At the YMCA, strengthening community is our cause. It’s something that we prioritize in our daily work and something we keep at the forefront of our vision. We know that a healthy community is a strong community which is why our staff and volunteers dedicate their time and energy to give back to the 200+ Texas communities we serve. Whether it’s through providing opportunities for families to become healthier together or by mobilizing the community to support swim lessons for all children, our staff and volunteers are doing great work all across the state. The YMCA of Greater San Antonio is celebrating their fifth year of co-hosting Síclovía, which has quickly become the largest health and wellness event in San Antonio. It’s a time when families, friends, and the community at-large can come together to support each other while building a healthy spirit, mind and body. Over the past five years, we’ve seen the event grow by almost 60,000 participants and we can’t wait to see how it grows in the years ahead!
Texas YMCAs have also been focused on community partnerships. As you’ll read in this newsletter, the YMCA of the Greater Houston Area recently filled a community need to provide a safe, enriching environment for Houston youth by partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Through this partnership, BBBS mentors and mentees are able to utilize YMCA facilities and programs at absolutely no cost. Our YMCAs in Austin and Houston are bringing together individuals in the outdoor education, conservation, and health arenas to address the growing disconnect between children and nature. Through the Let’s Move! Outside initiative, new community collaborations are being established and over the course of the next year, both communities hope to engage 20,000 volunteers on public lands.
In August, I had the opportunity to host Congressman Lamar Smith at one of our YMCA branches and share with him the great work that the YMCA is doing to strengthen community. As we toured the facility, he had the chance to hear firsthand how the YMCA is providing a place to belong for our veterans, families, and seniors. Just like the Congressman, I’m continually amazed as I see the impact the YMCA is having and I’m equally as excited to see how we continue to grow as an organization and as a cause.
James P. Finck, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
In August of 2010, my life changed forever. I went from being an active, healthy, involved social member of society and a widowed, single mom to being very sick and locked in a dark room for months at a time. For whatever reason, I began to have mini-strokes, seizures, migraines headaches, and my whole body began hurting so bad I could barely move. I had to quit my job as a Wellness Director for a major rehab hospital since I could no longer focus or navigate a busy office setting. I spent months at a time in a dark room because lights, motion, noise and smells set off a chain of migraines and seizures so bad I would have to be admitted to hospital. As a result of not having the ability to be active, I had a pulmonary embolism and developed blood clots – I almost died.
Being desperate to see my children grow up and not having many options, I decided to try swimming, since my muscles couldn’t bear the pressure of most other forms of exercise. It was a last effort to regain movement and focus as well as my life. Because the YMCA allows me to use their facility and pool at a rate I can afford with my drastic cut in salary, I have regained movement in my legs, reclaimed the ability to focus and the migraines have been cut in half. I’m still not able to tolerate a lot of light and noise, but I can now walk without a walker or cane, thus enabling me to do so much more than before. I am forever grateful for the services of the YMCA. I’ve told many people about how swimming at the Y has changed my life and my doctor asks me to speak to other migraine/fibromyalgia sufferers about the benefits of swimming and exercise.
I am a success story, all thanks to the graciousness of my local YMCA and the use of their pool. I’m so thankful for all that this phenomenal organization does and am so appreciative of the ways the Y has impacted my life and the lives of so many others.
Congressman Lamar Smith (CD-21) visited the Austin Metropolitan YMCA’s TownLake branch during the 2016 summer Congressional recess. The Congressman had an opportunity to visit with staff and board members as well as tour the YMCA facility. After hearing about programs like LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, Project S.A.F.E., and year round meal programs, the Congressman was surprised at how wide and deep the Y’s impact is in the community, “I love that the Y works on the whole person. Not just the body, but the mind and soul too.”
In addition to the tour, Congressman Smith had the opportunity to visit with YMCA members and hear firsthand how the YMCA has given them a place to belong and provided opportunities to build a healthy spirit, mind and body.
Congressman Smith represents six YMCA branches and two YMCA camps operated by the Austin Metropolitan YMCA and the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
The YMCA of Greater Houston Partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters to Provide a Safe, Enriching Environment for Youth
Wanting to make a difference in a child's life, Tim Garza, 29, joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program roughly two years ago and was matched with a 14-year-old boy named De'un. De'un did well in school and showed promising athletic ability, but he was later shot in the foot by a neighborhood kid.
Fearing De'un might continue to run into the wrong people, Garza searched for a place where he could go after school and during the idle days of summer. Garza approached the YMCA of Greater Houston and suggested a partnership with BBBS, in which Bigs and Littles could go to the YMCA free of charge.
Knowing that many young people need regular exposure to positive role models, executives at both organizations instantly embraced the idea.
"The YMCA cannot be more excited to open its doors to Big Brothers Big Sisters," said Paul McEntire, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. "We can’t think of a more natural fit between two organizations, which at their core strive to give children the tools to lead successful lives."
Currently lacking in Big Brothers in particular, BBBS' CEO Pierce Bush said he hopes access to the YMCA's gyms, exercise equipment and sports programs will prompt more young men to become mentors to boys who don't have positive male role models in their lives.
With his foot nearly healed, De'un, now 16, said he is excited about going to the YMCA on a regular basis. "They are all real nice people there," he said of the Houston Texans YMCA, the center closest to his home. "I feel comfortable around them. If it weren't for the Y, I’d just be around the house with nothing to do except watch TV."
Now, the rising sophomore, who has won top honors at his high school for his athletic achievements, can resume his workouts with people who offer unconditional support.
"The YMCA is a place to go after school and during the summer that is a much safer alternative to being on the street," Garza said. "The more De'un is surrounded by positive people, the more his perspective on life will change. Sometimes all kids know about the world is their own neighborhood."
For more information on this collaboration, contact Erika Morton, manager of Strategic Partnerships & Communications, at email@example.com.
The Palestine YMCA Piranhas Swim Team came home winners after competing in two East Texas Summer Swim League meets. The Piranhas won the small-team title and two of the team swimmers, Summer Hagan and Madison Crader, went on to achieve second place finishes at the All-Stars meet.
“This is the first time during my tenure as head coach of the Piranhas that we garnered enough points to win our category,” Piranhas head coach Katherine Newton said. “For the past eight years we have always had a few standouts, but now we are beginning to show some depth. I am very proud of our effort.”
In addition to giving her all at the swim meet and helping her team win second place in the 200 freestyle relay race, 16-year-old Piranhas swimmer, Serena Coker, is also focused on making a difference outside of the pool. She and a close friend, Chenoa Logan-Mason, were deeply affected and moved to action upon hearing about four children who died during a flood in April.
While it’s unclear whether the four children, ages 6-9, knew how to swim, the Palestine High School junior thinks if these children had a swimming background, there was a chance they could have swam to safety that night.
“It would have given them a fighting chance,” she said.
The two friends decided to form a Palestine Swim Initiative and raise money for those who may want to learn how to swim but do not have the money to pay for lessons.
More than 100 people signed up this summer for swim lessons, and the two high-school juniors would like to double that number.
Chenoa, who nearly drowned once, knows the importance.
“I think it is a skill every kid should learn.” Logan-Mason said. She added that no one is ever too old to learn how to swim. In fact, her grandmother learned how at the age of 33.
The high-schoolers plan to contact churches, businesses and organizations to try to raise money, so everyone will have a chance to learn how to swim. They are also making pamphlets they can place around town.
Click here for more information on the YMCA’s commitment to water safety and drowning prevention.
In 2010, through funding awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 50 communities began working to prevent obesity and tobacco use – the two leading preventable causes of death and disability. San Antonio was one of those 50 communities and an initiative called Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) was created to make healthy living easier by promoting environmental changes at the local level.
If healthy options are not available, then health living is not possible. With the support of the CPPW Initiative, San Antonio implemented a variety of changes within that first year to make healthy living easier. One of those changes was Síclovía. In September of 2011, the very first Síclovía was held on the downtown San Antonio Street of Broadway.
Síclovía allows the roadway to be temporarily car-free for the public to enjoy a safe, fun place to walk, bike, jog and participate in group exercise classes. Síclovía opens the road to pedestrians, bicyclists, runners, skateboarders, and rollerbladers – anyone looking to enjoy a day of noncompetitive activity and fun. Síclovía has quickly become the largest health and wellness event in San Antonio. The event is held twice a year and creates an opportunity for the community to interact and engage with neighborhoods, businesses and each other, through a variety of activities.
On September 25, 2016 Síclovía will celebrate its 5th birthday hosted by the YMCA of Greater San Antonio in partnership with the City of San Antonio and Metropolitan Health District. The event has grown in participant size from 15,000 in 2011 to 72,000.
For many, Síclovía is the place where their healthy living journey begins.
At each event, participants share their stories of how their children learned to ride their bikes at Síclovía and how they didn’t know that the park in their neighborhood had a bike trail or fitness equipment.
Síclovía is a creative introduction to the YMCA for those that don’t associate the Y as being a place for medically based wellness programs, diabetes intervention/prevention or obesity prevention programs. And not just for adults, but for children too.
In addition, participants have the opportunity to learn more about other programs in their communities available through on-site event sponsors and partners.
To learn more about the upcoming celebration, click here
Austin Metropolitan YMCA and the YMCA of the Greater Houston Area Host Community Summits for Let’s Move! Outside Initiative
On July 1st, the Austin Metropolitan YMCA, with help and support from the National Park Service, hosted its first Let’s Move! Outside Community Summit. Approximately 30 organizations and community leaders from Austin and surrounding areas attended this event to collaborate, connect, and clarify current strengths, barriers, and opportunities in the areas of Play, Learn, Serve and Work.
After a short overview of Let’s Move! Outside, the attendees divided into four working groups. One facilitator from each group led the discussion about access, gaps, barriers and ways to better collaborate with other organizations.
Along with Austin, Houston was chosen to be a part of the second 25 cities for Let's Move! Outside. The YMCA of Greater Houston convened with partners of the Houston Wilderness coalition on July 27th. Volunteer and outreach coordinators met to discuss challenges and opportunities for community engagement in order to connect a diversity of the population with public lands. From the summit, a Volunteer Coordination Committee was formed to meet monthly to develop a sustainability plan and engage the community further in service opportunities on public lands.
Both cities will continue to work to strive to create the next generation of environmental stewards by inspiring individuals to connect to nature and public lands.
To learn more about the Let’s Move! Outside initiative, click here.
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their children’s habits with the ultimate goal of improving health.
That’s why the YMCA of El Paso — a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health — wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in children and adolescents over the past 30 years. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers.
A family that changes together gets healthy together — building a culture of health that helps families adopt healthy habits is key to reducing childhood obesity rates.
Once a family gets the proper education and support when it comes to weight-related risks, they can work together to incorporate healthy eating habits and more physical activity and into their daily routines.
In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while attending out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments for all children the YMCA of El Paso is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in their after school programs. The goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your child while he or she is in the YMCA’s care.
To learn more about the YMCA of El Paso’s commitment to health, click here to continue reading or visit www.elpasoymca.org.
The Texas State Alliance was selected among six states to receive a capacity building grant around addressing hunger. This opportunity aligns with the Alliance’s 2015 Strategic Plan. In partnership with Y-USA and with support from the Walmart Foundation, many Texas YMCAs will have the opportunity to expand their participation in the federal summer and afterschool meals program. Among the YMCAs in Texas that already participate in the summer and afterschool meals programs, those YMCAs provided over 1 million meals + snacks in 2015. That’s a 40% increase from 2014! Alliance staff looks forward to working with local YMCAs and other community partners to to tackle hunger in the communities we serve.
Join the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs for a legislative briefing to discuss youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The results of a statewide survey of out-of-school time providers’ practices around national standards will be unveiled along with potential policy proposals for the 85th legislative session. The briefing will be October 13th from 11:45am – 1:00pm in the Legislative Conference Center at the Texas Capitol. Complimentary lunch will be provided.
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Christianna Burwell at firstname.lastname@example.org