Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zach Hinton: Ready for Success

We develop the next generation of leaders at the Y!  Just read this article by Stacy Chandler that ran in the May 31 edition of the News & Observer's Thumbs Up section. The Clarence E. Lightner YMCA Achievers Program is a leadership development program for area middle and high school teens.

When Zachary Hinton graduated from Southeast Raleigh High School last weekend, he had a little extra preparation for college and life beyond thanks to the Y Achievers program.

For four years in the local Clarence E. Lightner YMCA Achievers Program, Zach has gotten to know mentors in the community, gone on college tours and polished his interview skills both for college and a future career.

"It's a program that tries to help a minority kid to make it in the global arena," he explained.

Zach Hinton
Along the way, he also learned a thing or two about leadership while serving as the chapter's president.

And he's learned that working hard and serving the community has its rewards. Zach was selected for a nationalYMCA Five-Star Ambassador Award, which comes with a $10,000 scholarship.

The award's application process required Zach to take courses on financial literacy, something he thought was emphasized by award sponsor U.S. Bank "so you won't get caught up in the scams," he said. He learned how credit works, tips for finding housing after college and more.

"I figure it's very important for anyone my age to learn about where your money should go," he said.

It's also important, he said, to learn about where a young person can go if he or she works hard and stays on the right path.

The Y Achievers mentoring program gave him and other participants that chance by partnering with black and Latino role models from the community.

"I thought that was really cool, to see someone that looks like me and they were doing well in society," Zach said.

Zach plans to attend Hampton University in Virginia this fall, and he credits Y Achievers for helping to get him there.

"Not only because of the money they are offering me," he said, "but also because of all the skills that I've learned from Y Achievers, from the college essays to the interviews to the college tours. ... Just everything that I've learned, I think it's definitely going to help me figure out my future."

In 2010, the YMCA of Triangle Y Achievers Program and the Clarence E. Lightner Youth Leadership Foundation joined forces. The Lightner Foundation was founded to pay tribute to the life of Clarence E. Lightner, the first African-American mayor of Raleigh. In continuing his positive community efforts, the Clarence E. Lightner Leadership Endowment Fund was established to provide leadership development programs aimed at making a positive impact on youth throughout the Triangle region.

The Real World: Missing the Y

Each day at our YMCA, thousands of children learn new skills, make new friends and follow the lead of their counselors.
Terry Lewis just graduated from North Carolina State University. For the past two years, Terry served as an after school counselor at the Alexander Family YMCA. After graduation, Terry got what he calls a "real job." Terry still considers the Y his second home. That's why we let him blog!
It doesn’t seem like it’s been a month since I stopped working for the Y. My days used to consist of going to the gym with my co-counselors and playing with my kids in my after school program. Since I graduated from college, I spend my days working in an office.

This is not how Terry dresses at the new job

Don’t get me wrong. I love my new job, but looking back I really miss my time at the Y. I miss the staff, the kids, the pranks, and, most of all, I miss the positive environment of the YMCA.

A few days ago, I decided to drive over to the
Alexander Family Y to see how training was going for the upcoming summer camp session. I saw a lot of familiar faces and a lot of new ones.

Everyone was excited to see me again. I got introduced to many young, eager counselors. It's great to know I still have a home there.

I miss that place.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

They Bike Because They Can

When Cheryl Self was diagnosed with diabetes as a young child and Diane Huis as a young adult, they both were concerned it would limit their physical activities.

“My doctor told me that diabetes is like a three-legged stool and I would need to balance all three ‘legs’ to control the disease: insulin, diet, and exercise,” said Diane. “The Y has been an integral part of my exercise program since I moved here 12 years ago.”

Diane started out with Step, Muscle and Spin classes. Then about seven years ago, she heard about a Y mountain bike riding group that met at Umstead Park on Sundays. She soon bought a bike and realized that she had found her “niche.” Within a year, she added road biking and then started doing triathlons with Finley’s Triathlon Club. That’s where she met fellow diabetic Cheryl and they quickly formed a bond.

Cheryl and Diane

Their friendship led them to the Tour de Cure, a series of fundraising cycling events held in 43 states to benefit the American Diabetes Association. This June 4-5 will mark their sixth year doing the ride.

“I got diabetes as a young child and had a pretty normal life, but always had a fear in the back of my mind. I thought that if I played too hard or was just too active, my blood sugar would plummet, and I would pass out with no one around to help,” said Cheryl. She got over her fear about six years ago when she did her first triathlon, half marathon and her first 150-mile bike ride. “I finally realized, I could be active and fit and didn't have to be scared.” On June 4, she'll be riding her first Century Ride, or 100 mile bike ride in one day.

Diane is planning on doing the double Century over the two-day event this year.

“Doing this ride is super inspirational for me - I love showing others who are newly diagnosed that having diabetes does not have to hold you back,” said Diane. “Having such an amazing support group of friends from the Y has really helped me reach my goals and greatly enriched my life.”

"There are many people out there fighting this disease who are missing toes, legs, eyesight or have nerve damage. I'm riding for those folks, I want to make a difference," explains Cheryl. "I want to see a cure found in my lifetime."

If you want to support Cheryl (Team Red) and Diane (Team Cheetah) in this year's Tour on June 4-5, visit http://www.tour.diabetes.org and click on “Find Your Local Tour.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Young Swimmer's Disability is Her Strength

Amazing things happen every day at our YMCAs. Just ask the folks at the A.E. Finley YMCA who watch Hannah Aspden train. This article about the young YMCA of the Triangle (YOTA) swimmer was featured in the May 3 edition of the News & Observer. Click here to learn more about the YOTA program.

Hannah Aspden was born to break rules.

She has been bucking conventional wisdom since she was old enough to walk. Except for Hannah, learning to walk was a challenge. She was born with just one leg.

Hannah is 10 but seems older. She's tall and athletic, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She possesses a wry sense of humor and smiles often, flashing a set of braces. She's not at all self-conscious as she perches, flamingo-like, at the edge of a pool on one leg.

Hannah Trains at the A.E. Finley Pool
Hannah's parents, Jennifer and TJ Aspden, believe their daughter was born to overcome challenges, and they're just along for the ride.

"From the beginning, we decided to let Hannah be independent and to give her every opportunity to succeed," her father said.

Hannah was born premature and missing her entire left leg.

"It's called a congenital hip disarticulation, as she has no leg at all on her left side," Jennifer Aspden said.

Even a decade ago, information on how to deal with babies like Hannah was scarce. In the stressful six months following Hannah's birth, her parents feared for their baby's future. But as Hannah grew stronger, her fighting spirit emerged. Today, her parents' fears are gone.

"Once Hannah started trying to climb out of her crib, we knew everything would be OK," TJ Aspden said.

Eager to succeed
As with all babies old enough to start walking, Hannah started pulling up on furniture. But when she tried to take her first steps, she simply fell down.
While doctors discouraged the use of a prosthetic to help her walk, her parents insisted they try. Success was immediate.

"She was able to balance right away and then started walking," her dad said. "She taught the doctors a lot."
Teachers, friends and complete strangers who encounter Hannah learn from her every day.

Hannah started leading by example the day she followed her older brother off a diving board into a neighborhood pool when she was 4. She came up swimming and has not stopped since.

"Compared to other 10-year-olds, Hannah is a very good swimmer," said Patrick Curran, her coach with the YMCA of the Triangle Swim Team. "She's fully confident that she can compete on the same level as her peers. She is starting to see herself as an international athlete."

High-level competitor
Hannah recently returned from her first international competition, the U.S. Paralympics Spring Nationals/2011 Spring Can-Am Meet, held April 7-9 in Minneapolis. She was the youngest swimmer at the meet, according to results posted on the event website.The event was significant for Hannah because it was the first time she had seen other athletes with disabilities like hers.

"It was cool. Everyone had something different, but we didn't see each other for their disabilities because everyone was like that," Hannah said. "I saw how others deal with their challenges and saw that they were all just glad to be there and happy."

Hannah has been able to turn an obvious disability into strengths that are not visible to the eye, Curran said.

"Hannah's biggest strength as an athlete is her self-confidence," he said.
She also has tremendous core strength and upper body power. Although Hannah uses a prosthetic some of the time, she mostly gets around on crutches and by hopping.

"Using crutches has caused her arms and upper body to become very solid," her coach said. "She engages her core by hopping. Her sense of balance comes from her core strength, and high level swimming is about the core."

She climbs monkey bars, plays soccer and roller-skates, using crutches to propel herself at top speeds around the rink. She would love to try track and field, and she fully believes she can learn to jump hurdles.
Her upper-body strength pays off during games of tag, too.

"When someone's about to tag me, I can just jump up a tree and get away," she said, laughing.

At ease with herself
Hannah, a fifth-grader at North Raleigh Christian Academy, enjoys reading, making jewelry and playing the guitar. She would like to swim in the Paralympics or even the Olympics someday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Break Offers Lasting Lessons

This article by Stacy Chandler appeared in the May 17 edition of the News & Observer's Thumbs Up section.

While many of her classmates were looking forward to getting a tan on spring break, Kim Geiger was eager to get something else during her time off from school: perspective.

With about 40 fellow members of the Leaders Club from YMCAs across the Triangle, she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a volunteer mission to help that city's hungry and homeless.

Feeding Others
The volunteers packed meals and toiletries and served dinners, but their work went beyond handouts. They also engaged with the people they helped, sitting down for one-on-one conversations that helped pass the time but also told the stories of lives gone off-course.

YMCA Spring Break
 "Over my trip I learned that these people grew up maybe not just like I did, but similar, and one bad choice and they ended up like this," Kim, 16, said a couple weeks after returning to her home in Cary. "So I learned that these people were not any less of a human than I was, and I really appreciated that fact by the time I was heading home."

The Leaders Club students worked hard during their trip, but Kim said the hardest part of their mission was when the work was over. 

"The hardest part was walking away," she said. "We would be doing something that was really beneficial and really making a person happy, and then the activity was over and they would go back to being on the streets, not knowing when their next meal would be."

One night, she added, the volunteers cooked dinner for a group of homeless people.

"When we walked home that night, back to our hostel," she said, "we saw some of the people who had eaten dinner with us still with their nametags on, sleeping on benches."
Heartwrenching as that scene was for Kim, she knows she gained as much from the trip as the people she was able to help.

"I feel that if I'm helping another person and helping to benefit another one's life, I've done something with my life that's meaningful," she said.

The YMCA of the Triangle's Leaders Club provides middle and high school students with opportunities to receive leadership training that enhances personal growth while teaching the importance of social responsibility and service to others. Click here to learn more.

A Different Kind of Spring Break

Liz Simpers led the YMCA Spring Break Mission Trip that was featured in the May 17 News & Observer. Here's a brief interview with the Cary Family YMCA Teen Director.

Where did you go for Spring Break?
We took 40 high schoolers to Washington, D.C. to participate in work with the homeless through an organization called YSOP (Youth Services Opportunities Project). YSOP operates in D.C. and New York City coordinating a variety of programs that deal with hunger and homelessness.


Our group made and handed out sandwiches one night.We hosted a dinner for the homeless at a downtown church and served meals at the D.C. Soup Kitchen. We worked with a group called Elder Buddies that helps to clean up apartments for senior citizens in danger of being evicted due to unsanitary conditions. 

What did you do there?
One of the most impactful things we did was to go to local park one evening and hand out sandwiches, socks, and toothbrushes to the homeless community.

Hitting the Streets

We told the kids to engage with the community, to talk to them, get to know them, ask their names, and in general, visit with them. You could see kids all over the park sitting with a homeless man or woman, that appreciated the conversation just as much as the sandwiches. Our group of high school kids, from all over the Y branches in the Triangle , learned a lot about what we have in common with the homeless, and how to have compassion for every person we meet.

What is YMCA Leaders Club?
Leaders Club group is part of a national YMCA initiative. At our Y (YMCA of the Triangle), about 100 high school students from local high schools learn what it means to be a leader in the community. During the school year, students learn more about themselves, grow together in meetings, on trips and in service opportunities. Participants must maintain a 3.0 GPA and complete 100 volunteer hours during the year.

What did the teens (and you) learn during the trip?
In DC, we got to get outside of our own little bubble and see people for who they are, not what they make or what they drive, or where they live.

We were all impacted by the reality that homelessness is more an issue of loneliness than economy. When people don’t have family and friends that love them, they are truly alone, and have no resources to support them in a time of crisis. That hit home for a lot of us, and personally made me thankful that I am loved and supported, and would have someone to turn to if I was in a financial crisis.
YMCA Teen Leaders Having Fun

Why do you work at the Y?
I work at the Y because we have a chance to impact lives, truly. We have the venue and the resources to help high school kids discover their true identity, and that is life changing. Where else can I do something like that for a living and watch the community be transformed?

You also led the TOMS walk our YMCA sponsored in April. Why compels you to lead these efforts?
In the year and a half that I have been working at the Cary Y, I've seen amazing growth that I attribute to our volunteer advisors and our kids bringing their friends and families into their lives. A vision for change can be contagious. It is obvious to me, with the success of our TOMS event, that people know they need to do more and WANT to be a part of something bigger than themselves. To be a part of facilitating that is an amazing opportunity.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pucker Up: Lemonade Day 2011

The Durham YMCAs sponsored their second Lemonade Day on May 7. More than 1,200 children participated in this community-wide event.The Durham Y's Ryan Eves explains how making lemonade also makes a difference.

Maya Daniel set up her lemonade stand near the Downtown Durham Farmers Market, a perfect place to be on a warm Saturday morning in May.
Maya's Lemonade Stand

She brought a friend, Kayla along to help her run the stand. Her parents stood to the side, helping with the money so the girls could focus on serving the customers with clean hands.

Maya had three types of lemonade: mango, strawberry and watermelon.  If you wanted regular lemonade I’m sure she would have served you, but you’d be missing out on the good stuff! 

A neighbor from the Caribbean helped Maya with her recipes, teaching her how to puree the mango and how she needed to liquefy the strawberries so they mixed with the lemonade well.

Maya planned to use her money for a trip to Chicago to visit family since a new baby is due to arrive this summer.  She’s saved up some money already and will use her earnings to get her the rest of the way.

Lemonade Day was such a success that the Durham YMCAs will offer a pilot project for the Y Guides & Princesses this summer. Click here to learn more about Lemonade Day throughout the nation.

Friday, May 13, 2011

After the Storm

When a devastating tornado swept through Raleigh on April 16, the Kerr Family YMCA was there to help. Under the leadership of staff member Shannan Feldbusch, the Y partnered with the Red Cross to provide transportation for storm victims living in a temporary shelter at Heritage High School in Wake Forest.

Using YMCA buses and personal vehicles, Kerr Y staff drove victims to their jobs, to meet FEMA inspectors and to doctor’s appointments all over the Triangle. This is just one way the Y answered the call to help. Read Shannan’s account.

I was privileged to be able spend several days with the tornado ravaged residents of Stony Brook Mobile Home park. They were so appreciative of any help. Very simply, they felt helpless. 
Common sight along our route

So many of them said how blessed they were to come out of this storm with their whole family. Some residents in Stony Brook were not so lucky.  

I arrived at the school at 6 a.m. and all the men were ready to go. They were up at the crack of dawn ready to work, even willing to miss breakfast provided by the Red Cross. Despite all the damage, they were determined to get to work on time.

As I took one gentleman to Brentwood Road and Capital Blvd. to get his car, we were amazed at the damage. Some roads were closed. The open roads were filled with trees. Trees on homes, trees on cars. Trees everywhere.

The second man worked for a landscaping company on Aviation Parkway in Morrisville. When the storm hit, he grabbed his wife, his seven-year-old daughter and the rest of the family. They huddled in the bathroom at the middle of his mobile home.

He says the whole house was shaking and it was hard to breathe. They couldn’t see anything because it was pitch black. He said it seemed like forever from the start until the end. In reality, it probably lasted 15 minutes. Later, his wife went to the hospital because her chest was hurting.

More devastation
The third gentleman I spent the most time with is a leukemia survivor. Before he was diagnosed, he was a superintendent of a construction crew that built many familiar structures in Raleigh. He was part of the crew that built Wal Mart and Lowes on Highway 64.
Three years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He finished all his treatments. Thanks to a bone marrow transplant, he's now in remission.

He takes about 30 pills each day. He lost all of them in the tornado. He is very weak from his treatments, but somehow found the strength to hold onto the people he loves. His neighbors across the street lost two children and their mom. When the storm passed, those children were found in a tree. When he closes his eyes, those images and memories haunt him. 

All that is left

Two months ago, he tried to insure his home. The insurance company said it was just too old. He figures he lost everything.

Trees smashed the two cars his family owns. His wife can’t go to work because the windshield is gone and mirrors are cracked.

What a huge blow. She provides the only income in their family.

Even though the family lost so much, he says he's blessed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life After Your Cardiac Event Begins at the YMCA!

In 2006, the YMCA and WakeMed joined forces to make our community a better place. Click here to learn more about our partnership.

At the Y, we're always looking for ways for help you along your wellness path.  
WakeMed Cardiac Rehab at the Y

Our community health partner, WakeMed, now offers Cardiac Rehab at the Kraft Family YMCA in Apex. WakeMed’s Cardiac Rehab program provides patients who have had a recent heart attack, cardiac surgeries or even a heart transplant, with a safe, monitored environment to live a heart-healthy life.

Treatment is medically directed by a cardiologist and provided by a highly qualified professional staff.

“It’s a great alternative for patients and a positive collaboration among the physicians, the Y and WakeMed,” said Dr.Richard Daw, a cardiologist with Wake Heart and Vascular Associates.

Operated by WakeMed Healthworks, the program’s medical director is Dr. Pratik Desai, FACC,a cardiologist with Cary Cardiology.

“Patients in our area now have easy access to the same medically directed cardiac rehabilitation program that is available at WakeMed’s Raleigh Campus,” he said.

The Kraft Family YMCA is located at 8921 Holly Springs Road in Apex.Cardiac Rehab Program sessions will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 to 8 a.m.

For more information, call the WakeMed Cary Hospital Cardiac Rehab Program at 919-350-1875 or visit www.wakemed.org.

Lost 100 Pounds: Gained a New Attitude!

When we say we're for healthy living at the Y, we mean it. Just ask one of our members who lost weight and gained a new life.

Midge Cangelosi’s journey to weight loss was not an easy one, but a new body and a new attitude made it worth every step of the way.

Her journey began over three years ago. A former IBM manager and now a substitute teacher, Midge came to the A.E. Finley YMCA to bask in the motivation from others, work out on the elliptical, do strength training and water aerobics.

Though Midge exercised in college, ice skated and danced as a teenager, the 100 pounds she had to lose and her love of cooking became big obstacles as she got older. With a family history of heart disease and diabetes, she knew it was just a matter of time before the extra pounds would take their toll. 
Before the Y
Midge decided to take her time to lose and joined Weight Watchers. She started out slow, lost some weight and then gained some back. She knew the long-term answer involved a combination of diet and exercise so she decided to delve deeper and find the unique combination that worked for her. She started recording how her body reacted to certain foods and did lots of reading.

“I came to realize that there were just certain things I could not put in my body,” she said. She started growing her own herbs, buying grass-fed meat and organic vegetables. She began cutting out artificial sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated oils. With her two grown sons out of the house, she could cook her way.

After the Y
One hundred pounds later and still losing, it’s become part of her life.

“I feel so much better. Now my health is what keeps me focused. I’m so much more aware of what I consume. Many people want to lose weight instantly. But it’s a long journey. And it involves a commitment to change ourselves, change our minds and become wiser consumers.”

The Y is also a big part of her motivation.  Her circle of Y friends meets for lunch and coffee regularly and they share low-calorie recipes.

“I love the Y and I love the instructors. Part of staying motivated involves going consistently to class and taking part in the positive atmosphere of the Y. Folks there are always upbeat. They’re all an inspiration to me.”

"Be aware of what goes in your body. How are you feeling? How are you sleeping? Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t make excuses. Find supporters (my husband is my biggest one!) and hang around folks with a positive attitude. It’s easy to say ‘Poor me,’ but everyone has to start somewhere.”