It’s hard to believe another year has come & gone. Our advocates hit the ground running for the January kickoff of the 85th Legislative Session. Through our staff & volunteers’ efforts, we were able to influence 22 pieces of legislation and meet with more than 200 legislative offices during the 140 days of the regular session. The Y’s presence & mission has never been stronger at the Texas State Capitol. The summer of 2017 was easily one of our busiest times as thousands of children and families flocked to our facilities, summer camps, and swim lessons. A huge part of our summer programming was centered around our commitment to teaching children and adults how to be safe in & around water. Our efforts did not go unnoticed as the YMCA was honored to be recognized by Congressman Roger Williams during National Drowning Prevention Month.
Perhaps the most life-changing moment this year was watching Texas communities pull together during the devastation that came from Hurricane Harvey. The Y was humbled to play a part in immediately responding to individual needs & we are still committed to helping our communities restore hope & build stability – we’re not going anywhere. Texans are strong & resilient and I have no doubt that we will continue to rebuild & create opportunities for growth.
With this being my inaugural year as chair of the Alliance, I was and am still inspired by the incredible work Texas YMCAs carry out on a daily basis. I’m proud of the milestones we experienced this year, but I’m even more proud of the day-to-day impact the Y has in the communities we serve. The stories featured in this last newsletter of 2017 provide just a small glimpse into what happens each & every day at our YMCAs as we work to fulfill our mission to build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
Wishing you & your family a happy holiday season and a safe & healthy new year!
Tony Shuman, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
The Safety Around Water program motto is “Teaching children how to be safe around water is not a luxury; it is a necessity” is something the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) of Killeen, Texas, believes passionately.
With a partnership with the Killeen Independent School District, the ASYMCA made a concerted commitment early on to help educate the community about water safety in order to reduce the number of youth-related accidents and fatalities in and around water. Dr. John M. Craft, KISD Superintendent, said “The district believes the Safety Around Water course has truly benefited the students within Killeen ISD. Teaching children how to be safe around water exemplifies the community’s willingness to work with the district in a collaborative manner. We embrace the notion that the Armed Services YMCA is willing to help our students learn more about safety skills.”
The ASYMCA Killeen’s Safety Around Water journey began in 2015 with one school and more than 100 students completing the program over the course of a month. This past fall, 487 third-grade students from four schools completed the program. By the school year’s end, 7 schools and 900 students are expected to have successfully completed the program.
The success of the program has it destined to be included in the KISD 2017/2018 third grade curriculum, which reaches an estimated 4,000 students annually
26-year-old Daniel Velazquez cannot just say hello.
"Let me get one, sister! Don't be like that, you were gonna drive right past me," Velazquez said in a loud voice as he insisted on fist bumps from a YMCA member in a wheelchair.
When he got the fist bump, "Bam! Alicia's in the house!" Velazquez said near the top of his lungs.
Since January, Velazquez has been greeting members in this fashion three times a week.
His big personality lights up every shadow, and he embraces moments to lift someone’s spirits. He willingly dives into a profound conversation about faith, throws back a joke when you give him a hard time, and determinedly gets to know everyone around him. Daniel makes it his goal every day to be a smiling face when members arrive for their workouts and finds something unique about each individual to compliment them on in efforts to brighten their day.
Velazquez has touched so many lives, one woman responded by writing a letter to the YMCA, in which she called him hope for "those that come in carrying heavy baggage and overwhelming circumstances."
"That warms me," Velazquez responded when we asked him what he thought about the compliments. "I'm here, doing a lot more than I think."
To get a better idea why so many people think Velazquez is an inspiration, we have to go back to 2012.
On November 16, 2012, Daniel had just learned he was promoted at work and afterward was in a motorcycle accident that would drastically change his life forever. Velazquez was hospitalized and unconscious for 11 months, three of them in a vegetative state. That meant he couldn't feed himself, breathe on his own or even dream. But nearly a year later on September 9th, 2013, he woke up. He didn't remember a thing.
Life before this motorcycle accident was pretty carefree and often careless with the expectation of invincibility despite Daniel frequently playing with fire. Daniel’s past consists of a DUI, trespassing, battery on a law enforcement officer, and violation of his probation. If you know him now, this might be surprising to learn. Daniel’s an illustration of how important it is to let your past guide you, not define you.
He is still in recovery to this day, progressing little by little. Some days are better than others, and he often finds himself struggling to be patient with the process. With the help of his family, friends, and team of doctors, Daniel has made tremendous physical and mental strides both on land and in the pool. Reaching goals he was warned he may never reach, Daniel continues to push to grow stronger and heal faster every time he goes to the gym.
As a nine-time convicted felon turned committed believer, Daniel has a mission in life to heal, help others heal, and spread good as far as he can reach. Through his experiences – before and after the wreck – he savors each moment he has to give thanks and appreciation for those around him.
Despite dealing with their own power outages, facility damages, and displaced employees, YMCAs across the state jumped into action to be there for their neighbors as Harvey brought devastating damage to more than 60 Texas counties. YMCAs across the state opened their doors to those displaced by Harvey and first responders to provide them with places to shower, rest, and get a hot cup of coffee. The YMCA of the Golden Crescent was able to partner with the Texas Health & Human Services Department to serve as a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program site. The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers short-term food assistance benefits to families recovering from a disaster. In just 7 days, over 12,500 people come through the YMCA’s doors to receive assistance. The YMCA of the Golden Crescent is also partnering with local school districts to provide free afterschool care and youth sports to any displaced family.
The YMCA of Greater Houston experienced significant damage to several of their facilities, but they were still able to offer emergency child-care during the immediate aftermath of the storm. Since then, they’ve continued to offer support to families and partner with several community organizations to ensure that communities have the tools they need to rebuild.
Ys in Texas and across the country have continued to provide resources, including financial, staff, and materials, to support Texans as they work to rebuild.
Through a generous grant received by the Plainview YMCA, over 50 youth in their summer camp were able to receive free swim lessons. The Plainview YMCA is committed to promoting water safety to all ages and offers a variety of aquatics activities and programs. For more information, visit: http://www.plainviewymca.org/
The YMCA of Moore County is celebrating 11 years of Moore Kids Swimming! Since 2006, the YMCA of Moore County has taught 4,299 second grade students to be safer around the water and given them a life of endless possibilities. Water is a source of fun and recreation, but it can also be a source of fear. Teaching children how to be safe around water is one of the most important life skills that the YMCA can teach. The Moore Kids Swimming curriculum is a drowning prevention program aimed at teaching children fundamental water safety skills. In addition to teaching safety skills, the YMCA of Moore County is committed to providing children with new opportunities for growth and development while staying active and healthy. For more information on the YMCA of Moore County’s water safety efforts, visit http://www.moorecountyymca.com/
This Fall, with the help of AT&T and KaBoom!, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas’ Park South branch was awarded a playground build. This was not just any build. The South Dallas branch, located in an under-resourced area of the metroplex, received WAY more than expected. With more than 800 volunteers from all 50 states, the “nation” was on hand to build two safe and fun playgrounds, mobile learning objects such as drawing easels and stools, a large garden for composting and growing fruits and vegetables, and indoor library spaces for reading. To complete the project, a team of talented volunteers painted a beautiful, multicolor world map along the building’s driveway.
This daylong build was not only a monumental enhancement for the Park South YMCA and surrounding South Dallas community, but also was a beautiful coming together of Americans to show their love and support for children. The newly renovated spaces will allow our future leaders to build character and learn valuable life lessons through safe, healthy play and fellowship. And the Park South YMCA neighbors agree. The investment will build up both the children and the South Dallas community. As Dave Flannigan, director of operations for program management with KaBOOM!, so perfectly states, “A playground builds a catalyst for change in the rest of the community. When people come together to build a playground, it’s a tangible, collective accomplishment. Then they wonder, ‘What else can we do?'”
The playground build at the Park South Y is part of AT&T’s overall commitment to bringing unity and opportunity to the Dallas community through service. The event came at the end of AT&T’s annual Employee Resource Group (ERG) conference, bringing together thousands of employees from across the country to promote diversity, inclusion and service to others. The playground is the first built together by AT&T and KaBOOM! providing more than 1,400 kids in the Park South Y community with the opportunity to learn, play and connect on a state-of-the-art playground.
One day a coworker asked me if I was interested in the YMCA of Midland’s Diabetes Prevention Program and gave me a business card for a Y staff member. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my journey to a healthier lifestyle and most definitely the change my life needed! When I was given the card, I was on Metformin and taking three insulin injections per day. I knew I needed to change, but as we all know, it’s always easier said than done. I had been on a rollercoaster with my diabetes battle, being as low as spending a couple of days in the ICU due to my glucose levels being too elevated. Of course, it was corrected during my hospital stay, only to slip back into the same condition as before.
At one point my weight was as high as 263lbs. When I started the class, I was 241lbs with horrible eating habits, making poor food choices; I had little to no confidence. I was in bad shape and I was on pills and injections.
From day one of class, Sara, my Lifestyle Coach, made it very comfortable. Sara was very open to us – the students set the rules and tone of the class. The class was a “no judgement zone” for all. It was free space for those of us looking to make a serious change in our lives.
I fell in love with the process, seeking as much knowledge as possible on weight loss, how to cook healthy meals, and even trying to develop an app with a coworker to help others along in their journey for a healthier lifestyle. I never referred to this process as a diet because in my opinion, a diet signals a starting and stopping point and so many times after we diet, we return to old habits. I prefer the term lifestyle change. Fast forwards 8 months, I now weigh 180lbs. I feel great!
I want to give special thanks to the staff at the YMCA for guiding me through my journey. I think it’s safe to say that this process has changed my entire way of thinking when it comes to taking care of my body.
So, do I think the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program is worth it? Absolutely! I would recommend it to anyone ready and willing to make a change. Remember, it all starts with you.
It’s a word you or your loved ones never want to hear. It’s a word Ronnie Rendall knows all too well.
Doctors lost hope for his mobility following an accident at work. But Ronnie found hope and determination at the Odessa YMCA.
“I go to the Y to stay alive,” Ronnie said.
He has undergone three surgeries and he still works out five days a week. After each and every surgery, he finds a way to return back to the Odessa YMCA. His workouts help break through his painful muscle spasms.
“The YMCA gives me life. For a few hours a day I am there, I forget about the pain.”
It’s not just about the workouts – the staff at the YMCA stand out and take care of Ronnie. Ronnie is a part of the YMCA family and he knows it.
“I love seeing the members and staff,” Ronnie said. “My favorite thing about the Y is the people. Every time I enter, I am greeted like royalty-maybe not royalty-but like family.”
Ronnie has no idea what the future holds. His doctors continue to tell him to prepare for a future of being paralyzed.
One thing is for sure – for as long as he can – he will keep going to the YMCA and keep fighting for his mobility with the support of his Y family.
The new swim curriculum, developed as part of YMCA of the USA’s 2014 – 2017 strategic plan, has already proven to be effective at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
The self-rescue skills that three-year-old Annabelle Strauss learned through swim lessons at the Y, saved her life this past summer.
Annabelle’s mother, Jamie Strauss, worked as a lifeguard as a teenager and understood the importance of knowing how to swim and not being fearful of water. Jamie enrolled Annabelle in swim lessons at the Walzem Family YMCA, and right away, Annabelle was apprehensive of the water, especially near her face. After a few individual lessons she was able to transition into group lessons and became comfortable with the basics. Each week she practiced flipping over onto her back to float, one of the very first skills taught to new swimmers of any age.
This simple skill allowed Annabelle to save herself when she fell into a lake during a family fishing trip. Jamie immediately rushed to save her daughter but before she could get to her, Annabelle had already flipped over onto her back and began to float.
Annabelle is no longer afraid of the water and now looks forward to swim lessons each week. Each lesson strengthens her swimming abilities and builds her confidence in the water.