Author Archives: Tom Fischer

Celebrating The YMCA’s 175th Birthday Through Service

June 6, 2019 marked the 175th anniversary of the founding of the YMCA in London in 1844. Improving lives has been our mission ever since, and today, we are proud to be a part of a movement committed to strengthening communities in 119 countries worldwide.

On June 8, Y staff, members and volunteers participated in the #YMCAChallenge and volunteered 175 minutes throughout Central Florida in honor of the YMCA’s 175th birthday!

In Brevard County, 66 volunteers performed 198 hours of service and collected 29 bags of beach litter with Keep Brevard Beautiful.

In Orange County, 18 volunteers performed 173 hours of service and helped to clean, stock and organize to assist neighbors in need at United Against Poverty Orlando, and nine volunteers performed 27 hours of service helping to improve hygiene and stop the spread of disease by sorting and quality-checking soaps with Clean the World. “This event provided the opportunity for families to serve together for a few hours. I personally had the opportunity to meet members that I have not had the chance to spend time with yet. We learned about each other’s families and the things we had in common,” says Chad Garmon, Vice President of Community Engagement & Christian Initiatives at The YMCA of Central Florida. “Serving side by side with these members strengthened our relationship and made our community a better place to live.”

Also on June 8, more than 30 Y runners and volunteers supported the onePulse CommUNITY Rainbow Run in memory of the victims of the Pulse tragedy three years ago. “The Y team participated alongside more than 3,000 attendees, celebrating diversity while honoring those whose lives were taken in the Pulse tragedy,” says Bonnie Bauer, Director of Quality Experience at The YMCA of Central Florida. “In addition to those who completed the race, we had another six YMCA staff members working the table where community members could learn more about our Y and our Diversity, Inclusion and Global work, plus receive a #YForAll pin.”

And in Marion County, the Frank DeLuca Y joined together with the Ocala community to gather and deliver more than 400 bags of donated food, clothes and school supplies to The Rock Foundation to help middle and high school students in need. “I am blown away by our team’s generosity and willingness to provide, especially because nearly 180 bags came from our part-time staff,” says Nicole Bloom, Executive Director at the Frank DeLuca YMCA Family Center.


Changing Lives Through Our Annual Day Of Giving

At the Y, we believe that everyone can be somebody’s hero. Simple acts of kindness can have a large and lasting impact. On May 21, we celebrated our annual Day of Giving with fun activities all day long at our Family Centers to encourage donations and change lives.

Thanks to our generous donors, we raised more than $46,000 to help reduce the risk of drowning by providing kids with swim lessons, give kids new opportunities to learn and make friends at summer camp, connect neighbors in need with life-changing Y programs and services through Y membership and more! Your gift truly changes lives. Thank you!

Kids Learn Life-Saving Drowning Prevention Techniques During Safety Around Water Week 2019

The YMCA of Central Florida believes that teaching kids water safety skills is a necessity – especially in Florida, where we are surrounded by pools, lakes, ponds and of course – the ocean!

And from May 28-31, we provided 1400 free drowning prevention lessons for more than 350 kids at 10 YMCA Family Centers during our annual Safety Around Water Week.

During the YMCA’s 4-day Safety Around Water Program, certified swim instructors teach kids life-saving water safety techniques that reduce the chance of drowning and give both kids and parents confidence in and around water.

During Safety Around Water lessons, kids participate in exercises that help them adjust to being in water. They also learn how to “jump, push, turn, grab” as well as “swim, float, swim” – two skill sets that kids can use if they unexpectedly find themselves in water. Kids also discover what to do if they see someone in the water who needs help.

The Y is “America’s Swim Instructor” and the most accessible community resource to prevent drowning and encourage a lifelong enjoyment of swimming. The Y introduced the country to the concept of group swim lessons more than 100 years ago, and each year, the Y teaches more than a million children invaluable water safety and swimming skills. As one of the largest community-based organizations in the country, the Y owns or manages over 2,000 pools. Thanks to its size and reach, the Y is in a unique position to help bridge the gap in the delivery of swim lessons and water safety education in the U.S.—especially in underserved communities.

Learn more about Safety Around Water and swim lessons at the Y.

Exercise Safely This Summer

With the arrival of warmer temperatures and higher humidity, it’s important to take extra steps to stay safe while exercising – both indoors and outdoors. When you exercise, your body temperature rises and your heart rate increases. Higher body temperature and heart rate coupled with hot weather makes hydration and rest even more important. Stay safe while exercising this summer with these five simple tips:

1. Hydrate before, during and after you exercise: Water helps to regulate your body temperature, so hydration before, during and after exercise is critical. Avoid drinks with caffeine, which act as diuretics, and can lead to dehydration. And don’t wait to take your first sips of water in the middle of your workout – by that point, it’s likely that you’ve already lost fluids! Water is the best option, but remember that many fruits and vegetables contain water, too! Enjoy a variety of oranges, blueberries, watermelon, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables as a hydrating pre- or post-workout snack. Add fruit slices to your water for flavor. You can find delicious flavored water recipes here.

2. Take frequent rests: In hot weather, and even indoors, remember that you may need to take more rest breaks than usual. Resting keeps your heart rate and body temperature in check. Focus on your breathing, and sit down if you need to. Rest breaks are also a great opportunity to hydrate!

3. Wear the right clothing: The clothes you wear during your workout can play an important role in keeping your body temperature in check. You might layer your outfit, so that you have options depending on how you’re feeling. You can also wear light, loose-fitting clothing that “breathes.” If you’re taking your workout outside, be sure to wear a hat or visor and sunscreen, too!

4. Warm up and cool down: While your body may feel warm already at the start of your summer workouts, it’s still important to warm up your muscles and joints by starting at a low intensity. And at the end of your workout, it’s a good idea to cool down – not only with hydration and rest, but also with stretching and low-intensity movement to safely return your body temperature and heart rate to normal.

5. Listen to your body: Always listen to the signals your body is giving you. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, faint or simply “off,” know when it’s time to stop, sit down, hydrate and rest.


4 easy ways to keep your family healthy & active this summer

Maintaining a healthy family diet during the summer months can be a challenge. Summer is the time to kick back and unwind, but oftentimes, we also relax our efforts to keep our families healthy. With lots of backyard barbeques, July 4th celebrations and long days by the pool or at the beach to look forward to, it’s easy to overindulge on the not-so-healthy stuff all summer long.

But don’t worry – I have good news. Your family can stay healthy and join in on all the summertime fun at the same time! Here are four easy ways to keep your family healthy this summer without sacrificing the fun:

1.  Eat a nutritious breakfast: Not all breakfasts are created equal. A donut or sugary cereal for breakfast may be quick and easy, but in reality, it’s just like eating a slice of cake for dinner! Make sure your family’s breakfast is healthy and nutritious so it fuels physical activity all day long, keeps you and your family feeling full and also facilitates bone, muscle and brain growth. Try a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and almonds, along with some scrambled eggs and a cold glass of milk. In a rush? Try a fruit smoothie with some veggies hidden inside, like our delicious Mango Spinach Smoothie. I promise your kids will love it and will be asking for it again and again! You can find more healthy breakfast recipes on our website.

2. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables daily: Try to keep half of your plate filled with fruits and veggies at each meal. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter so your kids can grab a piece whenever they want. Are your kids asking for a sugary snack? Give them a bowl full of grapes! Sweet, delicious and nutritious – a great substitute for processed snack foods.

3. Stay hydrated: Replace sugary sports drinks and sodas with water, and lots of it! Water helps to keep your body running at an optimal level, especially in the heat of summer. If you want some extra flavor, add slices of fresh fruit like strawberries, lemons, limes, cucumber or watermelon. You can also throw in some fresh herbs like mint or basil to boost the flavor, too. Remember, staying hydrated prevents heat related illnesses like headaches, cold sweats and nausea.

4. Have fun staying active: Turn off the TV and take a family bike ride adventure or enjoy a family walk. Swim and splash all day long at the pool or learn a new sport together. Disguise physical activity in the form of family fun!


Power up with Protein

Power Up with Protein

Are you tired of adding more chicken and salmon to your salads to increase your protein intake? You aren’t alone. Eating more protein might seem tough, but it’s actually easier than you think!

Along with healthy fats and complex carbs, protein is a macronutrient – so, it’s a very important part of your diet. Protein has been shown to help keep you full, speed up your metabolism and help you build muscle more efficiently. Protein helps strengthen your hair and nails, and it also assists in building and repairing tissues. In fact, if you’re not getting enough healthy protein in your diet, nearly every system in your body can suffer!

When selecting sources of protein to add to your diet, focus on lean proteins. Lean proteins are low in fat. These typically include chicken, fish, beans, legumes, ancient grains and some less fatty cuts of beef.

Here are five quick ways to add more protein into your diet throughout your day:

1. Make an easy breakfast: Greek yogurt packs a healthy punch of protein. Try adding chia seeds, almonds, fruit and a bit of honey to your yogurt. Eggs are also a fantastic protein-rich breakfast option. Scramble them with sautéed vegetables to round out a healthy meal.

2. Grab on-the-go snacks: Pack a handful of nuts, a few sticks of string cheese or an apple to dip in almond or peanut butter. These healthy, high-protein options will keep you full between meals. That means less mindless snacking and fewer unhealthy cravings! If you miss candy or other sweet treats, try these Peanut Butter Protein Bars for a protein powered snack that will also satisfy your sweet tooth!

3. Mix up your meats: Most of us stick with what we know, but how many ways can you make chicken before you get tired of eating it? When you shop, buy a variety of lean proteins. A nice piece of salmon, tuna or swordfish grills up quickly and just needs a bit of salt and pepper. Consider trying bison for something different; it’s leaner than ground beef and tastes delicious! Lean proteins make for low-calorie meals that will leave you feeling fuller for longer.

4. Supplement with protein powder: A quick and easy way to add protein on the go! Add it into smoothies or even pancake mix. Sprinkle it in to some yogurt for a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

5. Think differently at dinner: If you believe meat is the only way to get added protein at dinner, think again! Side dishes like quinoa and beans are great sources of protein that will be a nice complement to your meal.


YMCA of Central Florida to Host 25th Annual Celebration of Prayer Breakfast with Keynote Speaker Pastor David Uth

On Thursday, April 18, the YMCA of Central Florida will host its Celebration of Prayer Breakfast from 7:15-8:30 AM at the First Baptist Church of Orlando.

For 25 years, this annual community tradition has brought together people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds to unite in prayer. Celebration of Prayer supports the Y’s mission to improve the lives of all in Central Florida by connecting individuals, families and communities with opportunities based on Christian values that strengthen Spirit, Mind and Body.

Attended each year by more than 1,000 residents and community leaders in Central Florida, Celebration of Prayer is the largest event of its kind held locally during Holy Week. This annual prayer breakfast honors the Y’s commitment to Social Responsibility and supports the Christian traditions that make us strong.

This year’s keynote speaker is David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando. David grew up as the son of a pastor in Arkansas and was ordained at the age of 19, when he pastored his first church. Before coming to First Baptist Church or Orlando, David pastored churches in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Along with serving the churches and communities where he pastored, he has also been honored to serve as the President of the Florida Baptist Convention and Chairman of the International Mission Board of Trustees.

We look forward to hearing from Pastor Uth and joining together once again on April 18 for an uplifting morning of prayer and community. Thank you to our valued partners, whose support keeps this important annual community tradition alive!

Don’t miss out! There is still time to register. Learn more about partnership levels.

YMCA of Central Florida Debuts Newly-Renovated Family Center in Pine Hills

Media Contact:

Morgan Shepard, APR
On Behalf of YMCA of Central Florida
+1 (407) 210-1510
[email protected]

YMCA of Central Florida Debuts Newly-Renovated Family Center in Pine Hills

Community leaders to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Wayne Densch

ORLANDO, Fla. – March 27, 2019 – The YMCA of Central Florida will showcase its newly-renovated Wayne Densch YMCA Family Center during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and facility tour on March 27 at 11:30 a.m.  Wayne M. Densch Charities donated more than $500,000 to make critical improvements to the facility, including major improvements to the parking lot, floor repairs, interior ceiling repairs, landscaping and more. The family center serves as a refuge for children and families living in Pine Hills, enabling them to participate in afterschool activities, youth sports and aquatics at little to no cost.

“We’re proud to serve more than 3,500 neighbors here in Pine Hills at our Wayne Densch YMCA,” said Dan Wilcox, President & Chief Executive Officer at the YMCA of Central Florida. “Wayne Densch Charities was a critical partner for us when we opened our doors over 27 years ago. Their long-term partnership and ongoing support have been critical in helping the Y improve lives in this neighborhood, and their most recent donation will allow us to continue to serve this community.”

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, The YMCA of Central Florida relies on the help from community partners to further its cause of strengthening communities and making sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.

With this latest gift, the Wayne Densch Charities has provided more than $2.3 million in funding to the YMCA of Central Florida over the past three decades.

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 22 YMCA locations across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties. 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 neighborhoods.

To learn more, visit the YMCA of Central Florida website at or follow on Facebook or Instagram.


5 Tips for a Spring Health Renewal

The smell of flowers blooming, the warmer temperatures, more fresh seasonal fruits and veggies becoming available: All of this puts us in the mood to start our health journey and make a true commitment to ourselves.

Just a few short months ago, we all tried to have a health renewal of sorts with our New Year’s resolution. In many cases, that resolution withers away until the end of the year, when we make another pact with ourselves to get healthy.

Perhaps our resolution to get healthy should really come in the spring. The stress of the holidays has worn off, and we tend to be more focused on the day to day aspects of life.

I won’t talk about a “diet” plan, but I will talk about a “lifestyle” plan. It’s not about quick fixes. It’s about nurturing a sustainable, long-term lifestyle change. As you revisit your health goals this spring, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Eat “right” – not “less” – for better health. That means enjoying a healthy combination of proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. That’s what we need to fuel our bodies so that they function optimally. You’ll probably find that you feel better, too! You’ll have more energy, sleep more soundly and have a clearer mind.
  2. Slow and steady: Take it one day at a time. Remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare? Take your time as you make changes. Start by adding in some fresh (preferably in-season) fruits and veggies. Make simple swaps with healthier alternatives you enjoy. For a lasting change, try not to overthink it or many too many changes too quickly.
  3. Read your food labels. You might be surprised to find that many foods you thought were healthy actually aren’t so. Many touted health foods pack added sugar or saturated fat, or are so low in calories they actually have little nutritional benefit at all (which is why you eat them and still feel hungry!). Some health foods pack a lot of calories, so a little goes a long way. Learn and be aware of what you’re putting in your body, and pay attention to your serving sizes.
  4. Buy leaner cuts of meats. Animal proteins serve up a ton of nutritional value, but in some cases, certain cuts can also pack a lot of fat and cholesterol, too. Lean cuts of beef include round, chuck, sirloin and tenderloin. The leanest poultry is white meat from the breast with no skin. Lean pork or lamb includes tenderloin, loin chops and leg. Try to integrate more fish and seafood into your diet. Meatless meals are delicious, too!
  5. Have fun experimenting with new foods and flavors. You might be surprised by the foods you enjoy. Just because you didn’t like something as a child doesn’t mean you won’t like it today. I used to tell my daughter that she had to take a “no-thank-you bite”. If you still don’t like it, move on – but there’s a chance you may have had a change of heart. And oh, by the way: Eating healthy is good for your heart, too!

YMCA of Central Florida Announces Development Team for Newest Family Center Location in The Packing District

Media Contact:

Morgan Shepard, APR
On Behalf of YMCA of Central Florida
+1 (407) 210-1510
[email protected]

YMCA of Central Florida Announces Development Team for Newest Family Center Location in The Packing District

Brasfield & Gorrie, GAI Consultants, RLF, and Foundry Commercial will join the design team for new YMCA Family Center near College Park

ORLANDO, Fla. – March 19, 2019 – Today, the YMCA of Central Florida announced the development team who will be spearheading the construction of its 23rd YMCA location in the heart of Dr. Phillips Charities’ new community, The Packing District. The YMCA has selected general contractors, Brasfield & Gorrie; engineers, GAI Consultants; architects, RLF; and owner representative Foundry Commercial to design and build the 27,000-square-foot family center.

“We are proud to welcome such a robust team of accomplished architects, engineers, contractors and project managers to our development team,” said Dan Wilcox, President & Chief Executive Officer at the YMCA of Central Florida. “This team will work diligently to create an innovative YMCA experience that will serve as a beacon for the residents of the surrounding community and neighborhoods. We will create a welcoming place where neighbors are connected, lives are improved and our region is strengthened for generations to come.”

Spanning two stories, the new YMCA will play a key role in Dr. Phillips Charities’ planned 202-acre, $480-million transformational project near College Park, The Packing District. Dr. Phillips Charities announced its plans to have a YMCA within The Packing District last November and has provided a lead gift to the nonprofit of $8.9 million to begin the development of the new Family Center. In addition, Dr. Phillips Charities donated the land for the Y at the planned roundabout at Princeton Street and Texas Avenue within a new regional park. Continued fundraising efforts are now underway to garner additional community support so that the full vision for the new Y can be realized.

“Within The Packing District, we imagine a live, work, play environment, and the YMCA Family Center is a beautiful fit for that vision,” said Ken Robinson, president/CEO of Dr. Phillips Charities, the community builder of The Packing District. “We’re proud to collaborate with another like-minded organization focused on the benefit this project will bring to the citizens of Orlando. And we’re excited to see their vision start to come to life as they begin their planning and design phase.”

Construction on the facility is projected to break ground in late 2019-early 2020 with a grand opening scheduled for early 2021. Once complete, the YMCA will offer state-of-the art wellness equipment and specialized programs both indoors and outdoors that promote healthy living for every age and ability.

For the latest news and information on the plans for The Packing District, including updates regarding the new YMCA Family Center, follow along The Packing District’s

Facebook and Instagram accounts.

About The Packing District

The Packing District is a 202-acre transformational project centered at the intersection of Princeton Street and Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, preserving and recapturing a defining part of our community’s history while providing a vibrant base of living and commerce. Historic buildings will be repurposed, integrated with new uses, and connected to dedicated public spaces by a new and bold plan for urban trails and a new 100-acre public park (gifted to the City of Orlando) dedicated to health and wellness, education, arts and community, and sustainability. Preparations began to ready the site for construction in 2018. The project will continue to mature over the next 10-15 years as laid out in the four-phase master plan.

To learn more, follow The Packing District on Facebook and Instagram.

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 22 YMCA locations across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties. 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 neighborhoods.

To learn more, visit the YMCA of Central Florida website at or follow on Facebook or Instagram.

About Brasfield & Gorrie

Named among the Most Admired Companies and Best Places to Work, Brasfield & Gorrie was established in 1964. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, the company consists of 3,000 employees across 12 offices (eight full-service). Brasfield & Gorrie took in $2.8 billion in revenue in 2017. The company has 220+ LEED® Accredited Professionals and LEED Green Associates with 127 LEED projects and 45+ seeking certification. #1 general contractor according to ENR Southeast. #4 healthcare general contractor according to Modern Healthcare.

#27 Top 400 Contractors by Engineering News-Record.

About Gai Consultants

GAI Consultants is an employee-owned engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firm providing award-winning solutions and local expertise to worldwide clients in the energy, transportation, development, government, and industrial markets.

About RLF

RLF is a fully-integrated team of architects, engineers, interior designers and planners that shares a passion for creating exceptional spaces through architecture. The firm continues to evolve as a distinguished practice providing tailored architectural, engineering, and interior design solutions for the federal, healthcare, educational, and cultural markets. Based in Baldwin Park, RLF’s influence has extended to four continents, 15 countries, and 32 states, advancing the Rogers’ inspiring legacy of innovative design and high performing places.

About Foundry Commercial

Foundry Commercial is a full-service real estate services and investment company with 300 employees and more than 50 million square feet of management and leasing across the Southeast and Texas. Foundry provides corporate services, brokerage, leasing, building management and project management services, and is the largest real estate service provider to religious and not-for-profit organizations in the Country. Foundry also includes a development and investment platform that is fully integrated into its services business, leveraging its local market expertise to control more than one billion in advantaged investment opportunities with their JV partners. Foundry Commercial was founded as CNL Commercial Real Estate in 2007 and launched as Foundry in 2015 through a management-led buyout. For more information, visit


Be a Good Steward in 2019

Chad Garmon, Executive Director of Christian Initiatives & Community Partnerships

What do you think when you hear the word, “stewardship?”

Many times, this word is associated with donation requests, but the concept of stewardship goes much, much deeper than that. A steward is someone who manages the possessions of another. We are all God’s stewards, managing the resources, abilities and opportunities that He has entrusted to our care.

Jesus teaches a valuable lesson on stewardship in the parable of talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In the parable, a man of great wealth goes on a trip. Before he leaves, the wealthy man calls three servants together and distributes his talents (i.e. large units of money, roughly equivalent to $1,000). The first servant receives five talents, the second servant receives two talents and the third servant receives one talent.

While the wealthy man is away, the first two servants take great care of the gifts, and they grow. In fact, the gifts double in size! However, the third servant hides his gift in the ground and earns nothing. He doesn’t lose it, but he doesn’t take the time to nurture it, either. When the wealthy man returns, he is pleased with the two servants who nurtured and grew their gifts, calling them “faithful.” He punishes the third servant, who did nothing with his gift.

This parable’s deeper meaning extends far beyond finances. God gives us all unique sets of gifts in the form of skills, abilities, relationships, careers, education, experiences and more. Our mission is to invest in our lives and do what we can with what we have been given.

As we begin the new year, let’s think about the many gifts in our lives. Remember that gifts come in many forms. These are the areas we have stewardship over. We have been called to care for:

  • Our time
  • Our bodies
  • Our planet
  • Our knowledge
  • Our faith
  • Our relationships

All of these areas require diligent attention. Stewardship is a daily task. What can you do in 2019 to be a good steward for God?

Dr. Phillips Gifts $8.9M for New YMCA in The Packing District


Media Contacts:
Christina Morton, APR                                   Megan Paquin, APR, CPRC
On Behalf of Dr. Phillips Charities               On Behalf of YMCA of Central Florida
407-608-5905                                                  407-432-7066
[email protected]                          [email protected]

Dr. Phillips Gifts $8.9M for New YMCA in The Packing District

New Y will join transformational project situated within Orlando’s new regional park

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nov. 26, 2018 – As the site at Princeton Street and Orange Blossom Trail is prepared to make way for The Packing District, a 202-acre, $480-million transformational project near College Park, Dr. Phillips Charities today announced approval of a key component to the district’s focus on community, health and wellness.

The Dr. Phillips Charities board has voted to fund $8.9 million to the YMCA of Central Florida to build and equip a new YMCA Family Center for the College Park area within The Packing District. Located at the planned roundabout at Princeton Street and Texas Avenue on the north end of Orlando’s newest regional park, the YMCA Family Center will plan to have 24,500 square feet of space spanning two stories and play host to key programs for the community while also integrating with The Packing District’s regional park to allow both indoor and outdoor healthy living activities. With future growth plans in mind, the Family Center could expand up to 40,000 square feet of space.

“Dr. Phillips Charities has long been a proud supporter of the YMCA here in Central Florida. So, as we transform and preserve this special place in Orlando’s history, it’s only natural that we seek to collaborate again to further our vision of building community, health and wellness within The Packing District,” said Ken Robinson, president/CEO of Dr. Phillips Charities.

“Strengthening communities is at the heart of our shared vision with the Dr. Phillips Charities. We are truly grateful for their longstanding support and generosity which will enable us to build a brighter future together in healthy living, youth development and social responsibility within this vibrant, new district,” said Dan Wilcox, President/CEO of the YMCA of Central Florida. “We look forward to serving and improving the lives of our neighbors in the College Park, Downtown Orlando and surrounding areas for generations to come at our newest YMCA Family Center.”

The Family Center, which will be the 23rd location for the Central Florida association, is projected to break ground in late 2019 and be operational by early 2021.

Plans for The Packing District have continued to unfold within the last year. Late last year, Dr. Phillips Charities announced its gift of more than 100 acres of land adjacent to the District to the City of Orlando to make way for a regional park that would serve as a hub for wellness programs and provide a site for amenities, including the city’s tennis center, bike trails, running trails and more.

Preparations are underway to ready the site for construction, which will span the next 10-15 years in four phases.

About The Packing District
The Packing District is a 202-acre transformational project centered at the intersection of Princeton Street and Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, preserving and recapturing a defining part of our community’s history while providing a vibrant base of living and commerce. Historic buildings will be repurposed, integrated with new uses, and connected to dedicated public spaces by a new and bold plan for urban trails and a new 100-acre public park (gifted to the City of Orlando) dedicated to health and wellness, education, arts and community, and sustainability. Preparations began to ready the site for construction in 2018. The project will continue to mature over the next 10-15 years as laid out in the four-phase master plan.

To learn more, follow The Packing District on Facebook and Instagram.

About Dr. Phillips Charities
Dr. Phillips Charities has made over $190 million in grants, pledges and program-related investments to Central Florida charities responding to the needs of the community and directly touching the lives of thousands of children and families. The Dr. Phillips name has been a major economic and philanthropic presence in the Central Florida community since the turn of the 20th century. Dr. Phillips Charities honors the legacy of the Phillips family and its support of organizations that live up to the motto “to help others help themselves.”

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 22 YMCA locations across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties. 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 neighborhoods.

Inspiring Kids to be Physically Active

It’s 6:00pm, after a long day of work, and I have successfully picked up my kids from their grandparents, gotten my 7 year-old son changed and ready for Y soccer (after searching high and low for his cleats and shin guards, which we never can seem to find), convinced my daughter that, yes, she does have to go with us to his soccer practice, packed up her bike in the back of the car, along with plenty of snacks, and made it to the field, gotten the bike out of the car, lugged everything out to the track at their school where practice is, and flopped down in my chair. I know that is a run on sentence—but most days I feel like I am living a run-on life, as I am sure many other moms do, too. That sentence is reflective of exactly how it feels and when I can finally put the period at the end, I just want to stop. Done. Rest. Pause.

Then my daughter looks at me. “Mommy, will you play with me on playground? Mommy, will you walk with me while I ride my bike around the track?”

This is when my internal struggle begins. I’m not ready for the next sentence yet. Didn’t you notice there was not an exclamation at the end of the last sentence, peanut? Can’t you play by yourself? Mommy is just going to sit here and rest… nope. No, I am not. I need to set the example. I need to join in. I need to make sure that by the time she is a mommy she knows how important it is to take care of herself and know that after that walk, she is going to feel better.

“Ok, peanut. Let’s go play.”

I drag myself up and walk the track with her and climb through the playground and help her on the monkey bars and over the tower and through the tube. And sure enough. When the hour of practice is up, I feel better. I was present. I was a good role model for her, and for my son, and reminded myself that moving matters for me—and them.

Here are some other ways that you can inspire the kiddos (and yourself) to be active – together:

  • After dinner active time (since it’s daylights saving), skip TV for a walk or bike ride
  • Play catch. Seriously. Good old fashion catch. Football, baseball, lacrosse—whatever your kiddos like best and you don’t have to be awesome at it! They don’t care!
  • Obstacle course at the park: make up a Ninja Warrior course at the park and actually do it with your kids. Again—you don’t have to be great at it, but they will be more likely to do it if you do, too.
  • Balloon games. The night I busted out the balloons with the kids I was shocked and forgot just how much fun you can have playing volleyball and numerous other games with just a balloon.
  • Dance party. Yep. If you drive by our house, you might see our shadows dancing to our favorite tunes and the kids LOVE it the most when I join in. Mix it up with freeze dance, kids choice on the music, and varying the temp of the music.



    • 10 x 10 x 10: Together, complete these exercises every day. They are safe for the kids because you do them with our own body weight and good for you too: 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups or jelly-bellies and 10 squats. Check out my video for how to do each one!


By: Kelly Prather, Executive Director of Health Strategies & Member Experience


Teaching Kindness

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor:  Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

I had a youth pastor friend once ask a group of parents, “What do you want your children to know before they graduate from high school?” As a parent, my list was pretty long:  Balance a checkbook, change a tire, carry on a conversation with an adult, look someone in the eyes when you speak, respect others, know that above all else they are loved, be kind to others, just to name a few.

It’s that last one that I want to spend some time on now. Each of those things requires that we are purposeful with our teachings. We are never going to learn to change a car tire by simply watching NASCAR. We have to go outside, get the jack and lug wrench out, and show our kids how to do it. The same is true for being kind to others.

One of the best ways I know how to teach kindness is to provide our kids with opportunities to volunteer with a local nonprofit, and forget ourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Many opportunities are available for us as parents that are simple for us to actually do. Spend time at a food pantry, visit a nursing home or even do some yard work for a neighbor. Being kind can simply be putting someone else before ourselves. Taking the time out of our busy schedules to volunteer together helps our children see the world does not revolve around ourselves or even our family.

We are starting a new initiative to live out kindness to our community by volunteering together.  If you or your family would be interested in joining in on one of our service projects, let us know and we will invite you to join us next time we lend a helping hand.

by Chad Garmon, Executive Director of Christian Initiatives & Community Partnerships

YMCA of Central Florida Invites Families to “Awaken Summer Imagination” on Healthy Kids Day®

The 27th annual event, which will be held April 21, is open to the public and will include family-friendly activities

ORLANDO, FLA. (April X, 2018) – The YMCA of Central Florida is welcoming all families from across the region to swing by their neighborhood Y on Saturday, April 21 for a day of fun activities at its 27th annual Healthy Kids Day®. Healthy Kids Day is the Y-USA’s national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids by inspiring them to keep their minds and bodies active during the summer. The daytime event is open to the public and will feature wholesome activities including games, health screenings, and sports and group exercise demos. Attendees will also be able to sign up their kids for summer camp, youth sports and complimentary swim-safety lessons during Safety Around Water Week.

YMCA of Central Florida Family Centers participating in this year’s event include the following:

·         Avalon Park YMCA ·         Osceola County YMCA
·         Blanchard Park YMCA ·         Oviedo YMCA
·         Cocoa YMCA ·         Roper YMCA
·         Downtown Orlando YMCA ·         South Orlando YMCA
·         Dr. P. Phillips YMCA ·         Tangelo Park YMCA
·         Frank DeLuca YMCA ·         Titusville YMCA
·         Golden Triangle YMCA ·         Wayne Densch YMCA
·         J. Douglas Williams YMCA ·         Winter Park YMCA
·         Lake Nona YMCA  


When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Research shows that when kids leave school for the summer, they are more prone to fall behind in school and to gain weight. This learning loss is more pronounced among students from low-income families who may not be able to afford access to out-of-school learning activities. As spring turns to summer, Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days. Instead, the Y wants families to focus on charging kids up with enthusiasm for themselves and their potential.

“At the Y, we are dedicated to providing every child, regardless of their background, with the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Dan Wilcox, CEO of the YMCA of Central Florida. “We look forward to welcoming families from all the communities we serve out for a day of fun-filled activities and empowering them to stay active in Spirit, Mind and Body.”

To help families and kids start their summer off on the right foot, the YMCA of Central Florida will be offering half-off summer camp registration fees, youth sports and aquatics programs to all new members who join at the event.

Hours and activities for Healthy Kids Day will vary by location. For more information, visit




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 22 YMCA locations across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties. 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.



YMCA of Central Florida Continues Pursuit to End Childhood Drowning with Complimentary Water Safety Classes

The nonprofit is inviting all children aged 5 to 12 years to attend its annual five-day introductory swim program from April 23 to 27

 ORLANDO, FLA. (April X, 2018) – The YMCA of Central Florida is continuing its pursuit to end childhood drowning in Florida. The nonprofit is inviting all local families with children aged 5 to 12 years to sign up and attend its five-day introductory swim program. The complimentary water safety classes will be hosted at 13 family centers across Central Florida from April 23 to 27 and are part of Y-USA’s national initiative, Safety Around Water Week. During the program, YMCA Swim Academy Instructors will cover:

  • Exercises to help kids adjust to being in the water
  • Instruction in “Jump, Push, Turn, Grab” and “Swim, Float, Swim” survival techniques that can help children if they find themselves in a potentially life-threatening situation in the water
  • Lessons on safety topics for parents, such as what to do if you see someone in the water who needs help
  • Fun activities to reinforce swimming and survival skills

“Every year, 75 child drownings are reported in Florida,” said Rowdy Gaines, YMCA Vice President of Aquatics and a three-time Olympic gold medal swimmer. “That is the highest number in the country and we’re working to change that. It has been proven that if a child takes swimming lessons, their risk of drowning is reduced by almost 90-percent. With water everywhere in Florida, it’s imperative that every child and their parent learn lifesaving water safety skills.”

There is no fee to sign up for Safety Around Water Week and classes are open to the public. Participating locations are listed below:

·       Aquatic Center YMCA ·       Osceola County YMCA
·       Blanchard Park YMCA ·       Roper YMCA
·       Cocoa YMCA ·       South Orlando YMCA
·       Dr. P. Phillips YMCA ·       Titusville YMCA
·       Frank DeLuca YMCA ·       Wayne Densch YMCA
·       Golden Triangle YMCA ·       Winter Park YMCA
·       Lake Nona YMCA  


Registration for the program is on a first-come, first-served basis, so families are encouraged to sign up online or in-person at their neighborhood YMCA as soon as possible. The deadline to sign up is April 18. For more information on available time slots, visit

The YMCA of Central Florida’s Safety Around Water Week is made possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors, including Melissa Mishoe, Nemours Children’s Health System and the Florida Swimming Pool Association.




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 22 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.


Become Alive Again

March is National Nutrition Month and what a great month it is. Spring arrives. Days are finally getting longer, the temperatures are beginning to warm up, and many of us start organizing and cleaning our homes. But spring cleaning is not just for your home anymore! It’s just as important for us to clean and brighten up other parts of our lives. Even if that New Year’s resolution did not work out.

Fear not, now is time for another resolution of sorts, more of a renewal, a freshening up. In my humble opinion, spring is a better time to rekindle your diet and workout routine. Restart that spark inside of you, supercharge your health and boost your energy. So, forget about the old New Year’s resolution and kick off the spring season feeling rejuvenated, happy and healthy.

Start by cleaning out your pantry. Begin this process by sorting through your cabinets and tossing out anything that’s expired. Yes, things in your pantry do have an expiration date! Spices, canned foods, baking supplies, nuts, cereal and even grains. Out with the old and in with the new.

You may find that you slipped into some not so great habits over the winter, so now’s the time to break them and start fresh. Go through your pantry and throw away any items that you feel are holding you down, whether it’s sugar, caffeine, or wheat, and replace them with healthy staples like herbs, spices, whole grains, oils, and teas.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of all the expired items or foods that might slow you down, it’s time to stock up on lots of fresh seasonal produce. Artichokes, peas (garden, snap, and snow) apricots, asparagus, rhubarb, mint and basil are examples of some delicious spring produce that you’ll begin to see in at the local farmer’s market. Strawberries and blueberries are another delicious and healthy treat, sweet, juicy and just plain yummy. Loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants, these little gems are the perfect snack during the warmer months.

Switch up your nutrition routine or get into one. Spring cleaning your lifestyle is not just making over your pantry and fridge. Spring is a great time to start to add a rainbow of colorful and flavorful foods into your daily routine.  The cleaner you eat, the better you will feel. Give your body the attention it needs. If you eat fresh fruits and veggies that you enjoy on a regular basis, you’re more likely to make it a natural part of daily life.

Enjoy the spring season, it’s the best time of year to become alive again.

By: Gary Appelsies, Director of Healthy Eating, YMCA of Central Florida

Keeping Your Family Heart Healthy

With February being American Heart Month, we are focused on being heart healthy. “It’s really important to be physically active on a regular basis for the health of your heart,” says Kelly Prather, the YMCA of Central Florida’s Executive Director of Health Strategy and Member Experience. Hear more from Kelly’s radio interview with Ellis and Tyler from Z88.3 Mornings.

Pan American Masters Championship

Orlando, Fla., to Host 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championship

The swimming championship will be held at the YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive

ORLANDO, FLA. (Sept. 8, 2016) — The Central Florida YMCA is pleased to announce that Union Americana de Natacion (UANA) has selected Orlando and the Central Florida YMCA to host the 2018 Pan American Masters Championship. The Championship will be held at the YMCA Aquatic Center on the famous International Drive in Orlando, Florida. U.S. Masters Swimming, the national governing body for adult swimming, led the process that resulted in Orlando’s selection by UANA.

“It is an honor for the YMCA of Central Florida to host The UANA Pan American Masters Championships,” says Rowdy Gaines, Vice President of Aquatics. “We recognize the prestige of hosting this international event and our Masters teams, corporate partners and incredible volunteers are so excited to welcome the world of Masters Aquatics to Orlando for the first time. The Masters family is very special to me and I can’t wait to swim the 50-meter freestyle and relays with my own teammates!”

The UANA is the organization that oversees amateur aquatic sports competition in the Western Hemisphere and granted the USMS’ bid to host the games this year. This will be only the second time the USA has hosted the biennial event, and the first time that it will be hosted in Orlando.

“UANA is looking forward to hosting the 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships in Orlando,” says Mel Goldstein, President of UANA.  “This event will attract approximately 2,500 athletes from 43 Swimming Federations in North, South, Central America and the Caribbean. The popularity of Orlando will make this the largest Masters event, other than a World Championship, that North America has ever held.”

The 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championship will start July 25, 2018, and will run until Aug. 12. Championship events include swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open-water swimming. The schedule for these events is as follows:

  • Masters Diving: July 25-27, 2018
  • Masters Swimming: July 28-August 3, 2018
  • Open Water: August 4 and 5, 2018
  • Masters Water Polo: August 5-9, 2018
  • Open Synchro: August 10-12, 2018

“The YMCA Aquatic Center is one of the most respected aquatic centers in the country,” says USMS CEO Dawson Hughes. “They have experience hosting large events and the facility, volunteers and community support to showcase this international event.”

Rosen Hotels & Resorts is the hotel partner for The 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championship and is a sponsor of the YMCA Aquatic Center. Founder, Harris Rosen, is a noted philanthropist and humanitarian within the community who has donated more than $1 million to the YMCA of Central Florida and currently serves on the board of directors for the YMCA Aquatic Center.

“Our YMCA Aquatic Center is a treasured Orlando resource,” says Harris Rosen, founder and president of the award-winning Rosen Hotels & Resorts. “We have nationally respected swim programs and existing events that draw significant tourism.  Most importantly, the Y teaches thousands each year to be water safe. To have a prestigious international event like the Pan American Championships is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire staff at the Aquatic Center.  We are proud to be the official hotel and resort partner.”

About Union Americana de Natacion

UANA is a sports organization representing the Western Hemisphere, including South America, Central America, Canada and the USA, with the purpose of organizing, supervising and controlling the amateur aquatics activities of Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Synchronized Swimming, Masters Swimming and Open Water. For more information, visit

About U.S. Masters Swimming

U.S. Masters Swimming encourages adults to enjoy the health, fitness, and social benefits of swimming by providing more than 2,000 adult swimming programs and events across the country, including open water and pool competitions. USMS’s nearly 65,000 members range from age 18 to 99 and include swimmers of all ability levels. USMS, a nonprofit, also trains and certifies coaches and provides online workouts, a bimonthly member magazine, monthly eNewsletters, and technique articles and videos at

About YMCA of Central Florida
For over 130 years, the YMCA of Central Florida has focused on strengthening communities through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Operating 27 YMCA Family Centers across Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Marion counties, the Y is on a mission to improve the lives of all in Central Florida by connecting individuals, families and communities with opportunities based on Christian values that strengthen Spirit, Mind and Body.  As one of the area’s largest non-profits, Y serves over 400,000 Central Floridians per year and employs 1,800 Y staff who join together with thousands of donors, volunteers and advocates to empower our community for good. To join the cause or for more information, visit    

About Rosen Hotels and Resorts
Rosen Hotels & Resorts owns and operates seven quality Orlando hotels in the center of world-famous attractions, shopping and entertainment. All seven properties are minutes from the YMCA Aquatic Center, Orange County Convention Center, Universal Orlando® Resorts, SeaWorld Orlando® and Walt Disney World®. Guided by founder and President Harris Rosen’s unsurpassed standards of quality and service, the company’s team of experienced professionals will help make your Orlando vacation a memorable experience.  For more information, visit


#YBEKIND to Your Heart?

Your heart is perhaps the most important muscle in your body. If your heart is not functioning properly, the organs in your body are not getting the proper amount of oxygen they need to function at their fullest. That’s their nutrition! And by supplying your body and your heart with foods that are healthful, your heart will pump rich, oxygenated blood through your veins and to the organs that help our bodies to function at peak performance.

We have been told many times that eating certain foods can increase our risk for heart disease. Did you know that eating other foods may help to reduce your risk? I know it can be a challenge to change your eating habits, but when it comes to your heart and your overall health, it’s worth it, whether you have been eating “unhealthy” for years or you simply want to give your diet a minor tune up. Keeping your heart healthy may add years to your life. Knowing what to eat more of and what to limit will get you well on the way to a heart healthy diet.

Here are some tips to help you get on the road to better heart health.

1. Control your portion size

How much you eat is just as important as what you eat.

Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can help you to slim down your waistline and help your heart to function more efficiently.

Did you know that the proper serving size for pasta is only ½ cup while the serving size for meat, fish or chicken is about 3 ounces?

2. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Nutrients found in plants may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more nutrient-dense foods may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meats, cheeses and snack foods. They tend to fill you up more and give your body the fiber that it needs.

Did you know that studies have shown if you keep fresh fruits and vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator or on your counter top you are more likely to reach for that, than you are for a high fat, high sugar snack?

Try to choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as their main ingredients. You can find recipes like this on the YMCA of Central Florida recipe page.

3. Select more whole grains

Whole grains are great sources of fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and overall heart health. It’s easy to increase the amounts of whole grains by just substituting them for the non-whole grains you already use. For example, you can use whole grain pasta for white pasta or 7 grain bread for your typical white wheat.

Did you know that whole-grain pasta is an excellent source of B vitamins, and iron? The most common whole-grain pastas are made from whole wheat, brown rice or buckwheat.

4. Limit unhealthy fats

Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Did you know that The American Heart Association offers these guidelines for how much fat to include in a heart-healthy diet?

5. Choose low-fat protein sources

What are some of the best sources of low-fat protein? Fish poultry and lean cuts of meat, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. Make sure you choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts, grilled or baked fish rather than say, fried chicken or fried fish. Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are also good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them great substitutes for meat.

Did you know that fish is an excellent alternative to high-fat meats? Certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats better known as triglycerides. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Other good sources of the amazing omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.

6. Reduce the sodium in your food

High levels of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing your sodium intake is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.
Reducing the amount of salt you add to your food is a good first step. However, much of the salt we eat comes from canned or processed foods. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt intake. Try substituting fresh herbs and spices in your food to add flavor.

Did you know that adults should have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day? That’s equal to about a teaspoon of salt.

7. Plan ahead: Create daily menus

Create daily menus using the strategies above. Remember to emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Choose lean protein sources, healthy fats, and limit salty foods. Check your portion sizes and add variety to your food choices.

Did you know that planning out your meals and snacks will help you to eat better and live a healthier life?


By: Gary Appelsies – Director of Healthy Eating YMCA of Central Florida

Self-care is Not Selfish Care

If you have ever traveled on a commercial airline, you have heard and probably ignored the flight attendants giving the safety briefing. It is actually very good advice on how we should approach our own self-care. It often sounds something like this: “In the event the cabin loses air pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartment… please place your mask over your nose and mouth before attempting to assists those around you.”

Taking care of ourselves is not always our first reaction when it comes to our everyday living. However, to be healthy in spirit, mind and body, we have to first look to carve out the time needed to put on your own masks. As this New Year starts, make sure you are finding the time for reflection, meditation, and prayer to help renew your spirit. Rest not just by sleep, but rest from work and life’s weighty responsibilities to restore our mind. Then opportunities to make one more positive choice today towards healthy eating habits and body movement. Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you. When we look at Jesus, we see times when he took a time out from teaching and healing the sick to be alone and pray to the father. In the Old Testament, we have the example of the Creator resting on the seventh day, not because he needed to, but to be a guide for us—his creations. It’s not selfish to spend time taking care of yourself.

Set a goal this year to make one better choice each day as you pursue a better you, and together we will pursue a better us.

by Chad Garmon, Executive Director of Christian Initiatives & Community Partnerships

Are you eating yourself to health?

It’s time again when we jump on the ever so popular resolution train. For many, those resolutions are around health and wellbeing. But, where do you start? Does a healthy lifestyle begin at home? Does it start at the gym? I believe it starts at home. In the United States, there are over 150 million people, including millions of children, who suffer from obesity, diabetes, and a myriad of chronic illness. The problem is growing and in a majority of cases can be cured and/or limited by taking on your kitchen. Yes, I know that when you have a family at times it can become difficult to master culinary delights for everyone while running to afterschool activities, homework and everything else that falls on your plate.

What I will tell you is that eating more whole, real foods, cooking them at home and sitting down together as a family will help to improve your health and the health of your family. The truth is, most of us simply don’t shop properly. We allow our taste buds and our bodies to be hijacked by the over consumption of salt, chemicals and other preservatives used to make “food” what they call “shelf stable.” I am not sure about you, but I certainly don’t want to put something in my body that can last on my local grocers’ shelf for months, if not years, on end.

Processed foods, especially sugar, can be as addictive as drugs or alcohol. How do we help ourselves to get out of this addictive food state? Willpower? That might help in the short term but it won’t help you in the long run. What we need to do is refocus our energy on eating real food and not feeling guilty. The closer to nature we eat, the easier our bodies will be able to absorb those much needed nutrients and help to keep our “engine” running smoothly. Unfortunately, we did not come with an owner’s manual. And much like any other piece of equipment, we need to make sure that we are putting the right “parts,” or ingredients, into our machine for it to run properly. Read your labels if you buy processed foods, and know your facts. If a product says zero trans-fat, is that the real truth? Well, our food can be labeled that way if it has less than 2g per serving. And how many ingredients are on the label of the so called “chicken nuggets” that are being fed to your children. Oh, and most importantly, is chicken one of them?

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

Of course I can tell you to eat less and exercise more but that is just an easy way out. There is no judgment here. My goal is to help people to make healthier food choices. Clean eating really can help to heal our bodies. The process of healing in a natural way does not happen overnight. Our bodies need to do some detox and get used to eating a “diet” that consists of real food. Stick with it and you will begin to see changes you never thought possible. Before you know it your body will in a very subtle way tap you on the shoulder and say “apple, please,” when it is in need of a sugar fix.

By: Chef Gary Appelsies, Director of Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating Routine


Welcome to the start of a new year. If you are like most, you have been a bit indulgent over the holidays and now you’re starting to get rid of the holiday weight gain and moving yourself back on track.

At the beginning of the year more than any other time, I frequently get asked, “What do you eat to stay healthy?” The truth is, my diet stays very similar all year long. I try to eat mostly seasonal foods along with lean proteins.

In a nutshell, I like to eat delicious, healthy food that’s easy to prepare. I promise you, I do not starve myself or my family, and those types of foods do exist.

As with most families, we are constantly on the go.

My day begins at 6am with a hot lemon water. On a cellular level, this wakes up my body and gets it functioning. My body begins to hydrate and is ready to start the day.

By 6:30am, my morning cup of organic green tea has brewed and I am slicing up some banana, and mixing it with other fruits, such as berries or peaches, grapes, apples… really anything that’s available and in season. I sprinkle a teaspoon of chia seeds and hemp seeds for some added protein, omega 3s and omega 6 fatty acids and antioxidants. I might throw on a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt and chop up some fresh mint and basil. Now, that’s what I call breakfast.

If my morning is a little rushed, I throw it all into my favorite blender with some coconut water (sans the yogurt) and I’m off with a delicious smoothie on the go. My favorite smoothie is made with frozen mango, banana, spinach, kale and coconut water.

Snacks and lunches are generally pre-packed the night before and include some raw, unsalted nuts. An apple, some carrots and cut up celery, and on occasion, some hummus. I munch on my snacks throughout the day.

For lunch, sometimes a can of tuna mixed with pureed white beans, (in place of the mayo. Try it—you will be pleasantly surprised and you get some added protein and fiber.) lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper. I always add some mixed greens or spinach with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red and green bell peppers. I bring a small container of a balsamic, red wine or apple cider vinaigrette, some mustard and fresh herbs, too, and give it a good shake before I pour over the greens.

Dinner consists of a lean protein—we tend to eat a lot of fish in our house—some roasted or grilled veggies, Quinoa, or other whole grains, and a big salad simply dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

An evening snack for me is usually some seasonal fruit: grapes, cherries or watermelon, apple slices with some honey or raw nut butter. And a cup of green tea always ends the night blissfully.

I try to keep it simple, clean, healthy, organic, and local when available. Don’t forget to add fresh herbs and spices to your foods—they add tons of flavor. Keep a bottle of water with you to make sure that you are hydrated throughout the day. Choose the foods you enjoy and don’t deprive your body of the nutritional benefits of real unprocessed foods. If you are consistent with a healthy diet over time, your body will crave the benefits of healthier foods.

By: Chef Gary Appelsies, Director of Healthy Eating

Year-round Resolutions

By: Kelly Prather, Executive Director of Health Strategies & Member Experience

Kelly is a Health Educator by trade and has spent nearly 20 years in the Y movement specializing in health behavior change, wellness, staff development, and the overall Y Member Experience.

So, I don’t really believe in the coveted New Year’s Resolution. Through my career, I have just watched too many members put immense amounts of pressure on themselves in the month of January. They build it up to be such a BIG thing, but forget that it’s really about all the teeny, tiny steps in between. One cannot lose 50 lbs., without losing 1 lb. first.

But here is what I DO believe in. I do believe in setting small goals and working towards those goals. I know—it’s not fancy. You were probably hoping for something a little more exciting. But of all the people I have seen actually reach their BHAG (that stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) it is the ones who put together a plan, step by step, and stuck to it. They also managed to get up when they slipped. No one, and I mean no one, reaches their BHAG on the first try.

Now, it’s okay to throw those big bodacious goals out there, but make sure to back up to step one. That really is the best way to be successful. For example, if you are setting a goal to start an exercise program, below is one way you could be successful:

Step 1. Determine a minimum number of days each week you will come to the Y to exercise (My suggestion is 3.)

Step 2: Determine how much time you have to exercise when you are at the Y (My suggestion is 30–60 min total per visit.)

Step 3: Schedule to meet with a Y Wellness Coach. It’s one of the things that makes your Y membership so valuable. Although we do offer Personal Training, which could be the right fit for you, our Y Wellness Coach sessions are always available to you at no additional fee. Usually completing a series of two or three can make a big difference. Did you know that nearly all of our Y Wellness Coaches are also certified Personal Trainers? Many have four year degrees and even Masters Degrees in the Wellness field. But at the same time, they are caring and empathetic listeners. It’s one of the things that makes the Y different.

Step 4: Be patient. Remember, change on the outside does not happen overnight (ie: weight-loss). However, you start changing on the inside, and how you feel, almost immediately. This means: less pain, lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular ability, better sleep, and improved management of stress—the list goes on and on.

Step 5: Write down WHY you are committing to make exercise a part of your lifestyle and tape it to your bathroom mirror (reminders are key when we start to lose motivation).

So, this year, why not try a year-round resolution instead of a New Year’s Resolution? And, as always, ask us for help! We are here to educate, guide, support and motivate.

Tivity Health Gives Back to YMCA Members

The YMCA of Central Florida would like to thank our partners at Tivity Health for their recent donation of 100 gift cards that we were able to provide to our Central Florida neighbors in need. At both the South Orlando YMCA and Wayne Densch YMCA, Y team members helped to identify those who are in financial need, whether to support a medical aliment, hurricane relief following Irma, or other distress.

One member at Wayne Densch told our Y team, “Hurricane Irma has come and gone, but it left lots of physical as well as emotional damage behind. For me, it was both, as I was thrown into a brief state of confusion/fear by the loud sound of a tree crashing down on my house at 4:30am.” We are grateful to Tivity Health and the SilverSneakers® program for providing support to this YMCA member and others with similar stories, giving them some relief during their moments of need.

Summer 2017 leaves YMCA Camp Wewa ACA accredited!

During our 2017 summer camp program YMCA Camp Wewa was visited by the American Camp Association (ACA) to do an accreditation visit and we are happy to report that we have received our official accreditation this fall!

The American Camp Association is a community of camp professionals who, for over 100 years, have joined together to share their knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. The accreditation process consists of compliance in over 200 quality standards regarding all aspects of the camp experience. These standards are observed, reviewed and scored by an ACA representative during the day of the camp visit. Programs are seen in action and the camper and staff experience is evaluated while the ACA representative spends a day immersed in the camp environment.

The accreditation process is seen as an educational experience allowing Camp Professionals to visit other camps and learn best practices in the industry. A lot of preparation goes into an ACA accreditation visit and it is a great accomplishment to earn the badge of honor of being an ACA accredited camp. An on-site visit occurs every three to five years however there are compliance’s that need to be met every year as the responsibility of the camp is to continuously implement all mandatory policies required by the ACA.

Our goal here at YMCA Camp Wewa is for our participants to be safe, have fun and learn a little something along the way. We are very excited to maintain this accreditation for years to come and continue to collaborate with other


professionals within the camp community. Both of our Camp Directors here at YMCA Camp Wewa are practicing members of the ACA and believe in the importance of the camp experience for today’s youth. Seeking out ACA accreditation is voluntary and not a requirement for camps, however having an ACA accreditation shows our participants that we have accepted a high quality standard for our operations and programs and we are committed to delivering that standard in all that we offer.

We hope that you share in our excitement as we celebrate this great achievement!


YMCA Camp Wewa Village of Volunteers

It takes a village (of volunteers!)

YMCA Camp Wewa has a special opportunity upon us. On Saturday, October 21, 2017, our camp will be flooded with over 800 volunteers made up of Lockheed Martin employees, friends and family. Every year Lockheed Martin picks an organization to donate their time and resources to for their Day of Caring event. This year YMCA Camp Wewa will be the benefactor of this company-led initiative.

With initial planning efforts extending all the way back to December of 2016, this event has been a long time in the making. Beginning talks were fueled by considering what Camp Wewa needs and this list of projects and improvements began to materialize, figuratively and literally! Once we shared our blue sky vision of what could take our “rustic” facility and operations to the next level; plans were formed and supply lists were created. With the longevity of our property that has been well loved by campers, alumni, and rental groups throughout the years, the re-fresh that Lockheed Martin is providing will be more than welcomed.

Projects during the Day of Caring will range from painting, cleaning cabins, clearing brush and trails, all the way to building a new volleyball court, laying a new dining hall floor and installing an audio/video system in our outdoor pavilion. Seeing all of this come to fruition in a mere few hours will be quite the sight to behold. As with anything—when you have enough hands, (and hearts!) you can accomplish so much.

Here at the YMCA of Central Florida, we guide our programming and ourselves through our YMCA core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility and Faith. A Day of Caring falls right in-line with what we do in our communities of Central Florida through our family centers, elementary school, middle school and camp programs. We are excited to pay forward what Lockheed Martin is doing for us as we continue to promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility here at YMCA Camp Wewa.

-Sarah Seaman, Director of Camp Wewa

Encouraging Healthy Habits in Our Kids

Encouraging Healthy Habits

“I try to encourage healthy eating habits for my family, but nutritious choices don’t seem to be appealing.” I hear this time and time again from parents who are trying to get their kids to eat healthier. Yes, it can be a challenge, but we must not give up.

Whether they’re toddlers or in their teens, children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most.

It’s important to remember that our kids aren’t born with a craving for French fries and pizza and an aversion to broccoli and carrots. When we get right down to it, this conditioning happens over time as kids are exposed to unhealthier food choices. The good news? It is without a doubt possible to reprogram your children’s food cravings so they crave healthier foods instead. So mom and dad, the sooner you introduce wholesome, more nutritious choices into our kids’ diets, the easier they’ll be able to develop a healthy relationship with food that can last them a lifetime. Now I know you’re going to jump up and say, “But I’ve tried and tried again and again but my kids still only want to have cookies and cake.”  Or some other child-friendly, gluttonous “treat.” I implore you to be patient. This change won’t happen overnight. In fact, your kids will be complaining that there is no food in the house if you take away their favorite snacks. You need to trust me when I say that over time, when all that’s available to them is an apple, they WILL eat it. Slowly but surely their tastes buds will begin to change and there will be a blissful craving for healthier snacks.

So now you want to get started… try a few of these tips and tricks to start moving those cravings to something so sweet, yet crunchy, so satisfying, your child looks you straight in the eye and says, “apple please!”

Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods.

Kids should be eating more whole, minimally processed food. Food that is as close to its natural form as possible and less packaged and processed food.

Be a role model

The childhood impulse to imitate is strong, (even for teens) so don’t ask your child to eat fruits and vegetables while you gorge on potato chips and chocolate cake.

Disguise the taste of healthier foods

Add vegetables to a beef stew, for example, or mash carrots up with mashed potatoes, or add a sweet dip like honey to slices of apple.

Cook more meals at home

Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat, so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health. If you make large batches, cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for the whole week.

Get kids involved

get your kids involved in shopping for groceries and preparing meals. You can even teach them about different foods and how to read food labels.

Make healthy snacks available

Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips and cookies.

Limit portion sizes

Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.

Once you start healthy habits, healthy habits will begin to form.