As we head into the autumn season, YMCAs are busy delivering our cause in communities all across Texas. Over the past few months, we’ve spent time building capacity to maximize our impact within communities and advance our mission. Local Ys have successfully provided a vast array of socially innovative programs through our partnerships with entities like independent school districts, the St. David’s Foundation, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the CATCH Global Foundation, and so many more. Through these powerful partnerships, our members are able to reduce risk and reclaim health.
As an Alliance of YMCAs, we have adopted our strategic plan focusing on frames for action within our three focus areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Local Ys have already begun implementing strategies within our Movement. Moving forward, our Alliance will explore aspects of unintentional injuries among both adults and children. We want to work with stakeholders to identify ways that the YMCA can increase awareness and provide practical solutions. In addition, we will continue to use our healthy living framework to promote wellness for all Texans. One way of doing that is through our statewide membership reciprocity. Membership reciprocity provides access to our network of local YMCA facilities which allows for better collaboration among the continuum of Texas Ys.
Through these efforts we are able to advance the YMCA’s mission and provide programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. With more than 1.5 million members and program participants, Texas YMCAs believe the collective impact framework is powerful in delivering our cause. This fall we look forward to transforming the lives of our 1.5 million members and positively shaping communities for the better.
James P. Finck, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
To see Carol today, you would never suspect that she has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She is an active, 72-year-old and she is a member of the YMCA of Southeast Texas.
Carol first showed symptoms of MS when she had four children under the age of six. She would have unexplained blindness, memory loss, and weakness. Finally, in 1980, after eight long years of not knowing, she was diagnosed. It took her another five years to accept this and even be able to speak of it.
Through this journey, Bob, her husband of 50 years, has been at her side pushing and motivating her. Her doctor told her to use it or lose it. Through it all, she has kept the scripture, Isaiah 41:10 in her heart. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
She began by walking at the mall, but after hurricane Rita devastated the area and took away her walking spot, she and Bob joined the YMCA of Southeast Texas. There, she found water aerobics and fellowship. Soon she needed more of a challenge! She tried the treadmill and she even tried the group cycling (at 70!), but found that the water offered her the best exercise. Gentle on her joints, it gave her the workout she needed and at 71 she began lap swimming.
Now, she swims six days a week for an hour at a time.
Carol says, “I may have MS, but MS doesn’t have me!” While she is swimming her laps, she prays, stretches, concentrates on her breathing and relaxes. It’s her “Me Time”. The results are increased mobility; Carol is fully functional after being dependent on a wheelchair for two years. The swimming relieves stress and has helped her beat depression. Her doctor says she is a miracle and he is very pleased with her progress, telling her “whatever you are doing, keep doing it”. At her last check up, her doctor told her he considers the status of her disease as benign.
Congressman Randy Weber visited the YMCA of Southeast Texas, Port Arthur branch during the 2015 summer Congressional recess. The Congressman had an opportunity to visit with staff and board members as well as tour the YMCA facility. The Congressman visited a YMCA afterschool site and learned about how afterschool programs promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. In addition to being provided with healthy snacks and homework assistance, students also learn and practice core skills related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). When asked about his thoughts on the afterschool program, he praised the YMCA and went on to share the importance of education and his personal connection with the school system as his wife was an elementary school teacher for several years.
Palestine YMCA Swim Team Brings Home the Gold and Reinforces the Importance of Water Safety and Skills
When it came to earning medals at a national level, Palestine YMCA Piranhas Chase Fields, Madison Crader and Summer Hagan each got a fistful.
Hagan earned five medals while Fields and Crader earned four apiece at the ninth State Games of America at the University of Nebraska's Bob Devaney Natatorium. Fields won three gold medals, while Crader and Hagan earned two apiece.
Piranhas coach Katherine Newton said, “Words cannot express how proud I am of Chase, Madison and Summer. Their gold medals represent summers dedicated to the sport both mentally and physically.”
The Piranhas were among 15,000 athletes from 47 states and the District of Columbia at the SGA, a biennial Olympic-style event that features 60 sports.
Being a part of a swim team is just one small glimpse into the YMCA’s aquatics safety focus. Texas YMCAs are committed to teaching water safety and drowning prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children ages one through four. In 2013 alone, Texas YMCAs provided over 70,000 swim lessons and are working to increase that number each year. The YMCA is able to reach populations that may not have easy access to swim lessons and other water safety techniques through partnerships with school districts, apartment complexes, and other community groups.
Norma Villegas and her daughters Ailyn, 11, and Liliana, 7, were like many families. They were eating out a lot and not very active. Then she got a flyer last school year about the MEND program at the YMCA of Austin.
MEND, which stands for Mind Exercise Nutrition Do it, started in England, before the YMCA of Austin brought it here in 2009. The 10-week program is available for families of kids ages 7 to 13 who have a body mass index that falls within the obesity range at no cost to families.
The weekly program takes place at a school or community center that is centrally located to accommodate the program participants. Each week, the families spend the first hour learning about nutrition and what to look for when grocery shopping. They also learn how the mind works with the body to determine when and why you are hungry. In the second hour, the kids learn about different physical activities they can do and the parents learn about parental strategies to reinforce the healthy behavior.
It’s about making small changes, Missy Quintela, Program Director says. “This is not ‘The Biggest Loser,'” she says. “We’re not trying to do extreme weight loss.”
In fact, Quintela says, because children are growing and their bodies are changing, it’s not realistic to focus on the number on the scale. “If you have different routines and healthy habits now, the body will change with that.”
That’s what Villegas says has happened with her family. They haven’t necessarily lost weight, but her daughters were gaining a lot of weight before. “They are more active now, too,” she says. “They try to do things they normally wouldn’t do like play outside rather than watching TV.”
Villegas also appreciated hearing suggestions from the other families in her group. She didn’t feel like they were the only family struggling with how to be healthier.
As an incentive and effort to encourage sustainable lifestyle changes and promote healthy environments, the YMCA provides a three month family membership, as well as enrollment in youth sports.
It costs the YMCA about $1,000 a family, but Quintela says it’s “part of our commitment to helping our community.” The hope is that changing habits now will help prevent chronic diseases like Type II diabetes in the future.
The YMCA of Austin has received $1.5 million in funding for MEND since 2009 from the St. David’s Foundation.
“What impressed me most about MEND in the very first meeting is they had some demonstrated outcomes,” says St. David’s Foundation CEO Earl Maxwell. “We were two to three years into beginning to fund childhood obesity prevention programs and we were having a hard time finding programs that had demonstrated outcomes.”
The program is also part of a three-year study by the Centers for Disease Control that is looking at the outcomes of several childhood obesity programs. Deanna Hoelscher, a University of Texas School of Public Health professor, and director of the Michael and Susan Dell Center For Healthy Living, is leading the research into MEND as well as the CATCH program — the Coordinated Approach to Child Health — done through the schools. While there has been some preliminary results, the final study won’t be released until the first the year.
MD Anderson YMCA Prioritizing Sun Safety through Ray and the Sunbeatables™: a Sun Safety Curriculum for Preschoolers
This summer, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center initiated the roll-out of Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum for Preschoolers. The curriculum was taught at 50 sites reaching 2,639 preschoolers in six states through a partnership between MD Anderson and the CATCH Global Foundation. The superhero-themed program focuses on encouraging the use of sunscreen, sunglasses, protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and shade when playing outside. The MD Anderson YMCA in Houston not only implemented the curriculum with their preschoolers, but also incorporated their own ideas for crafts and projects that reinforced the learning experience. The children were encouraged to showcase their creativity while learning about the importance of sun safety. The Sunbeatables™ curriculum inspired them to create posters and papier-mâché hats to protect them from the sun while outdoors.
So what do the kids think about wearing their sun safe gear outside to play? “They actually get very, very excited,” says Blanca Aguirre, a teacher at the MD Anderson YMCA. “Especially with the capes, and the hats…we actually give more time now to decorate.”
Based on years of MD Anderson research, the Sunbeatables™ program was developed through MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, which is designed to harness scientific knowledge to dramatically reduce cancer deaths through prevention, early detection and treatment. It’s a project of the Melanoma Moon Shot, which focuses on preventing and developing better treatment for the most lethal skin cancer.
Enrollment for fall and spring training is now underway. If you would like more information on implementing this program in your YMCA, please email email@example.com. For more information on the curriculum, click here.
The YMCA of Central Texas officials look to continue and expand positive growth within the Waco community with the help of its new president and CEO, Rodney Martin.
“I just have a passion for what the Y does,” Martin said with excitement in his voice. “It’s been in existence since 1884. It has a rich history with basketball, volleyball, the pool, and even Father’s Day started at the Y in Spokane, Washington. When I look at that rich history it makes me feel good to be a part of it. When I look at that impact ... (the Y) is always changing lives."
When it comes to the YMCA of Central Texas, Martin believes the branch has done well in expanding the childcare and the school-age programs.
“I think the Y has done great with that,” he said. “A lot of Y’s across the country are focusing on that and it’s key -- trying to focus on the younger group, on youth development. It’s important to focus on out-of-school time and to prepare (kids) for the future and to prepare them for life.”
So how can the YMCA of Central Texas improve?
“(By) increasing the number of programs for teenagers,” Martin said, without hesitation. “YMCAs across the country are looking at how to expand their services (for teenagers). As I look at some things we’re going to be highlighting, it’s going to be centered around teens.”
“I think a lot of people look at the Y as just a gymnasium, and it’s not,” Martin said. “It’s really changing lives and servicing people every day from youth to the older population.”
Although many people think of the Y as a place to work out, shoot hoops, and burn a few calories, Martin said it is so much more than that.
“It’s more than a place where people exercise,” he said. “We help kids achieve their goals. It’s a place where we help families come together. We build communities. When we impact a life, we‘re impacting the community.”
Martin also believes in social responsibility and teamwork, whether he’s talking to his staff, his volunteers or when interacting with Y members.
“Social responsibility, giving back and providing support to our neighbors — that will be important to provide volunteer opportunities to give back in a positive way,” Martin said.
Being a part of the community is one of the things Martin loves most about his job.“It almost doesn’t seem like a job,” he said. “Each day I look forward to interacting with our members and program participants. It’s one of those jobs where I don’t like being in the office — although I know I have to be in there on a regular basis — but I try to interact with the members and the youth program members.”
“I try to interact and hear the stories and the impact we’re making.”
Click here to read the entire article on Rodney Martin’s vision for the YMCA of Central Texas.
The YMCA of Greenville and Hunt County has named Christa Compton as the new Chief Executive Officer following several months of her helming the organization as the interim CEO. The announcement came as the Board of Directors expressed their confidence in Compton and their appreciation to the staff after another successful summer of programming.
“Christa has provided a calm and steady hand during changes in our organization,” said Micah Parks, president of the YMCA Board of Directors. “She has proven her ability to lead these past months and over her 10 years with the Y. We are incredibly excited at how she, the staff and the Y are poised to grow.”
Compton began her career with the YMCA in Greenville as sports director in 2005. Since then, she has undertaken more responsibilities while progressing to be senior program director, and interim CEO before attaining her current position.
She has overseen all youth sports, afterschool childcare, special events, aquatics, and health and wellness programs, while securing grants to support the organization’s mission of serving the community. Compton has a bachelor’s degree in health and sociology from Texas A&M University-Commerce and has earned numerous certifications and licenses through the state of Texas and the national YMCA.
The Texas YMCA Youth & Government Program welcomes the new State Director, Angela Castilleja. Angela holds a M.A. in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix and a B.A in Political Science from St. Edward’s University.
Angela joined the Y on August 3rd with more than 20 years of professional experience of program management. She’s held roles with Travis County Juvenile Court, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, and, most recently, at Keep Texas Beautiful.
Angela currently lives in Austin with her family. Her teenage daughter has participated in Youth & Government the past two years as a media delegate.
She is very excited to join the Y family and is committed to enhancing and growing the Youth & Government Program throughout the state. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.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.