Based on the numbers ─ and a little healthy competition ─ we tracked 189,558 nutritious meals and snacks.



Career planning(web)Planning for Careers
Middle-school students at the Osceola Y learned about careers, college and vocational training through Career Exploration Camp. Sponsored by Bank of America, the two-week program included information on dual high-school enrollments, networking and interviewing, as well as visits to local employers.

Dr. Phillips Charities: Impact That Makes a Difference

In 41 years of nonprofit leadership, I can safely say that no other philanthropic benefactor has ever had a deeper impact on a community than Dr. Phillips Charities. As its primary beneficiary, the Y of Central Florida has been especially blessed.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Phillips Charities has invested an astounding $38,447,923 in our Y, including its most recent gift of $4.2 million.

It’s a monumental legacy that’s empowered our organization to grow our mission and serve more than 235,400 people per year. It’s also enabled the Y to go into – and remain ─ in 27 communities – including fragile neighborhoods that need us the most. And through Safe Start, funded through Dr. Phillips Charities, the Y has kept more than 13,400 children safe from drowning.

When we talk about impact, there’s simply no better measure than the success of our youth. And as we wrap up another successful summer, we’re thrilled to report that 23,900 Y campers made significant gains in learning. Thanks to 8.4 million minutes of reading time, 82% of “high attendance” campers increased their reading ability by three months.

It’s the kind of impact that makes a difference. And it’s the kind of work we’re able to do thanks to the vision, leadership and generosity of Dr. Phillips Charities. And for that, we’re all blessed.

Jim Ferber
YMCA President/CEO

YMCA and United Way Team Up to Help Teens Access College

To make the college application process less daunting for teens and families, the Y of Central Florida and Heart of Florida United Way have teamed up to launch the “Going to College” texting program.

Based on a model from the Florida College Access Network, the program aims to increase college enrollment by providing guidance and information during the application process. By simply texting a pre-assigned code, students receive timely reminders about registration deadlines, financial aid and other resources from the colleges of their choice.

To date, more than 60 students and Y Teen Achievers have signed up for the program, which removes the “information barriers” that can discourage less-affluent students from pursuing post-secondary education.

The program is one of several recent collaborations between the YMCA and HFUW, which share a common commitment to supporting children and youth at every stage of development. Through its Investing in Results grant-making process, HFUW is also funding the Healthy Beginnings nutrition and health program at the YMCA’s two Early Childhood Development Centers at Walt Disney World.

“In addition to the Teen Achievers College Prep Sessions, the Going to College texting program is a great resource for aspiring young people,” said Mina Ford, Executive Director of the YMCA Teen Achievers Program. “We’re proud to work with United Way in providing the extra layer of support that can make a huge difference for first-generation college students.”

“Through a network of community-based resources, United Way hopes to lower barriers that prevent students from furthering their education,” said Ray Larsen, United Way’s Assistant Vice President of Children’s Services. “It’s a daunting process for a 17-year-old, let alone most parents. This tool helps students chart their course to college and stay on track.”

For more information or to access texting codes, click here.

Winding Down a Wonderful 41-Year Career with the Y

 (Presented during Aug. 28 YMCA Metro Board Meeting)  

Dear Y Friends and Family,
After careful thought and deliberation, I’ve decided to retire at the end of the year. My wife, Deb, and I have given it a lot of thought and prayer and have decided that this is a good time to spend more time together as a family.

We’ve had a wonderful 41-year career with the Y and met some of the best people a community could offer in every stop along the way – Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and now Florida. Deb and I agree that Orlando has been the best. This is home and we plan to stay here – and no, I’m not sick.

The board has been large, more than 50 members on average. Some board members stayed for a short time, D60_1526 others have given a lifetime to the Y. When you have that kind of commitment – people who have given a lifetime of consistent support, encouragement and giving – it motivates us to give nothing but the best effort. It’s also very inspiring to other board members and staff, and we don’t take that type of commitment lightly.

D60_1465 (web)We – the board and me as CEO – have always been on the same page. The rapport between the staff and the board has been exceptional. For 21 years, we’ve had an incredible relationship and I will always value, appreciate and remember it.

It has been an honor to be associated with one of the finest Ys in North America. We have D60_1597(web) accomplished wonderful projects and helped thousands of people along the way. I often say that God has had a firm hand on the steering wheel. We have never strayed from our mission and vision, and without it we could have never accomplished what we did.

There are many people I want to thank, but I’ll save that for another time and another day. I hope you are as excited as Deb and I as we look forward to the next chapter of our lives. We are not done. We still have a lot of things to accomplish.

God Bless,

Summer at the Y: Time to Do More, Learn More, Be More

Splash Bash With summer officially underway, the Y is at our busiest and best as thousands of kids families walking through the doors of our 27 family centers serving nearly 100 neighborhoods.

From swim lessons and reading classes to team sports and summer camp, it’s a season for learning, growing and developing new skills and values that last a lifetime.

Here’s a quick look at what’s happened so far – and we’re just getting started:

Splashing Into Water Safetyphoto
More than 1,000 at-risk kids recently took part in free swim lessons to keep them safe, confident and secure around water this summer.

Included were 750 youth who participated in our Splash Bash Celebration held at four of our 11 Outreach Ys: Wayne Densch YMCA, South Orlando YMCA, Blanchard Park YMCA and the Osceola YMCA. Intermixed with a lot of fun were important lessons about water safety and survival techniques. 


Another 350 kids from Fern Creek Elementary received free swim lessons and bathing suites thanks to the Downtown and Winter Park YMCA Family Centers, Fern Creek Elementary School and the Fern Creek Boosters.


Rowdy Gaines, Olympic Gold Medalist and YMCA Aquatic Director, was there to cheer them on. It’s all part of the Y’s mission-driven commitment to prevent childhood drowning, especially among kids who might not otherwise have access to lessons.

Safe Start
We’ve also proudly registered nearly 500 babies and toddlers for Safe Start lessons so far this year.

Sponsored by Dr. Phillips Charities, Safe Start is the Y’s groundbreaking infant water survival program that’s kept more than 13,400 children safe around water since 1999.

And our Loreleis, a competitive synchronized swim team which trains at the YMCA Aquatic Center, will soon be competing at the USA Dr. Phillips Charities Logo 2cNational Synchronized Swimming Competition in Seattle, Wash. It’s the first time our team has qualified at this level and it’s a big thrill for all of us.


Healthy Bodies. Healthy Minds

DSC_0024 webNot long ago, we 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.

Instructors led more than 150 kids through fitness drills and obstacles, while representatives from Florida Hospital’s Healthy 100 Kids program provided information about the importance of nutrition and family fitness.


Y Summer Camp: Where the Learning Lives On
With word spreading fast about the Y’s educationally based summer camp, registration is already 20% ahead of last year.

In 2013, we had 22,000 camp registrations – our biggest year ever – and we expect to top 30,000 this year.

It’s a great opportunity to reach even more kids with our academically based curriculum focused on Values, Reading, Wellness and Strengthening Families. In addition to providing 6.5 million minutes of reading time, kids also benefitted from 3.7 million minutes of values based-lessons and 9.2 million minutes of physical activity.








Y Expands Healthy Living Through Partnerships and Capital Projects

In response to changing health care trends, the Y of Central Florida is expanding its hospital partnerships and facilities to deliver community-based health and wellness services in innovative new ways.

In recent months, Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Munroe Regional Medical Center and the West Orange Healthcare District have forged new or deeper partnerships with the Y – all rooted in a common commitment to prevention and combating chronic disease.

“With chronic disease affecting half of all Americans ─ and sending medical costs through the roof ─ health care organizations are seeking new solutions for stemming the tide,” said John Cardone, YMCA Senior Vice President of Health Strategies & Business Development. “As a longtime leader in Healthy Living and prevention, the Y is a perfect partner for providing the personalized, one-on-one support people need to embrace healthier lifestyles.”

To accommodate growing demand for health screenings, diabetes prevention, fitness classes, nutritional counseling, clinical rehabilitation and other services, capital projects are underway at four of the Y’s 27 family centers ─ with more to follow.

Frank Deluca YIn February, construction began on a $7 million expansion to the Frank DeLuca YMCA in Marion County, where rates of chronic disease are among the highest in Florida.

To reverse that, Munroe Regional Medical Center ─ along with Ocala business leader Frank DeLuca ─ have teamed up with the Y to provide onsite, clinically based health and wellness programs. Once complete, the new facility will have the capacity to serve 40,000 people per year ─ and make a real and lasting impact in the community.

Another major expansion is about to begin at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA, which will transform it into one of the most innovative, prevention-based Ys in the nation.Cafe Looking Towards lobby

Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Phillips Charities, the nDr. Phillips Charities Logo 2cew facility will offer a state-of-the-art wellness floor; expanded health and wellness offerings; clinical services; and a greater focus on diet and nutrition, in part, through a new healthy eating café and teaching kitchen.

Capital projects are also underway at the YMCA Aquatic Center; Blanchard Park; and Peggy and Philip B. Crosby family centers thanks to a new partnership with Florida Hospital’s Healthy 100 Kids Weight & Wellness Program.

By making medical, nutrition and lifestyle resources accessible through the Y, Florida Hospital expects to link an additional 1,500 families with the support they need to make healthier choices. That’s in addition to the 10,000 lives already touched each year through the Y’s longstanding partnership with Florida Hospital.

D61_3360In May, Orlando Health announced an expansion of its 13-year partnership with the Y, making it the exclusive provider of health and wellness programs at the Dr. P. Phillips, Roper,  J. Douglas Williams, Wayne Densch and South Orlando YMCA Family Centers. 

Depending on community needs, programs may include educational workshops, sports medicine, or direct medical and rehabilitative services, similar to those Orlando Health has been providing at the Dr. Phillips Y for many years.

In February, the Roper YMCA Family in Winter Garden received a first-of-its kind grant from the West Orange Healthcare District to expand its health and wellness offerings for West Orange residents. Arranged, in part, though longtime Y advocate and philanthropist Barbara Roper, the grant is funding capital improvements and programs offered in collaboration with Health Central Hospital.

“Joining forces with such incredible health care partners is a win-win for all,” Cardone said. “By leveraging our combined resources, expertise and passion, we can truly move the needle on diabetes, obesity, heart disease and so many other preventable conditions. And that creates healthier families and communities today and for generations to come.”

YMCA Makes Big Splash for Water Safety at Fern Creek Elementary

web1As part of the Y’s century-long commitment to keeping kids safe, confident and secure around water, more than 350 Fern Creek Elementary students recently participated in free swim lessons at Cady Way Pool in Winter Park.

Provided through a partnership between the Downtown and Winter Park YMCA Family Centers, Fern Creek Elementary School and Fern Creek Boosters, the lessons are part of a combined effort to reduce childhood drowning.web 3

“In Florida, drowning is a leading cause of death among young children,” said Curt Klausner, YMCA Aquatics Director. “For low-income children, the risk is even higher. It’s why the Y is proud to partner with Fern Creek Elementary, a Title 1 School, to provide lessons for kids whose families cannot always afford them.”


In addition to free swim lessons, kids also received new bathing suits, towels and lots of encouragement from Y staff, including Rowdy Gaines, Olympic Gold Medalist and YMCA Aquatics Director.

This is the second year for the program, which was established through Jody Alexander, YMCA District Vice President and Fern Creek Principal Dr. Patrick Galatowitsch.

“The Fern Creek Swim Program is a great example of how the Y strengthens kids and families in the communities we serve,” Jody said. “As part of our commitment to Social Responsibility, the  Downtown Y supports the school in many other ways, including food drives, after-school programs and scholarship assistance for families in need.”

Idyllic Summer at the Y: Improving Kids’ Learning and Lifelong Success

Everyone likes to think of summer as an idyllic, carefree time when kids enjoy enriching family trips to museums, read great books and get plenty of active, outdoor play. But for far too many kids, summer has become a time of learning loss, weight gain and endless hours of unsupervised TV or computer time.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, it’s a problem we as a community and nation must address. Without opportunities for academic enrichment, kids can lose up to two months of learning over the summer. In fact, half of the widening achievement gap between low- and middle-income kids is attributable unequal access to summer learning experiences.

It’s why the Y of Central Florida has tackled the issue head on. Much more than arts and crafts, YMCA summer camp is a solid, educationally focused program that teaches reading, instills values and gets kids up and moving ─ mentally and physically. Working parents benefit, too, from the peace of mind of knowing that their kids are cared for by caring, well-trained counselors and mentors.

Last year alone, more than 22,000 local youth attended Y summer programs. These included our hugely successful YMCA/BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) reading pilot at McCoy Elementary, as well as the YMCA/Chase summer reading program at Union Park Middle School.

In both cases, kids gained nearly six months of learning in just six weeks ─ proving once again that the Y has the model, passion and expertise to replicate this success anywhere.

With a goal to expand summer camp enrollment by 20% this year, we’re determined to help even more kids excel. And we’re actively seeking parents, teachers and community partners to join us. Together, we can close the achievement gap, boost graduation rates and set kids on a trajectory for lifelong success.

Now that’s what I call an idyllic summer.

Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida

Orlando Attorney Charlie Egerton Elected Chair of YMCA Metro Board

Charlie Egerton, founding shareholder at the law firm of Dean Mead Egerton Bloodworth Capuano & Bozarth PA, was recently elected 2014-2015 chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Board.

Egerton has been involved with the YMCA for more than 30 years, most recently in leading its $3.2 million annual support campaign. A YMCA member since 1981, he previously served as Board Chair and Scholarship Chair of the Downtown YMCA and led the annual support campaign for the Phillip & Peggy Crosby YMCA in Winter Park.

No other organization impacts families and communities like the YMCA,” said Egerton. “I am proud to help lead the Y’s efforts to nurture youth at every stage of development, provide prevention-based health and wellness programs for people of all ages, and strengthen fragile communities that need us the most.”

Egerton has been named an Outstanding Tax Attorney in The Best Lawyers in America® for more than 25 years. He is a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation, the nation’s largest organization of tax lawyers.

In addition to Egerton’s election, 14 new board members were confirmed during the organization’s recent annual meeting. Each will serve a two-year term, providing strategic direction and support for 27 YMCA family centers that serve 235,000 people per year in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties.

New board members include:
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
Pastor Willie Barnes, Macedonia Church Eatonville.
Thomas Williams, Accounting Manager, Wayne Densch, Inc.
Ben Cohen, Senior Project Manager, Nephron Pharmaceuticals

In an effort to bring young, emerging Y leaders up through the organization, the Y also elected:

Emily Qualmann, a junior at Lake Brantley High School
Mitchina Dorson, a sophomore at Evans High School

“Charlie Egerton, as well as all of the Y’s new Metro Board members, are highly accomplished individuals who are passionate about the Y’s cause and mission,” said Jim Ferber, President/CEO of the YMCA of Central Florida. “We are deeply honored to have their leadership and guidance as the Y continues its efforts to strengthen every family and community in Central Florida.”

Dr. Mae Jemison Leads Martin Luther King Jr. Event

In keeping the “C” alive and well at the Y and across our community, the Y of Central Florida united more than 1,200 people of all faiths and backgrounds for the 23rd Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Held Jan. 20 at First Baptist Church of Orlando, the event was attended by local pastors, elected officials and everyday citizens who joined together in prayer, music and reflection.Elected

Headlining the event was Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly in space. As a ground-breaking astronaut, physician and engineer, Dr. Jemison praised Dr. King for challenging the status quo and opening doors for her and so many others. “People often characterize Dr. King as a dreamer or mistake nonviolence for passivity,” she said. “Not at all. Dr. King had attitude, determination and an audacious belief that all people deserve a place at the table.” With much work still to be done, she urged the group to follow this example.

Dr. King said the best way to realize dreams is to wake up,” Jemison said. “There are 86,400 seconds in a day. How will you use them to participate, contribute and make a difference?”

Also speaking during the event were Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Sherriff Jerry Demings and YMCA Metro Board Chair Glen Davis.glen

For his longstanding work on behalf of local youth and families, Judge Belvin Perry, Chief of the 9th Circuit Court of Florida, received the Southwest Orlando Jaycees’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

As an event co-sponsor, along with Pepsi, the Jaycees also awarded  scholarships to promising college-bound seniors. This year’s recipients included Wanda Willis, Jones High School; Lauren Edmonds and Alexis Sheppard of Boone High School; and Sharonda Lovett, Seminole High School.

zoneAnother major highlight was a model rocket launch led by aspiring astronauts and engineers who participate in the YMCA Afterschool Zone’s Rocket Club. The Y group included Union Park Middle School student Asia Starling, who received kudos from Dr. Jemison and an award from the Y for her recent recognition as a “National Rocket Champion.”asia

Through our focus on Social Responsibility, the Y of Central Florida unites nearly 5,000 people per year through community-wide prayer events that honor the Christian traditions that make us strong.

For more information about the YMCA of Central Florida, click here.


A Place That Shows Youth the Other Side of Life

Central Florida is fortunate to have many great youth organizations, but it’s only at the Y – as the crossroads of our community – that at-risk youth get to experience the other side of life.


Jason Towne

Not long ago, one of these youth, Jason Towne, dropped out of school and was lost on the streets, until he found his way to the YMCA of Central Florida.


Thanks to a Y scholarship, Jason was able to play sports, get involved in programs, and mix with a different crowd – people from all walks of life who genuinely cared and mentored him.


“At other youth centers, I was only around kids that were just like me,” Jason said, “But being at the Y introduced me to business people, doctors, lawyers, and others who really inspired me. Several of them became mentors and helped turn my life around.”


With encouragement from his “Y family,” Jason earned his GED and then began working with other at-risk youth at Y. Realizing the power of education, he enrolled at Seminole State College, transferred to the University of Southern California and graduated magna cum laude.


Following graduation, Jason went on to publish the critically acclaimed book, Conversations with America’s Best Teachers, became a nationally recognized speaker on education, and in 2011 he came full-circle, returning to the Y to help lead its new Youth Development initiatives.


Whatever success I’ve had, I owe much of it to the Y,” Jason said. “I don’t know any other place that could have given me the perspective, support and experiences to so completely change my life.”

Honoring Selfless Community Spirits

In October, we honored Barbara Roper and her late husband Bert for their incredible generosity in establishing the Roper YMCA Family Center in Winter Garden. It was also a chance to recognize Barbara’s groundbreaking leadership with the Y.


In addition to serving on our YMCA Metro Board for several decades, Barbara made history in 1990 when she was elected as the first female chair of the Y-USA board. She continues to serve with distinction on our Executive, Mission and Strategic Planning committees, as in many other endeavors.


We also recently mourned the passing of Mary Rumberger, a major champion of youth and and families at our  Winter Park YMCA.


As a young mother looking for a positive place to raise her children, Mary joined the Winter Park Y in the 1970s and served on its board for many years.


She was also a member of the YMCA Metro Board and served on the Executive Committee until her passing. In 2004, she received the Y’s highest honor, the John Sterchi Award, which recognizes those who provide outstanding lifetime support to the Y. 

Great Communities. Great Philanthropy.

Not everyone knows it, but the Y never turns anyone away due to an inability to pay. In fact, one-third of our members receive some sort of financial assistance for membership, after school care, youth sports, swim lessons and more.

The majority of these dollars are generated through our Annual Support Campaign, which reflects the tradition of “servant-style leadership” that the Y has been teaching for nearly 130 years.

Charlie Egerton (2) Last year alone, more than 8,300 donors and 2,400 volunteers gave back through the campaign, which raised more than $3 million and improved the lives of 31,500 deserving kids, families and seniors.

Campaign dollars also helped subsidize the operation our 11 Outreach Ys, thus ensuring Y quality programs and services are available to strenthen entire communities.

With the 2013-14 Support Campaign gearing up, we’re grateful to Charlie Egerton, founding shareholder of Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodworth, Capuano & Bozarth P.A., who has stepped forward to lead it.

Egerton has been involved with the YMCA of Central Florida for more than 30 years. A Y member since 1981, he previously served as Board Chair and Scholarship Chair of the Downtown YMCA and also helped lead the Crosby Y’s Scholarship Campaign.

 “No other organization impacts entire families in this community like the YMCA does,” said Egerton. “I am proud to be in the position to raise scholarships for area families who need the Y for early childhood development care, afterschool educational and health support, and for prevention-based wellness programs for people of all ages, incomes and abilities.”

Helping Youth Thrive at Every Stage of Development

Through our focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, the Y provides the complete “wrap-around” support today’s kids need to reach their full potential. And we do it through academically based programs focused on values, reading, wellness and reducing family stress.  


From infancy through college, we are helping children enter school ready to learn, close the achievement gap and graduate on time. To prevent bullying and school violence, we’re instilling values. And to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity, all of our after school and summer camp programs include at least one hour of physical activity.


Because strong families raise strong kids, we also support parents every step of the way, especially those who struggle to pay for quality child care. Here are just a few ways the Y of Central Florida honors its commitment to Youth Development:


DisneyYMCA Early Childhood Development Centers
Young minds thrive at our two Walt Disney World locations where children, ages birth to 5, receive the consistent, nurturing care they need to develop socially, physically and cognitively.


And by helping families develop strong parenting skills and healthy habits, we give kids a solid foundation for lifelong success.




YMCA Elementary School Program
There’s plenty to love about the Y’s Elementary After School Program. Here, 2,800 kids per day sit down to do homework, which means no-stress family time in the evenings. They also benefit from extra reading time, as well as physical activity to combat childhood obesity and values-based lessons to prevent bullying. And it all takes place on site at 39 Orange County Elementary School locations, which means no walking home. No commute. No worries for busy parents.


Rocket_130711_240YMCA Middle School Program
Since 1999, more than 165,000 kids have stayed safe, active and learning ─ at no cost to families ─ through our YMCA After School Zone program. Operated in partnership with Orange County Government at 14 middle school locations, the program provides a learning-rich environment focused on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families.


Kids also have an opportunity to explore special interests like robotics, music, rocketry and drama. By tracking outcomes, we know that 80% of participating kids have been able to maintain a 2.0 GPA or better. They also have higher rates of attendance and lower rates of juvenile delinquency.   


logo[2]Reversing Summer Learning Loss
To address the issue of summer learning loss – especially among kids who are already struggling in school – the Y last year sponsored two intensive learning programs that delivered fantastic results.


At McCoy Elementary, the YMCA/BELL Summer Learning Pilot helped 111 young “scholars” boost math and reading scores by 6.6 months and 5.8 months, respectively. 


The pilot was one of three that BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) sponsored through Y-USA and the Wallace Foundation. In Orlando, Chicago and Hartford, CT, student achievement soared, which proves that this is a model that can be replicated anywhere.


Just as terrific were results from Union Park Middle School, where a grant from JPMorgan Chase helped launch the YMCA After School Zone Pilot. Like McCoy, Union Park is a Title 1 school where students are at higher risk of school failure.


By the end of the 5-week program, 68% of students achieved significant gains in reading, compared to about 47% in a normal school year.


Given these incredible “wins,” we’ve set a goal to raise $1 million to offer these programs at 10 additional sites this summer. To do it, we need strong partners. To help, please contact Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development, at (407) 895-8609 or email [email protected].



Operation Christmas Child Another Huge Success!

DSC_0034Few things feel better than helping kids in need. Just ask the thousands of Y members, staff and volunteers who joined together to support Operation Christmas Child, an international mission project of Samaritan’s Purse.


For the 17th year in a row, the Y sent more than 25,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to kids around the world. In addition to treats, toys and hygiene items, many of the boxes also contained personal messages of faith and encouragement from those who sent them.


Operation Christmas Child truly reflects the Y’s commitment to “Servant Leadership” – the act of helping people we may never know or see.

OCC_2012-RussellOne Gift – Two Families Forever Changed

In 1996, when 9-year-old Kelvin Obai received an Operation Christmas Child gift from the YMCA of Central Florida, it was the first time he or anyone in his family had ever received such a present.


In fact, it was so exciting that the entire family, including Kelvin’s mother Jane, rushed home from Christmas Eve services to open the box and marvel at its contents.  In addition to crayons, sweets and small toys, the gift also included a heartfelt note written by its senders, Kimberly Russell and her Orlando family.


From that letter, a long and lasting friendship has evolved with the entire Obai family. It also led to the creation of an orphanage, sponsored by the Russells, which cares for orphaned street boys in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as the Obai family.


“Little did we know that when we sent the gift, it would impact two families – the Obai family and ours,” said Sue Russell, who stays in nearly daily contact via Skype with Jane and her children, Kennedy, Charity, Edwin and Kelvin, who is now in college.


Jane Obai couldn’t agree more. “Operation Christmas Child is the best thing that ever happened to us,” she said. “Without it we would have never met this wonderful family who has changed our lives.”

A Legacy of Sustainability and Social Responsibility

When we talk about Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, nothing highlights the heart of the Y’s mission better than our 11 Outreach Ys. The fact is, not all Ys are created equal. Nearly half serve financially challenged communities such as Pine Hills, South Orlando, Kissimmee and Titusville where families are under tremendous stress.

Enter the Y of Central Florida. With the support of Dr. Phillips Charities, Winter Park Health Foundation, Wayne Densch Charities, Orange County Government, Darden, Lockheed Martin, and other supporters, investors and donors, we’ve created beautiful, prideful facilities.

Places that anchor communities, make people feel welcome and give them a sense of belonging.

These Ys also instill values in kids, help families de-stress and connect and empower everyone to improve their health and wellness.

Ours is not a short-term or “niche” commitment. The Y has been a solid, sustaining presence in these communities for 20 years or more. And we’re there to stay: 24/7, 365 days per year, year after year.

As work begins on the Y’s long-term strategic plan, one of our top priorities is to secure permanent, sustainable funding to expand our Outreach Mission. And in doing so, we will create a legacy of caring, leadership and Social Responsibility for generations to come.

Ferber signature_blue

Jim Ferber President
CEO YMCA of Central Florida





Tangelo Park YMCATangelo Park YMCA
Free and Accessible to All
If ever an at-risk community needed a Y, it’s Tangelo Park where more than 1,000 residents receive FREE YMCA access 365 days per year. And we do it with no outside sources of funding. With many residents working in low-wage service jobs, the Y’s swimming pool, wellness floor and Links2Learning Golf Center help families reduce stress, combat chronic disease and keep their children safe. Through the YMCA Teen Achiever program we also provide the extra mentoring and support kids need to stay out of trouble, graduate on time and pursue successful careers.


South OrlandoDSC_3551 YMCA
Breaking Down Barriers in the Oak Ridge/SOBT Corridor
In a community where juvenile crime is high and language barriers isolate residents, the resource-rich South Orlando YMCA is an oasis of safety and connection for those living in the Oak Ridge Road/South Orange Blossom Trail Corridor. Located next to Oak Ridge High School and an Orange County Park, it’s truly at the center of the community. With a special focus on youth, we also offer a Head Start early learning program, as well as quality after school, summer and weekend programs for keeping  kids safe and well-supervised. Through the YMCA/Lockheed Martin Technology Center and the Y Links2Learning Golf Center, we also teach the values, reading, math and science skills kids need to do well in school and prevent bullying and school violence.


Osceola YMCAOsceola YMCA
Combatting Youth Violence, Family Stress and Childhood Obesity
High rates of foreclosure, unemployment and poverty continue to impact the Kissimmee area, which is home to people who speak dozens of different languages. Youth gangs and juvenile violence are also major concerns, as is childhood obesity. With fully two-thirds of Osceola kids considered overweight or obese, they’re at higher risk for serious health, social and behavioral issues, including bullying. Because the best solutions always begin at home, we work hard to strengthen local families. Through top-notch programs and facilities, we empower them to reduce stress, build stronger bonds and improve their health and wellness.


DSC_2207Cocoa YMCA at Eastern Florida State College
Uniting a Community in Crisis
With 8,000 jobs lost due to the end of the Space Shuttle program, Cocoa and the entire Space Coast Region are struggling. To prevent family stress from spiraling out of control, the Y last year awarded $115,000 in scholarships for summer camp, youth sports and family memberships.


It’s a commitment dating back to 2003 when we first partnered with Brevard Community College to operate its pool and gym. Since then, the facility has grown into a full-fledged YMCA Family Center that anchors the entire Cocoa community.          



Suntree YMCA exteriorSuntree YMCA
Responding to Need on the Space Coast 
Since 2001, the Suntree YMCA has been serving youth and family needs in Central Brevard County. With 51% of all Brevard elementary students eligible for free or reduced lunch, we know we have a unique responsibility to help. Last year, $245,000 in scholarships were awarded for youth, family, and health and wellness programs. And with discussions underway to possibly build a new Y in Viera, we’re looking to deepen our commitment even further.


Titusville YMCATitusville YMCA
Deepening Roots as Other Nonprofits Close
With NASA layoffs and a flagging economy forcing the closure of many local schools, businesses and nonprofits, the Y of Central Florida is digging in deeper than ever to strengthen this fragile community. Since assuming leadership of the Titusville Y in 2001, we have continually improved and modernized it through the addition of an Easy Access Pool, a beautiful wellness center, cycling studio, gym and more. Our mission and commitment are clear: Provide rich resources, strong support and a prideful, welcoming place where residents can join together, reduce stress and support one another in difficult times.


WayneDenschmainWayne Densch YMCA
Revitalizing an Entire Community
As Pine Hills works to improve its health, safety and social capital, the Wayne Densch YMCA continues to be a strong partner in strengthening this striving community. In addition to providing a safe haven where kids can play sports, learn values and benefit from role models, the Y features first-rate soccer fields, indoor gyms, a modern wellness floor and the area’s only community swimming pool. To combat the community’s high rate of diabetes, the Y is also partnering to banish “food deserts” ─ places where a lack of fresh, affordable food contributes to chronic disease.

South Lake County YMCASouth Lake County YMCA
Strong partner in Good Times and Bad
When Clermont’s population skyrocketed during the building boom, the Y stepped forward to provide strong family friendly programs. But when the boom went bust, the Y stayed committed. In addition to providing top-notch soccer fields and wellness facilities, we also awarded more than $73,000 last year in scholarships for youth sports, summer camp, teen activities and more.

Strengthening a Great Mom and Her Family

With the Y of Central Florida’s 2013-14 Annual Support Campaign gearing up, we’ve set a goal to raise $3.2 million to help improve the lives of more than 90,000 children, families and seniors who need us the most.

People like Y scholarship recipients Stacy-Ann Nembhard and her young sons Tristan and Jarid, who visit the Wayne Densch YMCA in Pine Hills several times per week.

As a single mom, Stacy-Ann relies on the Y to reduce stress, build confidence and improve her health. In just two years, she’s reduced her risk of chronic disease, lost significant weight, competed in her first 5K and even become a Zumba instructor.

Her greatest pride, however, is what her boys gain from the Y – strong values, great role models and a healthier, happier mom.

“Before joining the Y, we spent most of our free time in front of the TV, playing video games and eating unhealthy food. Now if we miss a day, my kids are unhappy,” said Stacy-Ann. “I’m so grateful to the awesome team at the Wayne Densch Y. They always encourage us on and I’m proud to call them my Y family.”

Stacy-Ann’s is just one of thousands of great Y scholarship stories we could share. Thanks to 8,300 generous donors, this year we were also able to:

  • Improve the lives of 91,000 people who could not otherwise afford Y-quality programs.
  • Nurture 35,116 kids through Y afterschool programs focused on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families. 
  • Reverse summer learning loss for 9,971 children who took part in Y summer camps.
  • Empower 11,127 people to embrace prevention and combat chronic disease.
  • Provide swim lessons, including SafeStart our infant water survival program, to 2,959 kids.
  • Invest $6.1 million to operate 9 Outreach Ys serving fragile communities.  


To make an immediate, life-changing difference today, click here.


The Y. Uniting Communities. And So Much More.

Each day, more than 30,000 people walk through the doors of YMCA facilities serving more than 100 neighborhoods across Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Brevard and Marion counties.


They’re visiting 27 Y family centers that anchor communities; 57 after school locations; dozens of summer camps sites that teach values, reading and wellness to kids; senior centers where elders gather for health and connection; innovative child development centers; and so much more.


While the Y will always be there to help people reach their individual goals, we know that personal growth, alone, is not enough. To become fully whole and healthy, we need to belong to something bigger. A cause, a purpose, a way to strengthen our communities.


By giving people a voice and focus for their energy, as well as a proven model for creating long-term change, we can truly move mountains.


So if you think the Y is just place to exercise, think again. Yes, we teach cardio. But we also teach caring and responsibility. And when you visit for Pilates, we hope you’ll leave with a sense of purpose and passion.


It’s why we say the Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause. And our cause is strengthening communities.


A Glittering Night Befitting
Our Gratitude to Major Donors


Honoring Our Major Donors at the Glittering Festival of Trees Reception
Orlando Museum of Art Violinist from Chain of Lakes Middle School Orchestra Conway Music Factory carolers from Conway Middle School Jim Ferber, Nicole Witsell, Tyra & Harold Witsell Jim & Rita Hinson Harvey & Jill Burnett and Dr. Ann & Ron Manley Marjorie & Leonard Williams, Sr. Frank Deluca, Ben Marciano, Bill Browder and Paul Franck Dan Wilcox, Connie Frady, Greg Nelson and Tom Breck Glen Davis, Jim & Helena Ryan and Jim Ferber Mary Readdy, Mary K. Hurt and Kathy Panter

Over 1,000 major donors to the YMCA of Central Florida lit up the Orlando Museum of Art for our 12th annual Donor Celebration at the “Festival of Trees” on Sunday evening, November 17.


The Chain of Lakes Middle School Orchestra, carolers from the Conway Music Factory at Conway Middle School (both part of the Y’s After School Zone Program), and a jazz trio entertained our guests as they strolled the through the Museum, enjoying hors d’oeuvres and desserts while admiring the decadently decorated trees and elaborate gingerbread house displays created by dozens of Central Florida businesses and individual designers for the Museum’s “All That Glitters” theme.


Lining the hallway the YMCA honored major donors from each of the 27 Central Florida Ys and the 2002-2013 winners of the Y’s “Champion of Youth” Award:


  • 2002: Dr. P. Phillips Foundation
  • 2003: Charles Bailes, III
  • 2004: Tracy Swanson
  • 2005: James Downing
  • 2006: Greg Nelson
  • 2007: Bill Browder
  • 2008: Winter Park Health Foundation
  • 2009: Mary Jane Arrington
  • 2010: Richard Crotty
  • 2011: Leonard Williams, Sr.
  • 2012: Evans Hubbard
  • 2013: Tyra Witsell


The 2013 Champion of Youth Award honoree is Tyra Witsell of the Orange County Citizens’ Commission. In 1998, in her role as the Manager of the Orange County Citizens’ Commission for Children, Tyra fought for funding a program that was the first of its kind in the country — the “After School Zone.” The goals were simple: to improve grades, increase school attendance and reduce juvenile delinquency in all Orange County Middle Schools. After 15 years the After School Zone has impacted over 165,000 kids and has achieved its goals each and every year.


Prior to the Festival of Trees Reception, a private dinner was held at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre for Lifetime Donors and Advocates of the YMCA of Central Florida.

Private Dinner at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre Jim Ferber, Rhoda & Robin Fisher Lou & Nicza Carrion and Patrick Bartee Jere & Ashley Daniels Lydia & Charles Pierce

The Y Is Taking Action


YMCA Students Shine at National
Summer Learning Conference

The YMCA of Central Florida was front and center during this week’s National Conference on Summer Learning attended by 680 education leaders and experts from around the U.S.


Daniel Wu, YMCA Summer Camp Kid

Wowing the crowd were 33 students from Conway Middle, 14 robotic students from Avalon Middle, and numerous students from 14 other schools who proudly presented some of the robotic, rocketry, science, technology, art and music skills they’ve developed through the YMCA After School Zone Program.


Daniel Wu, an 8th grader at Avalon Park Middle School, even delivered a “TED” style speech about the issue of “Summer Slide,” and how the Y’s hands-on approach to learning helps kids progress – not regress – over the summer. Click here for the video.


More than ever, educational experts agree that summer learning and after school education programs are critically important in helping kids retain and improve the reading, science, technology and math skills learned during the normal school year.


2440And with the achievement gap widening between low- and middle-income kids, summer learning is even more important for those who are already struggling in school.


That’s why every YMCA Youth Development initiative, including our Summer Camp and After School Zone programs, are built on a solid, outcome-based curriculum focused on values, reading, wellness and alleviating family stress.


This summer alone, more than 22,875 kids who attended Y Summer Camp took part in 8 million minutes of reading time, 4.6 million minutes of values-based lessons and 10.9 million minutes of physical activity to combat childhood obesity. And because strong families raise strong, healthy kids, we also engaged more than 7,240 families in camp-time activities.


Our proudest achievement however was the YMCA/BELL Summer Reading Pilot, which helped 300 at-risk kids boost their math and reading scores by half a year in just six weeks!


While it was exciting to share success and exchange ideas during the conference, we’re most proud of Daniel Wu and the more than 5,390 kids we serve each day through the YMCA out-of-school time programs. And with the future so bright, we can’t wait to see the incredible things ahead.

YMCA Honors Local Military Veterans and Their Families

During November the Y is honoring the sacrifice of local veterans and their families by saying thank you and supporting their health and wellness.

Starting Veterans Day, Nov. 11, through Nov. 30, 220,000-plus local military families will have complimentary access to all Y family centers, as well as programs that improve physical, emotional and family health.

And through a partnership between Y-USA and the Department of Defense, active military families (Title 10 Classification) will qualify for a pre-paid, six-month membership.

Sponsored in partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities, the Helping Our Veterans program is designed to alleviate the stress and challenges related to long deployments, post-traumatic stress and serious injuries.

Because families are also affected, we want to help promote healthy relationships and a good mental-physical balance for veterans’ spouses and children, as well.

To learn more, contact your local YMCA Family Center.

Summer Learning: The Results Are In
And We Knocked It Out of the Park!

It took teamwork, planning and partnerships, but the results of our two YMCA summer learning pilots are in and the outcomes are incredible.

At McCoy Elementary, where we co-sponsored the YMCA/BELL summer learning pilot, 111 young “scholars” collectively improved their math achievement by 6.6 months and boosted reading scores by 5.8 months. 

That’s half a year of learning in just six weeks!

Our local pilot was one of three that BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) sponsored through Y-USA and funded through the Wallace Foundation. In Orlando, Chicago and Hartford, CT, student achievement soared and exceeded all expectations, which proves we have a model that absolutely works.

We achieved equally great success with our YMCA Summer Zone pilot at Union Park Middle School. Like McCoy, it’s a Title 1 school where students are at highest risk of summer learning loss. Without intervention, many fall further behind each year and are never able to close the achievement gap.

With a grant from JPMorgan Chase, we created an iPad reading lab that engaged kids in high-interest reading activities related to Common Core Standards. By the end of the 5-week program, 68% of students showed measurable gains in reading, compared to 47% during a full, average school year.

It feels great to help kids progress – not regress ─ over the summer. It’s even better to know that these are solid outcomes, which can be replicated anywhere in locally or nationally.    

To that end, the YMCA of Central Florida has set a goal to raise $1 million to expand these models to 10 local sites and help even more kids succeed in school and graduate with positive options.

We’ve already established great partnerships with Orange County Public Schools, Chase and BELL, but to take this success to scale, we need additional funders and sponsors.

To get involved and learn more about the Y’s innovative programs to support kids, families and education, please contact Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development, at (407) 895-8609 or email [email protected].


Y of Central Florida :: Healthy Living Initiative






With chronic disease threatening the health, wellness and future of our community, more than 50 top medical experts, health care executives and public health officials joined with the Y this week to determine how they, as key stakeholders, can work together to focus on prevention.

During his welcome, YMCA President/CEO Jim Ferber highlighted the Y’s historic role in strengthening communities through its focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.


Health StatisticsHe also discussed the epidemic of chronic disease — conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer — that currently affect 50% of all Americans.



“When we talk about Healthy Living, we’re really talking about prevention,” Ferber said. “The challenge is to deepen community partnerships and find new ways that we ─ as a government, health care, private sector and nonprofit leaders ─ can combine our strengths to create real and lasting change.”


As for the Y’s efforts, Ferber noted that the organization has adopted a more personalized, prevention-based approach that empowers people to take charge of their health and wellness by becoming more physically active and making healthier food choices. It’s also investing heavily to expand and transform its family centers, starting with the Dr. P. Phillips and Frank DeLuca YMCAs. Both will include healthy cafes and teaching kitchens, as well as expanded areas for health screenings, clinical therapies and other services provided through deeper partnerships with local hospitals.


Moving the Needle by 10%

Citing the alarming statistics around chronic disease, YMCA Chief Operating Officer Dan Wilcox challenged the group to work together to work together to curb chronic disease in our region by 10%. “Imagine what it would mean if we could achieve this,” he said. “The Y can’t do it alone, but by working together, we can create a healthy, sustainable community for all residents.”

Based on feedback from a guest survey, the group will continue meeting to identify priorities, as well as new opportunities for collaboration.

“This is an action-oriented group and our next step is to develop a plan,” said John Cardone, YMCA Vice President of Health Strategies. “The Y is evolving and ready to lead the change.”


The Experts Weigh In:

Dr. Richard Pratley, Medical Director, Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute“You don’t have to be a medical expert to understand the statistics. Twenty-seven million Americans have diabetes. That’s 8% of the population, with 15,000 new cases occurring each day. It’s a tremendous challenge and opportunity. We know that better diet and exercise are proven to reduce new cases of diabetes by 60%. So we can do this. By partnering with others here today, we can expand this effort and make an even greater difference.”

Dr. Richard Pratley, Medical Director, Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute


Dr. Beth Boyer Kollas, Director of Corporate Strategy, Planning and Research, Orlando Health“Many of the issues related to chronic disease are preventable. So how do we bond together and make this happen? It really will take all of us. When I think of the all the success Orlando Health has achieved, it’s because we’ve reached out into the community and asked others to partner with us. And that’s what today is about. Thank you for inviting Orlando Health to be part of this initiative.”

Dr. Beth Boyer Kollas, Director of Corporate Strategy, Planning and Research, Orlando Health


Dr. Angela Falls, Medical Director, Weight Management Program, Florida Hospital for Children“Just as with adults, the problem of obesity among children is very real. Nationally, 35-46% of kids are overweight or obese and in Central Florida that rate may be even higher, so our work is cut out for us. Three years ago, Florida Hospital embarked on a journey to significantly improve our children’s health and wellness. To partner with YMCA to make a tangible difference makes me happy beyond description. Instead of reinventing wheels, it’s great to work together to change the wellness of children.”

Dr. Angela Falls, Medical Director, Weight Management Program, Florida Hospital for Children


Dan O'Connor, Vice President of Human Resources, Munroe Regional Medical Center“When it comes to health status, Marion County ranks very low among all Florida counties. As a hospital, we know that we can change that, and we view our partnership with the Frank DeLuca YMCA as tremendous outreach opportunity. We have a lot of people who care about different aspects of health, whether its diabetes, children’s issues, or diet and nutrition. Today, all of these fragmented pieces are coming together and pointing in the same direction. And that’s very exciting.”

Dan O’Connor, Vice President of Human Resources, Munroe Regional Medical Center


“Our county and state health departments serve communities in a broad way. The question is how do we, as a group, draw closer and focus on specific issues? Our goals are similar and the synergy is here. Whether it’s about addressing shared challenges, such as helping all people maintain a healthy weight or focusing on specific, localized issues such as food deserts, we’re ready to partner with Y.”

Dr. Kevin Sherin, Orange County Health Director


For more information about Y Healthy Living partnerships, contact John Cardone at [email protected].




Supporting the Health and Wellness
of Those Who Make Our Community Safe

Coinciding with the 12th anniversary of 9/11, the Y of Central Florida was pleased to recently launch a new initiative to improve the health and well-being of more than 16,000 area first responders and their families.

Made possible through the generosity of Dr. Phillips Charities, the program has enabled us to invite area first responders – police, firefighters and EMTs – and their families to become part of the Y family in order to improve their own health, wellness and mental well-being.

This time of year, we all recall the unforgettable images of first responders rushing into burning buildings to save others. Their bravery reminds us of how they are driven to protect the public at all costs – often at the expense of their own well-being. That’s why it feels terrific to honor and support our local local heroes through this campaign.

In addition to helping them reduce stress, we’re also making sure they and their families have access to youth and family programs, healthy living resources and places where they can connect with one another and de-stress in off-duty time.

We also want to thank Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney, Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drozd and Winter Park Fire Chief Jim White for their support in launching this program and highlighting its importance to the dedicated men and women who make our community safe.

Curbing Childhood Obesity:
9.6 Million Minutes and Counting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith one-third of Florida’s kids obese or overweight, the Y of Central Florida is tackling the issue by including at least one hour of physical activity in all of our Youth Development programs.


This summer alone, 23,000 kids who attended our summer camp programs took part in 9.6 million minutes of exercise.


And to keep their brains active, they enjoyed 8 million minutes of reading activities. That’s in addition to 4.5 million minutes of values-based lessons and 7,400 Fun Friday visits with their families. It all adds up to creating strong, healthy kids and families, who are at the heart of all we do.

How the Y Serves the Health & Wellness
Needs of Fragile Communities

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a cause-driven organization focused on Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, an important part of the Y’s mission is to serve those who need us the most.


That’s why 11 of our 20 YMCA family centers are Outreach Ys ─ centers of pride, purpose and social connection in  communities like Pine Hills, Tangelo Park, Kissimmee, South Orlando and Titusville.


As with every other Y, these are true centers of Healthy Living where people of all ages and backgrounds can reduce stress, strengthen family bonds and improve their health and wellness.


In all, we provide more than $12.5 million per year in financial assistance and program support for our Outreach centers, all of which feature modern, state-of-the-art wellness floors, swimming pools, gymnasiums, playing fields and more. Much of this assistance is raised through our annual scholarship campaign, which helps more than 30,000 neighbors in need each year.



Soul food plate hi res file cmykBecause rates of diabetes and chronic disease are often higher in our Outreach communities, the Y is working to bring healthier choices for diet and nutrition to the neighborhoods we serve.


Healthy cafes and teaching kitchens are planned for the Wayne Densch, South Orlando and possibly the Osceola Ys. All are located in “food deserts” ─ places where a lack of fresh, healthy, affordable food contributes to higher rates of obesity and diabetes. To change this, we will be offering onsite farmers markets, cooking classes and nutrition workshops.


We’re also looking to partner with Roniece Weaver, a registered dietician and executive director of Hebni Nutrition Consultants. Hebni, which has been doing great work to prevent diet-related diseases primarily among local minority residents, shares our belief that good health begins with good nutrition.

The Y is Delving Deeper Into Nutrition

When it comes to good health, what we eat is just as important as how often we exercise. That’s why the Y is in the diet and nutrition business. And we’re “digging” deeper every day.

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 Oviedo YMCA Wellness Center, 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 registered dietician Kim Letts, who also provides weekly workshops, weight-loss programs and one-on-one counseling sessions 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.”

Stronger Together: Partnering to Improve
Our Community’s Health

The Y is fortunate to have the support of many like-minded partners who share our passion for health, wellness and strengthening communities. Together, we are taking action and improving Central Florida’s health and wellness – one person, one family, one neighborhood at a time.



As the community’s greatest advocate for Healthy Living research and collaboration, the Winter Park Health Foundation is one of the Y’s closest and most generous partners.


Its support led to the creation of the two of our top family centers: The Peggy and Phillip B. Crosby Wellness Center in Winter Park and the YMCA Center for Health & Wellness in Oviedo.


The foundation also set the stage for our hospital partnerships, which provide clinical rehabilitation and medically based wellness support for thousands of members each year.


And in 2012, it convened the “Crosby Collaborative” – along with the Y and Florida Hospital ─ to create a “Health and Wellness Neighborhood” that’s becoming a national model for how communities embrace prevention and healthier lifestyles.



FLGuided by a Christian mission to heal the spirit, mind and body, Florida Hospital has been a strong and inspirational partner for the Y. Together, at the Peggy and Phillip B. Crosby YMCA Wellness Center, we are providing preventative and rehabilitative services that are changing the way community health care is delivered.


And with 20% of the Winter Park population at age 65 or above, Florida Hospital’s onsite clinical services ─ along with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation ─ are helping local seniors stay strong, healthy and independent.


We’re also honored that Florida Hospital is offering the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program to help its own employees take charge of their health. We’re also partnering to support Florida Hospital’s Healthy 100 initiative, which helps educate and motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyle changes.


Munroe Regional Medical Center logo


With Marion County’s health ranking near the bottom of all Florida counties, Munroe Regional Medical Center has become the Ys newest partner in transforming the health of an entire community.


In conjunction with the Frank DeLuca YMCA, the hospital is gearing up to combat chronic disease through onsite health screenings, health and wellness classes, clinical therapies, medical services and more.


The partnership coincides with a major gift from Ocala business leader Frank DeLuca, whose generosity will expand and transform this Y into a Healthy Living Center that strengthens the entire community.



Dr. Phillips Charities Logo 2cDR. PHILLIPS CHARITIES

Because of Dr. Phillips Charities’ 30 years of unwavering support to the Y and our cause, our organization and community have been transformed. And this year as we celebrate our 10th anniversary as Dr. Phillips’ primary support agency, the impact of this partnership continues to grow.


In addition to empowering us to improve communities all across Central Florida, Dr. Phillips Charities is underwriting what will become the most progressive, prevention-based YMCA in the nation. Located in the heart of its founders’ namesake community, the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA will stand as a great tribute to Dr. Phillips’ vision to “to help other help themselves.”


Over the years, Dr. Phillips Charities has also generously invested in many other local communities through its support of the Downtown, Osceola, South Orlando and Roper YMCAs. Its philanthropy has also enabled us to transform the YMCA Aquatic Center into one of the nation’s leading swimming, diving and water polo training/competition centers.


The lives that we are transforming today are changed, in large part, due to the incredible generosity of the partners who support us.

Winter Park’s Easy-Access Pool:
New Era of Mobility, Health and Connection

Winter Park Grand Opening 1


Over Labor Day weekend, hundreds of Winter Park area residents turned out to celebrate the opening of the Y’s third – and newest ─ easy access pool.


With the local senior population growing every day, pools are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for people who want to maintain their mobility and independence.


Swimming also helps prevent obesity and gives today’s busy families a great way to connect, de-stress and have fun.

Winter Park Grand Opening 2


That’s why we’re committed to building more of these pools, which feature a ramp with rails for easy access, a dedicated space for water aerobics and senior fitness classes, climbing ropes and giant water-pouring bucket for kids, and a dedicated hoops area where teens can improve their agility.



“This is a great addition to the community,” said Winter Park Y member Tyler Rothchild. “Not only do we have a lap pool, we now we have another pool where adults can do water aerobics classes and the kids can play. I’m looking forward to all the ways the Y is going to use it.”

The Y is Investing, Innovating and Improving the Health of Local Communities

At the Y, we’re doing more than just talking about health and wellness. We’re also investing millions of dollars to modernize and expand our facilities.


Our goal: Create beautiful, inviting Healthy Living Centers that anchor communities and improve lives.


With Phase 2 of our New Frontier Campaign derway, we’re raising $33 to $41 million to renovate or expand more than half of our 20 family centers. We’re starting off with major expansions to our Dr. P. Phillips and Frank DeLuca YMCAs, funded through the generosity, respectively, of Dr. Phillips Charities and Ocala business leader Frank DeLuca.


Reflecting the importance of diet and nutrition, both of these “flagship” Ys will include healthy cafés where busy families can enjoy quick, nutritious “grab-and-go” meals after a workout or basketball game. They’ll also feature state-of-the art teaching kitchens where nutritional experts show people how to plan menus, read food labels and prepare fresh, delicious natural foods at home.


And through deeper partnerships with Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Munroe Regional Medical Center we will also be offering a full range of onsite health screenings, classes and other prevention-based services.


In all, 11 major projects are planned over the next few years – everything from building new easy-access pools at our Blanchard Park and Wayne Densch Ys to establishing a special needs school in Osceola County.  At the Y, we’re always innovating and investing to strengthen communities. It’s our mission and passion.

Partnering to Reverse Summer
Learning Loss Among At-Risk Students

To ensure that all kids have opportunities to progress – not regress – with learning over the summer, the Y has teamed up with two national partners to provide innovative summer reading pilots at two local Title 1 schools.

Through a partnership with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for LIFE) 117 students at McCoy Elementary have received 6.5 hours per day of reading, math and science and enrichment activities. Designed to help young “scholars” gain new academic skills, the program is led by certified teachers, who have the skills and training to help boost kids’ reading scores by as much as six months in just six weeks.

At Union Park Middle School, the Y also launched the Out of School Time Reading Program funded through a $55,000 grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Developed in conjunction with Orange County Public Schools, the program engages kids through technology – in the form of Apple iPads – which they use to read and research special interests.

“At a time when schools are challenged to do more with less, the YMCA has the knowledge, skills and experience to increase kids’ learning during out-of-school hours,” said Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Education. “Working with great partners like BELL and Chase shows what we can accomplish by focusing resources. And based on this summer’s tremendous success, we hope to expand these pilots to support kids, schools and learning all across Central Florida.”

A Bold Plan for Our Kids.
A Bright Future for Our Community.

by Jim Ferber

Most people know the Y as a safe, nurturing place where kids learn to swim, shoot hoops and become better athletes. But at today’s Y, kids are just as likely to have a reading coach as a soccer coach. And when we celebrate home runs, we know the biggest victories are often taking place in the classroom.


That’s because the Y of Central Florida has adopted a bold, comprehensive plan to support youth and education at every stage of development.


From infancy through college, we are helping kids enter school ready to learn, stay ahead of the achievement gap and become the strong, confident graduates of tomorrow. We’re also instilling values ─ qualities like honesty, caring and responsibility ─ that will help them excel in all aspects of their lives.


And by providing quality, affordable afterschool and summer programs, we are serving busy families who worry about keeping their kids safe, active and learning when they are working.


That’s why we say, “There’s school time, there’s family time and then there’s Y-time.” It’s a winning formula that gives kids the “wrap-around” support and mentoring they need to reach their highest potential.  At the Y, it’s what we strive for every day.


Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida



How the Y Fosters Learning from Cradle to College

YMCA Early Childhood Development Centers

Operated at Walt Disney World Resort, these two centers give children, birth to age three, the consistent, nurturing care they need for the best possible social and cognitive development.Y teachers guide children through important early developmental stages. They also provide the consistent, positive relationships which children need to develop trust in themselves and others.


YMCA Elementary and Middle Afterschool Programs
In partnership with Orange County Public Schools and Orange County Government, the Y has developed high-quality, learning-focused after school programs that serve more than 5,300 students and their families each school day. The programs are conveniently operated on-site at more than 30 elementary and 50 middle school locations, which means parents don’t have to worry about after-school transportation or their children’s safety. In this learning-rich environment, students can study, get help with homework and participate in great enrichment clubs and activities. Guiding everything is the Y’s outcome-based curriculum, which focuses on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families.

Camp Wewa
For more than 50 years the Y’s Camp Wewa in Apopka has been helping kids achieve their highest potential in spirit, mind and body.

It also has a long history of  providing the strong role models and mentoring kids need to become better leaders. In fact, many of Central Florida’s most successful adults developed their early values and leadership skills here.


Lake Nona YMCA/Northlake Park Community School
Since its founding 14 years ago, the co-located Lake Nona YMCA/Northlake Park Community School has set a new standard for innovation and academic achievement around the nation.  An “A” rated school from the start, the facility combines an Orange County Elementary School with a Y Family Center, where students, teachers, families and neighbors enter through the same door. Open seven days a week, 362 days a year, it’s also a true hub of civic pride and engagement that brings people together to support education and the community.

YMCA’s Lockheed Martin Technology Centers
Chances are, when you step inside the Y’s Lockheed Martin Technology Centers, you’ll meet the future engineers and scientists of tomorrow. In 2008, Lockheed partnered with the Y to create the nation’s first community-based high-tech learning center at the South Orlando Y. In 2012, a second center opened at the Tangelo Park Y. Since then, the program has helped nearly 2,000 students improve their science, technology, engineering and math skills. Lockheed volunteers also provide great mentoring and career advice, as do Microsoft technology experts who also support the program.

Y’s New Summer Camp Program Boosts Kids’ Values
Reading and Wellness Time by 20 Million Minutes

Eighteen months ago, the Y of Central Florida set out to revamp our summer camp program and make it even more effective in addressing the challenges facing today’s kids and families. In doing so, we talked to parents, teachers and educational leaders whose insight helped shape our new curriculum – one based on values, reading, wellness and strengthening families.


When we launched the program in June, we knew we had a blueprint for success. But what we didn’t realize was just how fast and measurable our impact would be:


In addition to enrolling more than 3,500 kids per day – a significant increase over last year ─ we’ve also far exceeded our goals by providing kids with an astounding 20 million minutes of reading time, values instruction and physical activity.

It’s an incredible number, but what it really adds up to is that students are progressing ─ not regressing ─ this summer. That’s especially important for at-risk kids, including those enrolled in an innovative summer reading pilot we’re offering in partnership with BELL. Based on past results, we’re confident that these kids will advance their learning by up to six months.


That’s three-quarters of a school year in just six weeks! Just imagine if we could expand this success across Central Florida and our nation. At the Y, we’re already taking action to make it happen. And with the future of our children and community depending on it, we hope you’ll join us.




July 15 – August 30, 2013


Continue your journey to a healthier lifestyle by particpating in our six-week YMCA Summer Challenge. Enjoy fun and exciting activities in wellness, group excercise, sports and aquatics that will keep you on track and hep you meet your fitness goals while experiencing different welness activities.




Achieve Your Goal


Receive a sticker for every 20 minutes (or more) of activity you complete:

Gold – Finish 12 or more activities for a Gold Level T-Shirt
Silver – Finish 9 or more activities for a Silver Level T-Shirt
Bronze – Finish 6 activities for a Bronze Level T-shirt


Choose Your Activities (20 minutes or more each)


Treadmill, Eliptical, Recumbant/Upright Bike, ATM, Arc Trainer, Stairmaster, Rowing Machine, Weights-Circuits, Fitlinxx, Coach Approach, Lap Swimming, Water Excercise, Adult Swim Lessons, Basketball, Handball/Racquetball/Tennis, Clubs-Running/Walking, Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Zumba, Cardio Strength, Pilates, Work Out at a New Y, Bring a Friend, Sign-up Friends (Membership)




QUESTIONS? Call: 407-895-4290

At the Y, Kids and Summer Learning Go Hand-in-Hand

 At the Y, we believe summer should be a time of active play, learning and exploration for kids. But for too many children, opportunities to keep their minds and bodies active end with the school year.


In fact, research shows that kids gain weight three times faster and fall significantly behind in their studies over the summer.


To prevent this, the Y’s summer camp program ensures that kids, ages 5-16, receive at least one hour of reading instruction per day. Values and additional reading activities are also intertwined with fun special-interest opportunities, things like rocketry, robots, music and drama.


And to help kids stay fit and able to maintain a healthy weight, campers are also up, moving and physically active for another full 60 minutes per day.


It all adds up to a huge impact, which we are measuring right down to the minute. So far this summer, more than our campers have benefited from a combined total of:


  • 1,665,278 minutes of reading time
  • 936,399 minutes of values-based learning
  • 2,274,437 minutes of wellness and physical activities

What it also means is that kids are progressing, not regressing this summer. And when they return to school in the fall, they’ll be further ahead in their studies, their health and ability to resist negative influences. And that’s an impact we can all be proud of.

Y’s 2013 Annual Campaign
Close to Reaching $2.5 Million Goal

Proving once again that our Y family is the most caring, generous group in Central Florida, we want to thank the 7,500 donors who have put our 2013 Annual Support Campaign on track to reach its $2.5 million goal.


“Thanks to an incredible outpouring of generosity, this year’s campaign reached new heights,” said 2013 Campaign and Metro Board Chair Glen Davis. “But the true measure of our success will be seen in the number of lives transformed by the Y’s life-changing programs.”


Through the Y’s commitment to Social Responsibility, more than 35,000 people benefit from the volunteer-led fundraising effort, which ensures that no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay. Dollars raised also help support 11 Outreach Ys, which serve financially fragile communities such as Pine Hills, Tangelo Park and Kissimmee.


Significant year-to-date increases were seen in every aspect of the campaign, including the total number of gifts, volunteers and dollars raised. Another highlight was the first-ever Day of Giving event, hosted by 20 Y Family Centers, which generated 2,400 donors and $215,938 in a single day.


The YMCA of Central Florida wishes to thank all who supported the 2013 campaign, especially the following Ruffier Society members who generously donated $10,000 or more:


  • Lockheed Martin
  • Wayne Densch Charities
  • Galloway Foundation
  • Siemens
  • Boys and Girls Club of Marion County
  • Maroun Chater
  • A Friends Foundation
  • BB&T
  • Bill Browder
  • Chesley Magruder Foundation
  • Aramark
  • Harris Rosen
  • Alice Edgar Memorial Fund
  • CC Dockery
  • Walt Disney World
  • Glen Davis
  • Jim Ferber
  • Dan Wilcox
  • Mark Russell
  • Nephron Pharmaceuticals (Bill Kennedy)
  • Chris Barley
  • SunRiver Concepts
  • Weller Pools
  • David Weeks
  • Unicorp National Development
  • Howie and Deborah Apple
  • The Bond Foundation
  • Lisa Sidhu
  • Osceola County Sheriff’s Department
  • TOHO Water Authority
  • Loretta Schoen
  • Community Bible Church (Ocala)


YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program
Can Cut Risk of Disease by Nearly 60%

With more than 79 million Americans estimated to be pre-diabetic, chances are you or someone you know are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes – as well as the related, life-threatening problems of heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and stroke.


To help you take charge of your health, classes are now forming for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.


Based on cutting edge research from the National Institutes of Health, the program provides a friendly, supportive environment for adopting simple lifestyle changes proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly 60 percent.    


Led by trained life style coaches, the program begins with 16 weekly sessions focused on healthier eating, jump starting an activity plan, managing stress and staying motivated. And to help people reach long-term goals, ongoing, personalized support is provided throughout the year.


To learn more or register for the program, please contact Kelly Prather, Program Coordinator, at (407) 644-3606 or email [email protected].


For additional information about the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, click here.

Summertime is Y Time:
And We Have the Outcomes to Prove It

by Jim Ferber


As the school year ends, many local families are again facing the daunting challenge of keeping their children safe, active and learning over the summer.


With dual-working or single-parent households now the norm – and quality, affordable summer programs difficult to find — it’s always my nightmare that thousands of local kids will be left home alone.


This, despite that fact that research shows that idle, unsupervised time often leads to summer learning loss, weight gain and a greater likelihood that kids will get into trouble.


At the Y, we’ve long been aware of these issues. And we’re taking action through a strong portfolio of summer programs focused on values, reading, wellness and alleviating family stress.


It’s why we say Summertime is Y Time, and we have the outcomes to prove it.


All of our summer programs are built on the success of our Y Afterschool Zone program, established 14 years ago in partnership with Orange County Government. Since then, we’ve tracked the outcomes of nearly 150,000 students, 80% of whom were able to achieve a 2.0 GPA or better, while also experiencing significantly higher rates of attendance and lower rates of juvenile delinquency.


These outcomes speak volumes. They’re also attracting the attention of many national partners, including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation who are investing two new Y summer reading pilots at McCoy Elementary and Union Park Middle School.


Both are Title 1 schools where students, parents and teachers need all the support we can provide. At the Y, we’re proud to lead the way. And we can’t wait to see – and share – our results as these pilots become national models for how other communities can work together to support children and education.


Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida

Realizing Your Potential at Any Age:
102 and Still Going Strong

When 102-year-old Don Napier walks into the YMCA’s Peggy and Phillip B. Crosby Wellness Center, it’s like the mayor has just arrived. From the warm welcome he receives at the front desk to the good friends he chats with on the wellness floor, everyone knows and loves Don and his lovely wife, Carolyne.

Together, the two are an inspirational team who represent what it means to live life to the fullest at any age. Active, healthy and independent, the couple joined the Y two years ago to stay fit and connected to their community.

“We gave up golf when I turned 100. Since then, the Y has become a big part of our lives,” said Don, who attributes his longevity to never smoking and always challenging himself physically and mentally. “The worst thing you can do as you get older is to get s tuck on the couch.”

Working with Y Wellness Director Kimberly Martin and Brittany Dixson, a Florida Hospital medical fitness professional who also works onsite, Don and Carolyne follow personalized fitness routines that include stretching, weight training and swimming.

And to stay mentally and socially connected, they also take part in the Y’s weekly bridge club, where Don’s bidding skills are legendary.  “Bridge is wonderful,” said Carolyne. “We’ve made many good friends and really look forward to getting together with them. It’s another reason we love the Y.”

“By joining the Crosby Y at age 100, Don Napier shows us there are no limits,” said John Cardone, YMCA Vice President. “There are only plateaus and we must always push beyond them. He’s a true inspiration, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he lives another 100 years.”

Central Florida Community Leader Glen Davis
Elected to Chair YMCA Metro Board

Glen Davis, an Orlando area business leader and retired President and CEO of Schuff Steel-Atlantic, has been elected chair of the 2013 YMCA of Central Florida Metropolitan Board of Directors. Davis replaces outgoing chair Helena Ryan.

In addition to serving on the Y Metro Board and Executive Committee, Davis also chaired the Y’s 2013 Annual Support Campaign, which raised $2.5 million for local children, families and seniors in need. Long active in the community, he currently serves on the Seaside National Bank & Trust Board and has previously served with the SunTrust Advisory Board, the Children Home Society Board and the Country Club of Orlando, where he held the role of board president.

Following his election during the Y’s May 16 annual meeting, Davis said, “I’d like to thank the many partners, donors, volunteers and staff who have made the Y’s programs and accomplishments possible. As we look to the year ahead, I hope you’ll remain committed as the Y’s momentum and life-changing work continues to build.”

Rounding out the Y’s 2013 slate of officers are Secretary, Ralph Martinez; Treasurer, Mike Manuel; and Past Chair, Helena Ryan.

Also elected to the Metro board were five new community leaders, including Jim Alessandro, Senior Vice President, Distribution Marketing & Sales Planning and Development, Walt Disney World Resort; Rich Panner, Regional Vice President Southeast, Pepsi Beverages Company; Wayne Rich, Attorney, Broad and Cassel; Lynette Swinski, Vice President, Merchandise, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; and Jim Henningsen, President, College of Central Florida, Ocala.

In recognition of 20-plus years of exemplary service to the board, the following trustees were also unanimously approved: Chas Bailes, Mary Rumberger, Clarence Otis, Jr., Barbara Roper and Tom Warlick.

Returning members of the board include:

  • Mary Jane Arrington
  • Rob Baker
  • Lou Carrion
  • Steve Davis
  • Robin Fisher
  • Sandy Hostetter
  • Orman Kimbrough
  • Charlie Pierce
  • Kran Riley
  • John Varley
  • Chip Webb
  • Steve Wingo

BELL and JPMorgan Chase Partner with Y
to Launch Innovative Summer Reading Programs

Based on the Y’s longstanding success in helping kids thrive – both in and out of school – we recently received two prestigious grants to launch summer reading programs for at-risk students at McCoy Elementary and Union Park Middle School.


Created in partnership with YUSA and BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), the McCoy Elementary program will provide 6.5 hours per day of academic support in reading, math and enrichment, all led by certified teachers.


The Y of Central Florida is one of only three Ys nationwide to receive funding for the intensive pilot, which is due to become a national model based on its success in boosting students’ reading scores by up to six months.


At Union Park Middle School, the Y is also launching the Out of School Time Reading Program funded through a $55,000 grant from the Chase Foundation. Developed in conjunction with Orange County Public Schools curriculum standards, the program will engage kids through technology – in the form of Apple I-pads – which they’ll use to research and read about current events.


As with all Y Youth Development programs, Matthews said both pilots will emphasize values, reading, wellness and alleviating family stress. They’ll also include at least one hour of physical activity to help kids stay fit and able to maintain a healthy weight.


“Common sense and research tell us that children absolutely benefit from additional hours of summer reading and learning, but it’s not typically something schools or parents can provide,” said Matthews. “That’s where the Y comes in. By filling gaps in education and keeping kids safe and active during out-of-school time, we’re setting the stage for future success. And that strengthens our kids, families and entire community.”

YMCA of Central Florida Annual Meeting
Taking Action & Honoring Leaders

More than 400 guests and community leaders recently gathered for the YMCA of Central Florida’s Annual Meeting, which recognized leading 2012 local and global partners, volunteers, donors and staff who helped advance the Y’s cause to strengthen the foundation of our community.


Held Thursday, May 16 at the Lake Nona YMCA/Northlake Park Community School, the meeting also included the election of the Y’s new Metro board chair, Glen Davis, as well as the election of five new board members.


They include: Jim Alessandro, Senior Vice President, Distribution Marketing & Sales Planning and Development, Walt Disney World Resort; Rich Panner, Regional Vice President Southeast, Pepsi Beverages Company;  Wayne Rich, Attorney, Broad and Cassel; Lynette Swinski, Vice President Merchandise, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; and Jim Henningsen, President, College of Central Florida, Ocala.


In leading the awards portion of the program, outgoing board chair Helena Ryan thanked and recognized the Y’s 164 Lifetime Giving donors, all of whom have pledged long-term commitments of  $25,000 or more to advance the Y’s cause.


She also introduced a special video presentation honoring the Y’s 30-year partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities, including our 10-year anniversary as the foundation’s primary support agency. In recognition of this world-class partnership, a globe was presented to Jim Hinson, Ken Robinson, Dr. Ann Manley, Eva Tukdarian and Dr. Margaret Miller.


Also honored were the Y’s newest major donors, Marion County businessman Frank DeLuca and Munroe Regional Medical Center. Each made separate $1 million investments in the Marion County Y, which has been renamed the Frank DeLuca YMCA Family Center.


With the entire Marion County leadership team looking on, DeLuca also presented the John W. Sterchi Award to his friend Bill Browder, for his phenomenal success in leading Marion County’s $4.5 million capital campaign. In capping a great night for the Marion County team, the Frank DeLuca YMCA also received the Pinnacle Award. Incredibly, it was the fifth year in a row that this Y has received the award, which recognizes exceptional achievement in revenue growth, volunteer support, financial stewardship and more.


With assistance from Trevin Martin and Emily Qualmann, two young Y leaders who will be attending this summer’s Global Teen Leadership Conference in Prague, the Y also honored 14 other major donors, including: The Roper Family, Winter Park Health Foundation, Darden, Wayne Densch Charities, Florida Hospital, Orange County Government, Lake Nona/Tavistock, Walt Disney World, Osceola County, Lockheed Martin, The Bert Martin Foundation, Bank of America, Pepsi and Microsoft.


For truly reflecting the spirit of servant leadership over 10 years or more, volunteers Rhoda Fisher, of the Titusville Y, and Tim Haberkamp, of the Wayne Densch Y, received the 2012 Ronnie Walker Unsung Hero Award. An additional 26 volunteers were also honored by their respective Ys as Family Center Volunteers of the Year. Click here for the complete list.


A new tradition was also begun with the first-ever Jim Ferber Award, which will be presented to staff who exemplify Ferber’s visionary leadership and 40-year commitment to the YMCA movement. Sharing the inaugural award were Jody Alexander, YMCA District Vice President, and Colleen Manahan, YMCA Chief Administrative Officer. 



In her closing remarks as outgoing board chair, Helena Ryan highlighted a few of the Y’s major 2012 achievements in the areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Among them:


  • Nurturing youth through educational initiatives, including closing the achievement gap among school-age children; integrating reading into all youth development programs; and earning two prestigious grants from Chase Bank and Harvard’s Bell organization to fund groundbreaking summer reading pilot programs at Union Park Middle School and McCoy Elementary.


  • In the area of Healthy Living, she noted the Y’s progress in advancing its focus on health, wellness and chronic disease prevention. It is doing this through greater emphasis on personalized services; diet and nutrition; enhanced clinical and rehabilitation services; and stronger partnerships with local hospitals.


  • Through its focus on Social Responsibility, Ryan said the Y is also serving Central Florida’s most fragile communities through 11 Outreach Ys, which make Y quality programs and services available to all residents. In addition to providing membership assistance to 51% of all Y members, the association also made major investments to improve the Osceola Y in Kissimmee and build a new Y Links2Learning golf center at the South Orlando Y.


Following the election of new board members, trustees and executive committee members, Ryan passed the gavel to incoming Metropolitan Board Chair Glen Davis, who expressed his pride and gratitude to all who helped achieve the Y’s 2012 success.


“I’d like to thank the many Y partners, donors, volunteers and staff who have made the programs and accomplishments we heard about tonight possible,” Davis said. “Without you, the Y would simply be unable to keep pace with growing community needs. And as we look to the year ahead, we hope you’ll remain committed as the Y’s momentum and life-changing work keeps on building.”


Honoring Our Volunteers of the Year

At the heart of every Y family center, there are a select volunteers who give incredible amounts of time and energy to advance the Y’s cause.

During the Y of Central Florida’s annual meeting, we recently honored Rhoda Fisher, of the Titusville Y, and Tim Haberkamp, of the Wayne Densch Y, with the 2012 Ronnie Walker Unsung Hero Award. It recognizes volunteers of 10 years or more who truly exemplify the spirit of Y servant leadership.

The award was named for Ronnie Walker, a longtime Downtown YMCA member, who deeply believed in the Y’s ability to change lives. His legacy lives on in the actions of Fisher, a competitive tennis player who combines her love for the sport and dedication to the Y by organizing tennis socials that raise money for Y causes.

It’s also exemplified in the leadership of Tim Haberkamp, who has been a major part of the Wayne Densch Y since it was established in the 1990s.

As a Pine Hills business owner, Tim embodies the spirit of giving back and supporting his local community.  He has also has a huge heart for local children and families in need and has been a major advocate for our Outreach Ys.

In addition, we also recognized the following volunteers who were selected by their respective Ys as Family Center Volunteers of the Year. From fundraising and event planning to coaching kids and serving on boards, these Y champions consistently raise the bar and inspire others to follow their lead. We thank and honor them all:

  • Teen Achievers – Jibri Robinson
  • Aquatic Center – Randy Walters
  • Avalon Park – Craig Murray
  • Blanchard Park – Stefanie Block
  • Camp Wewa – Katie Hery Morgan
  • Cocoa – Dave McGaffic
  • Crosby – Howie & Debbie Apple
  • Downtown – Kathy Panter
  • Dr. Phillips – Paul McGarigal
  • Golden Triangle – Jerry Ransom
  • J. Douglas Williams – Jose  Velazquez
  • Lake Nona – Marshia Hale
  • Frank DeLuca YMCA – Steve Wingo
  • Osceola – Eric & Janelle Jenkins
  • Oviedo – Alice Maalouf
  • Roper – Ashley Arthur
  • South Orlando – Virginia Howell
  • Suntree – Sam Pinson
  • Tangelo Park – Autumn Bailey
  • Titusville – Gene Loyd
  • WDW Resort:  Lake Buena Vista – Virginia Rousseau
  • WDW Resort:  Sherberth – Noel Myerson
  • Wayne Densch – Charlie McCall
  • Winter Park – Marilyn Nelson

Help Students Attend Teen Leadership Conference

As part of the Y of Central Florida’s local focus and global impact, Conference Flyerwe’re excited to be sending 14 promising high school students and five young YMCA professionals to the 2013 YMCA Global Teen Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

During the week-long August event, the students will join with 10,000 peers worldwide to share their faith, exchange ideas and learn how they CAN make a difference through the YMCA movement.

As chaperones, the young Y professionals accompanying the group will also enjoy opportunities for networking, learning and broadening their global vision.

Rabecca Rein, a 16-year-old Prague delegate, is really excited about this opportunity. “To me the Y is a place where you can get help with problems. The Y welcomes you with open arms, and is a safe place to come. I really want this chance to learn how to give back to the Y and the South Orlando community and show them how much they mean to me. When I help out at Y events after I return from Prague, I’ll use what I learn to get more kids involved in everything the Y has to offer.

In order to send all 14 students to the Prague conference, the Y is seeking scholarship support to help defray travel expenses.

Won’t you donate just $25 or more to help 14 teens learn how to make our communities a better place? That’s an investment worth making!

Please complete the form, check the designation box at the bottom and then select “Teen Leadership Conference” from the drop-down menu. You may also donate by contacting Carter Jones at (407) 895-4298 or email [email protected]


Jessica Freeman: Y Mission in Action

As a wellness coach and personal trainer at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA Family Center, Jessica Freeman loves helping people transform their lives, but it wasn’t until the day she actually saved a life that she truly understood the commitment to serve.

Thanks to extensive CPR and life-saving training, Jessica knew exactly what to do when a Y member recently suffered a near-fatal heart attack while working out at the Dr. Phillips Y.

Calmly, swiftly taking charge, she directed others to apply the external heart defibrillator, standard equipment on all Y wellness floors, while she and another staff member administered CPR until medical help arrived.

“It all happened so fast, but thankfully my Y training and preparation automatically kicked in,” said Jessica, who is also a graduate of UCF’s exercise science program. “When I checked the man for a pulse and found none, I knew there was no time to spare.”

“It feels great to know you’ve saved someone’s life,” said Jessica, who has kept in touch with the man’s family and is thrilled to know he’s doing fine. “That it could have been my dad, so I’m grateful I was able to help. It’s what I love about working at the Y. We help people every day. To actually save the life of someone who is part of our Y family is just awesome.”


Even for an organization that’s continually innovating and moving forward, the first quarter of 2013 has been an incredibly busy, productive time for the Y of Central Florida. From raising $16 million to help neighbors in need and expand our facilities − to hosting two hugely successfully prayer breakfasts that united thousands of local leaders, the Y is truly an organization that pushes the envelope and gets things done.


Since the first of the year, we’ve made record strides in pushing ahead with our capital campaign to renovate and expand nine of our 20 Y Family Centers. With this campaign going strong, we plan to break ground on $28 to $32 million in capital projects over the next 18 months.


In fact, design work is already well underway for the Dr. P. Phillips Y thanks to a significant gift from our most generous partner, Dr. Phillips Charities. Plans are also progressing for the Marion County Y, which was recently renamed the Frank DeLuca YMCA in honor of a major gift from Ocala business leader Frank DeLuca. Once completed, these two family centers will serve as prototypes of the new “Y brand,” which reflects our personalized, preventative approach to helping people take personal responsibility for their health and well-being.


With Marion County’s health ranking in the bottom third of counties statewide, it’s inspiring to see how the entire community has really rallied around this project, which is seen as part of the big-picture solution. To date, nearly $5 million has been raised in the community for this expansion. And with Munroe Regional Medical Center also just announcing a major partnership, this facility will provide an innovative model for how communities can work together to truly turn the tide on chronic disease.    


During the first quarter, we’re also proud and grateful to say that our 2013 Annual Support Campaign crossed the $1.5 million mark. These dollars, raised by more than 2,000 dedicated volunteers, will provide Y scholarship assistance to more than 35,000 deserving kids and families. They’ll also fund critical programs at our 11 Outreach Ys, which serve such financially fragile neighborhoods as Pine Hills, Tangelo Park and Kissimmee.


While fundraising is critical, it’s not the only measure of how the Y invests in our community.  We also host two hugely successful prayer breakfasts each year. During Holy Week, we presented the 19th Annual Celebration of Prayer Breakfast, featuring U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black. This, along with January’s Pappy Kennedy/Martin Luther King Prayer, inspired more than 2,000 guests of all faiths and backgrounds to create a stronger community.


So with the second quarter of 2013 underway, our cause and momentum motivate us to work even harder. While many organizations talk about giving back and investing in the community, the Y is indeed fortunate to have the resources, partners and volunteers to take action and actually DO IT.   

Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida






Did you know that employees who exercise regularly have lower rates of absenteeism and higher levels of productivity, energy and focus?  Or that many doctors now believe that sedentary lifestyles are more harmful than smoking?


As part of the Y’s focus on Healthy Living, we are now offering a Corporate Partnership Program that helps companies improve employee health, while controlling skyrocketing healthcare costs. In addition to a healthier workforce and fewer medical claims, many companies are adopting wellness programs in order to reap significant savings from their medical insurance providers.


Regardless of your company’s size or focus, the Y can develop a customized solution that provides access to full range of Y quality facilities, programs and services. Among the most popular is the innovative Y Diabetes Prevention Program, which has a proven track record of helping people reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems.


Florida Hospital, Orange County Government, Siemens and Lockheed Martin are just a few of the local organizations that are partnering with the Y to improve the health of hundreds of employees.


For more information on how your company can benefit, please contact John Cardone, YMCA Vice President at (407) 644-3606 or email [email protected].


As the Y strives to be the most relevant, forward-thinking nonprofit in Central Florida, we’re always seeking the best and brightest minds to help guide our organization. That’s why we’re pleased to announce the addition of two new two staff members who are recognized leaders in fields.


Dr. Brenda Fettrow, former Cocoa City Manager and longtime friend of the Y, recently joined the Y as District Vice President of the Lake Nona and Brevard County YMCAs. In addition to serving on our Metro board and helping start the Cocoa YMCA Family Center, Brenda, who holds a doctorate in education, also served as president of Brevard Community College’s Cocoa campus.


Rick Shreve, former executive pastor of Mosaic Church in Oakland, FL, has also joined the Y as our new Director of Christian Initiatives. In this role, Rick will be leveraging his extensive contacts and expertise to expand the Y’s outreach to local churches.


We’re also pleased to announce that Ben Marciano, executive director of the Frank DeLuca Y, has been promoted to Vice President; and Jake Steger, executive director of the Roper Y, has been named District Vice President.



The Y’s Teen Achievers and Middle School Achievers groups recently completed their spring college bus tours, with nearly 150 kids participating. It was the first year for the middle-school group, which enjoyed a one-day visit to UCF, Valencia Community College and Rollins College.

Over the course of their four-day excursion, the high-school Achievers toured Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, Fisk, Meharry Medical College and other leading Southeastern universities. Many also saw snow for the first time while traveling through the Smokey Mountains.

Based on the success of Teen Achievers, which helps at-risk students prepare for college and careers, the new Middle School Achievers program provides the early mentoring and academic support younger students need to get ahead of college and career planning. With research showing that many children make decisions about their futures as early as age 9, the program helps kids explore career goals, as well as the college, technical or vocational training they’ll need to succeed.  For more information about the Y Achievers program, click here.


When it comes to kids, there’s school time, there’s family time and then there’s Y time – those “out-of-school” hours when parents are working and kids need a safe, nurturing place to learn, grow and thrive.


That’s especially true over summer vacation, which is why our 22 Family Centers are gearing up to offer a variety of great “Y Time” programs and adventures for kids of all ages.


Here in Florida kids are never far from a swimming pool, lake or beach, which is why teaching children how to be safe and have fun in and around the water has always been a top priority for the Y.


In fact, summer is a great time to sign up for swim lessons, parent-child classes or the Ys’ multi-level Progressive Swim Program that helps children progress from “Polliwogs” to “Porpoises” while developing skills, confidence and a lifelong love of swimming.


For babies and younger children, we’re also offering Safe Start, the Y’s one-of-a-kind infant swim survival program that teaches the rollback-to-float” and “swim-float-swim” techniques that have provided safety and peace of mind for  generations of kids and parents. For adolescents and teens, summer swim teams are also forming, which provide a great way to enjoy friendly competition and aim for higher goals.


Summer Camp
To help kids stay active, fit and learning over the summer, the Y also offers a variety of daytime and residential camps that focus on values, reading, wellness and alleviating family stress.


From animal adventures, arts and dance to sports, robots and super heroes, our camps include special-interest programs designed to engage and delight all elementary and middle school students. In addition, the Y’s fully screened, well-trained counselors are great role models who help instill the values, love of reading, physical fitness and healthy lifestyles all families want for their children.


Speaking of families, parents are always invited to our Fun Friday Family events, which give campers a chance to share the activities, discoveries and adventures they enjoyed during the week.


So don’t delay. Our summer programs are already filling up. For more information about summer camps, click here. To learn about swimming lessons at a Y near you, click here. For information about any Y program, call (407) 896-9220.