The beginning of spring always brings a flurry of activity to our Texas YMCAs. As a fixture in 200 communities across the state, we’re proud to partner with Texans to support and sustain their 2018 health and wellness resolutions. Regardless of the season, the Y works to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility for all. As an Alliance of YMCAs, drowning prevention and healthy out-of-school time programs continue to be at the forefront of our priorities. Each day, our Ys provide programs that support these initiatives and foster robust collaborations with like-minded groups across the state to help make that work possible and ultimately further our impact.
As you dive into the stories highlighted in the newsletter this quarter, you’ll read about both new and sustained relationships that enable Ys to deliver our cause throughout the state. In the coming months we’ll be sharing more about the partnerships Texas Ys have established to enhance programming efforts and serve our communities well.
The Y also increases its impact with the help of advocates in the Texas Legislature who promote health and wellness for all Texans. We’ve recently had the privilege of honoring State Senators Donna Campbell and Kel Seliger along with State Representatives Lyle Larson, Sarah Davis, Dwayne Bohac, and Paul Workman with YMCA Champion Awards. These legislators had the opportunity to visit Ys in their districts and learn more about the programs happening in their communities. We’re grateful for their support of the YMCA and our mission.
On a national level, we’ve also had the opportunity to discuss our three areas of focus with members of Congress during National Advocacy Days. More than 300 Y stakeholders from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. in early March for a dialogue with decision-makers about the CDC’s Chronic Disease Control and Prevention program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the Child Protection Improvements Act and the Universal Charitable Giving Act.
As I commit to my second year as chair, I plan to continue advocating for resources that support for our areas of focus as well as for healthy out-of-school time and drowning prevention activities. Your dedication to these priorities is so appreciated and vital to the Y mission of building healthy mind, spirit and body for all.
Tony Shuman, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Mariah was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects the brain and the neurological connection it has with the body movement and muscle coordination.
Mariah’s diagnosis has led her to face many challenges but the real story is how she continues to overcome them.
In 2014, Mariah joined the DR Semmes Family YMCA to train for the Texas Regional Paralympic Games where she competed in the 100m run.
After the Paralympic Games, the Y hadn’t seen much of Mariah until she rejoined last summer. She had one goal in mind, to regain the strength she once had. With most of her time spent in a wheelchair, her strength and mobility had tremendously decreased, which caused her to rely heavily on her wheelchair and feel insecure without it.
Now, Mariah has an entirely new outlook. After receiving assistance from the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, she is now able to walk on a typical treadmill all by herself. The AlterG relieves an individual from their full body weight, allowing them to walk without the risk of injuring themselves. The DR Semmes Family YMCA is the only facility that has this type of treadmill in the city of San Antonio.
With the encouragement and innovation of her wellness coach, Erron, Mariah has maintained focus on her fitness and mobility goals and gained a new friend. Her favorite exercise is ball slams but she also enjoys the arm bike.
“I describe the Y as the place where I have a blast,” says Mariah.
Mariah is a graduate of Texas Lutheran University and currently works for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Small Business Development Center. To learn more about Mariah’s story, click here to watch a short video.
In March, Texas leadership and volunteers joined over 300 Y advocates at Y-USA’s National Advocacy Days. The Texas delegation met with Congressional offices to ask for their support of the Y’s national advocacy initiatives; including 21st Century Learning Programs and the Child Protection Improvements Act. Thanks to work of YMCA Advocates, the Y was successful in working with congressional leaders to include the Child Protection Improvements Act in the recent omnibus bill. In addition, increases in funding for prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Corporation for National and Community Service were included in the bill. As part of our intentional efforts in merging youth development & social responsibility, two Texas Youth & Government representatives served as youth advocates during National Advocacy Days and took part in various workshops and Congressional meetings. In addition to visiting members of Congress in Washington D.C., the YMCA of Greater Houston also hosted Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressman Pete Olson at YMCA branches in their respective districts.
Local YMCA Associations across Texas recently recognized state legislators who have been strong champions of the Y’s work to nurture the potential of youth, improve communities’ health and give back to its neighbors.
Senator Donna Campbell (SD-25) and Representative Lyle Larson (HD-122) were both recognized by Sandy Morander, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio; Representatives Sarah Davis (HD-134) and Dwayne Bohac (HD-138) were recognized by Paul McEntire, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston; Senator Kel Seliger (SD-31) was recognized by Shane Moore, President & CEO of the YMCA of Moore County; and Representative Paul Workman (HD-47) was recognized by James Finck, President & CEO of the YMCA of Austin.
“The Y is not just about physical fitness,” said Senator Donna Campbell. “It’s also about the emotional and spiritual support. You may or may not realize that the majority of young adults, ages 17-24, are not fit to serve. They are not fit to enlist. They fail the enlistment, so they’re not eligible for multiple reasons, but primarily, physical fitness. [The Y] is making our youth ready for the military. That’s a huge thing, a huge thing for our youth. It’s a huge thing for our national security. Truly, what you’re doing is supporting the national security of America, one Y at a time.”
Each elected official had the opportunity to meet with Y staff, volunteers and members who shared about the Y’s benefit to their families and friends and impact the Y has in each community.
Representative Lyle Larson highlighted his personal connection with the YMCA that includes playing football as a student at Coker Elementary and later as a volunteer coach. He shared his appreciation for the work the Y is doing and how the Y is meeting the needs of the community as a whole regardless of age, income or background.
“The Y is a conduit to the community. The government can't serve all these young folks and we’ve got to have groups like the YMCA that can work with the kids and the families, provide a space that can keep them out of trouble and give them something productive to do,” said Representative Larson. “It is interesting, a lot of times people look at the Y and they think there is a socio-economic barrier, but no there is not. The Y meets everybody's needs in the community and that is what's enriching about it.”
To view pictures from all of the 2018 YMCA Champion Award presentations, click here. Additional recognitions will be taking place at local YMCAs across the state as the year progresses. For more information, please contact Christianna Burwell, Public Policy & Legislative Affairs Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Moody Foundation has granted $6,250,000 to the YMCA of Austin in support of the Phase I campaign goal for Camp Cypress, an 85-acre overnight and day-camp along Onion Creek in northern Hays County.
With a vision to create a natural oasis in close proximity to the Austin-area for Central Texas youth and families, YMCA Camp Cypress aims to become the most accessible and affordable camp and retreat center in the region.
“At the Moody Foundation, we believe every Texan should have the opportunity to learn about the natural world around them,” said Ross R. Moody, trustee of the Moody Foundation and CEO of National Western Life Group. “Camp Cypress will help Austin’s underserved populations, including economically disadvantaged individuals and those with special needs, engage with their environment in a new way. Through our support of Camp Cypress, we’re proud to help create new learning opportunities for generations to come.”
Although the YMCA of Austin has had integrated hands-on outdoor learning and activities through summer day camp and parent/child camping programs since the 1970s, it is also the largest YMCA in the nation without a specific campus for overnight camping and related activities.
This grant brings the YMCA of Austin’s total to $15 million in its Phase I fundraising goal to raise $18 million for Camp Cypress. Phase I will include a dining hall, treehouse cabins, two bunk cabin villages, a 12,000-squre-foot enclosed competition aquatic center (which will also support all swim programming for the Hays Consolidated ISD), 700-foot dual zip lines, climbing wall, archery range, ropes course, entertainment amphitheater, open-air sports space and accessible trails. All of these amenities and activities will utilize universal design to be accessible and welcoming to people of all abilities.
“Today’s future scientists, problem-solvers and environmental stewards are being shaped by their outdoor experiences,” said Elizabeth Moody, trustee of the Moody Foundation. “Camp Cypress has the opportunity to help mold tomorrow’s leaders and give outdoor experiences to children for the first time, and we are proud to be part of this project.”
The Camp Cypress property was donated to the YMCA of Austin by George Yonge in 1999 with the desire to establish a camp for kids to explore the great outdoors. The property boasts a pristine, scenic and diverse 85-acre nature preserve located along a half-mile stretch of Onion Creek just off Old San Antonio Road in Buda, Texas. Located 15 miles south of downtown Austin off I-35, Camp Cypress gives children, teens and families a chance to experience the outdoors through YMCA programs.
“There is a clear need to preserve more natural spaces in Central Texas where kids can be physically active, connect with nature, and just play and explore in a safe environment,” said James Finck, YMCA of Austin President & CEO. “We’re addressing a need to provide an accessible overnight camp experience; one that is closer to the city, affordable to all families, and welcoming to people of all abilities. All this while holding true to our character values taught at the YMCA - there is no greater place for that to happen than at an overnight camp. It’s a life-changing experience these kids will never forget. We’re excited to partner with the Moody Foundation to bring Mr. Yonge’s vision to reality.”
The YMCA of El Paso will receive $1.3 million from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation for the Shift+ and A Smoke Free Paso del Norte initiatives. The Shift+ initiative aims to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking in all ages. The Smoke Free Paso del Norte initiative works to prevent the initiation of smoking among youth, promote quitting among adults and young people, eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke and eliminate tobacco-related disparities among population groups. On December 6, 2016, the City of El Paso became the first city in Texas to adopt a civil Social Host Ordinance (SHO) to help prevent underage drinking parties. The YMCA of El Paso has been actively involved in preventing underage and binge drinking for the last several years and most recently co-hosted a responsible beverage service training for businesses that sell and serve alcohol. For more information on this initiative, visit http://www.elpasoymca.org.
YMCAs in Texas recognize the opportunity to strengthen our cause and impact more lives and that’s why we’ve launched membership reciprocity. With our new membership reciprocity agreement, Y members can simply present their active YMCA membership card and photo ID at any participating Texas YMCA to enjoy free access. This opportunity enhances the value of a Y membership and allows Texas Ys to collaboratively impact more lives and strengthen community. Stop by your local Y or click here for more information.
Are you passionate about healthy kids? Preventing chronic disease? Reducing health disparities? If so, we need you! Advocates are the backbone of any cause-driven organization. We know that when engaged advocates connect to a cause, they have the potential to inspire and spark change! Please join the YMCA's advocacy network by TAKING ACTION here! Together, we can fight childhood obesity and make Texas a healthier place for our kids to live!