Spring is the sign of new beginnings, which is why I am proud to serve as the new chair of the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs. For the past few years, Ys across Texas have worked diligently to build awareness around youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We started by partnering with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to reduce youth obesity through our programs and advocacy efforts. We gained so much momentum that we brought along other partners, such as the Voices for Healthy Kids, to continue our fight towards reducing youth obesity, specifically in the out-of-school time arena. Fast forward to the present day and we are working with great legislative champions on HB 168 and SB 757, bills that would recognize out-of-school time providers who go above & beyond the state’s minimum licensing standards when it comes to promoting physical activity and nutrition.
This policy is extremely important for families across Texas as it gives parents more information on the quality of care available to their children. Simply put, parents and caregivers deserve quality programming and easy access to information that informs their childcare decisions. The good news is that most licensed providers are already implementing various components of healthy eating and physical activity in their programs. With that in mind, there is an opportunity to focus on the role that those providers can play in shaping our youth’s development. During our State Advocacy Days in February, we met with more than 40 elected officials that have Ys within their district as well as members of the Texas YMCA Legislative Caucus to advocate in support of this endeavor. The Y, along with our partners and other like-minded organizations, want to create policies that would ensure a positive future for Texas kids.
As the new chair, I plan to foster support around our three areas of focus as well as continue to address chronic diseases for both youth and adults. It’s important that we, as YMCA advocates, work to keep youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility at the forefront of state conversations and proposed solutions. As our legislation moves along in the process we hope that we can count on your support. Sign up for our action alerts so you can know when to call your elected officials about HB 168 and SB 757, have an opportunity to write a letter of support to committee members, and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #txlege. No form of advocacy is too small and everything you do gets us one step closer in making Texas a healthy place to live, grow and thrive.
Tony Shuman, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Some see a reluctant child just playing soccer….I see a child overcoming her fears to be around people because she was abused. I see a child making new friends and smiling for the first time in weeks.
Some see a man holding a kids hand playing indoor soccer and getting in the way…. I see a nurse helping a terminally ill child play a game he loves so he is able to forget about his illness for an hour.
Some see a quadriplegic individual heading into the pool with his therapist…. I see a young man smiling because for a few minutes the water gives him the ability to have some freedom and move his body in ways he can’t on land.
Some see two people working out on treadmills….I see a friend of the Y who made a donation that enabled a single mother to purchase a Y membership and now has the ability to relieve some stress while working towards living a healthier lifestyle.
Some see a child playing t-ball….I see a child learning the fundamentals of baseball, making new friends, and putting smiles on her family’s faces as she heads to the wrong base.
Some see a child getting dropped off for summer day camp….I see a child who has the opportunity to continue to learn and explore, have fun, experience new things, make friends, go on field trips, and receive two meals in a positive, caring environment; all the while mom and dad are working hard to provide for their families knowing their children are safe.
Some see a high school student in a lifeguard stand….I see a young person developing future life skills and making a rescue of a young child that gives this child a chance to live a long, full life.
Some see a spin instructor showing up for his shift….I see an individual who volunteers their time to the Y and is helping others realize the same health benefits of the class that he once experienced.
Some see an individual working out tirelessly on an elliptical….I see an individual who is pre-diabetic working to improve his health to ensure he is here for his loved ones.
Some see a coach teaching the kids the fundamentals of a sport….I see an individual volunteering their time to make a difference with children by showing them they are all important and valued.
Some see an individual struggling to finish a 5K….I see a person accomplishing a goal, building self-confidence, and becoming healthier day by day.
Some see a person give a few dollars to the Y….I see a donor who is selflessly giving someone an opportunity to utilize Y services that otherwise may not have been able to without support.
Some see a CEO concerned with staff management, operations, and the bottom line….I see someone working for a cause and looking for the next program opportunity to make a difference and change lives.
The Palestine YMCA Early Childhood Center, which serves 125 children through the age of 12, received a four-star rating, making it the first and only child-care provider in Anderson County to become a Texas Rising Star Center.
The Texas Rising Star (TRS) program is a voluntary, quality-based child-care rating system of child-care providers participating in the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child-care program.
TRS certification is available to licensed centers, and the licensed and registered child-care certification system offers three levels of certification — two-star, three-star, and four-star — to encourage providers to attain progressively higher certification requirements leading to a four-star level.
“We voluntarily did it,” Early Childhood Director Carl Simon said. “Our board asked us to do it and I worked for a year to get us certified.”
The providers that voluntarily achieve TRS provider certification offer quality care that exceeds the state’s minimum child-care licensing standards in the following areas: director and staff qualifications, caregiver-child interactions, age-appropriate curriculum and activities, nutrition, indoor/outdoor activities, parent involvement and education.
“We are so proud of our staff who worked so hard for many months to become a four-star Texas Rising Star child-care provider. This ultimately puts us in a better position to serve children and their families.” Simon said.
The YMCA of Greater Houston, Humble ISD Foundation and Humble ISD Form Partnership to Support a Growing Number of Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities in northeast Harris County will soon have a place to play sports, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
Last fall marked the groundbreaking of an adaptive sports complex – which features two fields specifically designed for wheelchairs and walkers. The complex will cater to children with physical and mental disabilities, including students in the Humble Independent School District (Humble ISD).
The $4.8 million sports complex is being built in partnership between the YMCA of Greater Houston, the Humble Independent School District Education Foundation (Humble ISD Foundation) and Humble ISD. It will be located between the district’s new elementary and middle schools.
Those at the groundbreaking ceremony included: YMCA President and CEO Paul McEntire, Humble ISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, and Jay Mincks, the executive vice president of Insperity, the lead donor of the sports complex with a $1 million gift.
The second of its kind in the county, the Adaptive Sports Complex is putting the Greater Houston area on the map in terms of its strong commitment to children with special needs and to adaptive sports venues that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Kids actually get to feel what it’s like to hit a ball, run to a base, and experience sports like children without disabilities do,” said Paul McEntire, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. “It brings them a sense of joy and accomplishment, not to mention the thrill of people in the stands cheering for them.”
Players, including those involved in Miracle League baseball for children with special needs, will be able to play sports without fear of injury. Each will have a “buddy,” a YMCA volunteer who can help them swing their bats and move from base to base.
The fields also are equipped to handle soccer, softball, flag football, kickball, field-day games and the Special Olympics.
“Humble ISD is excited to partner with the YMCA to establish a new and innovative outdoor facility,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen. “All students and families should be able to experience fun and healthy physical activities together. Inclusive environments make that possible.”
Funded through the YMCA, the Humble ISD Foundation and other partners and sponsors, the sports complex will sit on five acres owned by the school district. Humble ISD will own, maintain and utilize the facility during the school day, and the YMCA will use the facility during the evenings and on weekends. This partnership is expected to maximize the number of children who will use the facility.
“This is a unique partnership in terms of the YMCA, a major school district and the community working together to build this much-needed facility,” said Mark Koenig, co-chair of the Sports For All Campaign, which is raising money for the complex. “We hope that this partnership will become a model to build even more adaptive sports complexes in the Houston area.”
The new sports complex will feature two multi-purpose fields made with a cushioned, synthetic turf that allows mobility devices to easily move and not get bogged down in grass or mud. The complex will also include a barrier-free playground with ramps, special swings and jungle-gym equipment for children with disabilities to climb and play alongside their siblings and friends. The playground’s tactile, visual and auditory components are designed to engage children with autism and other developmental conditions. Furthermore, a large pavilion equipped with modified hoops for basketball will also serve as a gathering place and concessions stand. Quiet rooms will be available when overstimulation occurs in special needs children.
“This is a very meaningful partnership because it is providing children and young adults with disabilities the opportunity to experience something that they otherwise may never have experienced,” said Joe Cleary, co-chairman of the capital campaign. “And let’s not forget about the parents who get to sit back and relax in the bleachers and watch their children have fun without worrying that they won’t fit in.”
Construction could be completed by late summer of 2017 – just in time to celebrate opening day of The Miracle League’s fall season – but it is dependent on the success of fundraising efforts. Major donors include Insperity, the Houston Astros Foundation, Be An Angel, and community leaders and philanthropists Joe and Cathy Cleary.
For more information, please visit: www.ymcahouston.org/sports-for-all.
In early February, over 55 YMCA CEOs, staff, and board members convened in Austin for the biennial State Advocacy Days. During their time in Austin, they met with more than 40 legislative offices to share key information about the DASH initiative and other topics that promote healthy living, youth development and social responsibility. Representative Eddie Lucio III gave an inspiring keynote address about the importance of instilling healthy habits in Texas youth. Representative Lucio is a strong supporter of the YMCA and the author of HB 168, which establishes the Distinguished Afterschool Health Recognition Program. In addition, Representative Jason Villalba congratulated Gordon Echtenkamp on his retirement from the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas by introducing House Resolution 402 and inviting him onto the dais to be honored in front of the House of Representatives. Special thanks to both Representative Lucio & Representative Villalba for their support of the YMCA and their contributions to our State Advocacy Days!
Texas YMCAs showed up in full force at the 2017 Y-USA National Advocacy Days held in Washington D.C. The Texas delegation, which included the Austin Metropolitan YMCA, YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, YMCA of Greater El Paso TX & Rio Grande Valley, and the YMCA of the Greater Houston Area, met with fifteen Congressional offices to ask for their support of the Y’s national advocacy initiatives. In addition to YMCA CEOs and staff, Texas was also represented by Texas Youth & Government youth advocates from the Houston & Dallas areas, Monica Earley and Nandita Vegesna. These youth took part in various workshops and met with Congressional staff to advocate for Y priorities as well as share their personal Y stories.
The YMCA of Greater San Antonio Partners with Local Organization to Empower Young Adults with Disabilities to Improve Their Health
The YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Y Living Center is centrally located on San Antonio’s south side and is poised to play an essential role in the implementation of community-based chronic illness intervention programs for an at-risk community. The programs at the center provide wellness education, promote physical activity and create a culture for support and success.
Recently, the Y Living Center partnered up with a San Antonio organization called The Arc of San Antonio. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.
Together, the organizations will bring a program called “Health Matters” to individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities all over San Antonio. This free, 12 week class is for individuals 18 years of age or older with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want to become better informed about their own health, nutrition and fitness.
The benefits of health promotion activities have been well documented for the general population; however, individuals with developmental disabilities are often not included in health promotion activities. For people with disabilities, changes in lifestyle and environmental conditions may have the same potential to improve physical, mental, and social functioning.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas welcomes Curt Hazelbaker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, as its new president and CEO following the retirement of long-time president and CEO Gordon Echtenkamp.
“The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas can help solve some of the most critical challenges we face as a community – specifically in the areas of health and wellness,” said Kelvin Walker, Board Chair of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. “Yes, the Y is a great place to swim and our life-saving swimming lessons make us a key public safety partner."
Mr. Hazelbaker is not new to the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. In fact, he worked at the Town North Family YMCA as a camp counselor when he was young. This experience spring boarded a passion for the Y that became his life’s career path, leading him to various positions within the YMCA, before being named president and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. There Mr. Hazelbaker’s fund raising efforts doubled annual giving and he formed several key new programs in the areas of education, childhood obesity, aquatics and community wellness.
Additionally, Mr. Hazelbaker holds significant leadership positions for the Y nationally. He is a current Board Member of the YMCA of the USA Board of Directors – one of only five YMCA employees on the 27-member board. The board is a national resource office for America’s 2,700 YMCAs. He currently chairs a vital philanthropy effort, advises for the YUSA strategic plan and Y governance, and is engaged in efforts to better outreach to millennials.
“It feels great to be back where my love for the YMCA began,” said Curt Hazelbaker, incoming President and CEO YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and lead the community that has given me so much. Our three pillars are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. By focusing on these three areas, the Y can be a truly transformative partner in improving the health and wellness of the communities we serve. Thanks to current president and CEO Gordon Echtenkamp and the great foundation that he has built over the past 16 years of his tenure, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas is poised to be that partner. I’m honored to grow that role for the Y.”
Mr. Hazelbaker will officially assume the role of President and CEO on January 16, 2017. Mr. Echtenkamp will stay on for a period of time to help with the transition. Mr. Hazelbaker and his wife Melody, an educational testing coordinator, have two daughters, Maddie (22) and Caroline (19).
Former CEO of the YMCA of Moore County, Brenda Elzner with new CEO, Shane Nelson.
Rob Martin, Board President of the YMCA of Moore County is pleased to announce the selection of Shane Nelson as President and CEO of the YMCA of Moore County.
Nelson was the Executive Director at the Shiawassee Family YMCA in Owosso, Michigan and previously a Branch Executive Director for the YMCA of Central New Mexico in Clovis, New Mexico. Nelson is a native of Illinois where he began his YMCA career as a YMCA Program Director and Executive Director for the Effingham County Family YMCA in Effingham, Illinois.
“We are delighted with the selection of Shane as our next CEO,” said Martin. “He brings significant leadership experience in program development and implementation and community collaborations from the YMCAs that he has served. These experiences and passion for the true mission of the YMCA will be valuable.
We’re also grateful for the leadership of Brenda Elzner as CEO over the past six years as well as her 30 years of dedicated service to our organization. Over the last six years, Brenda has led with heart and dedication to the Y. Brenda will continue to serve as a Y fitness instructor as Nelson takes over his role as President and CEO.
Join us on April 27th for the 2017 Healthy Kids Day at the Capitol featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Natasha Hastings! This exciting event will include a keynote address from Natasha Hastings along with remarks from key elected officials on the importance of positive youth development for Texas children. For more information or to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Healthy Living Matters (HLM) on Monday, April 3rd, for advocacy day at the Texas State Capitol! This exciting event will familiarize you with issues relating to childhood obesity and how it is affecting health in your home district. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit with state lawmakers and staff to promote policy solutions. Click here for more information and to register!