Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Bobby Sunukjian says being in the right place – at the right time – saved his life.

Bobby, Delynda and George
On October 31, the Sunukjian family heads to the Cary Y for an afternoon workout. Bobby and his wife, Rachel, drop off their two young children in the nursery. Rachel heads to her group fitness class. Thirty-eight-year-old Bobby hits the track.

When he’s done, Bobby goes to the Mens’ Locker Room to cool down.

Meantime, Cary Y staff member George Wait makes his usual rounds of the building. As he enters the locker room, George notices Bobby slumped over in a chair and unresponsive.

“Call 911 and bring the crash bag,” George exclaims over the walkie talkie.

That’s when Cary Y member Jeff Worthington walks into the locker room. Like Bobby, Jeff wants to fit in an afternoon workout. His plans change as he immediately helps George lower Bobby to the ground. By now, Bobby doesn’t have a pulse.

“One, two, three, four,” counts Jeff as George starts chest compressions on Bobby.

Delynda Ramirez-Carter works the front desk at the Cary YMCA on this Halloween. She hears George’s request over the walkie and rushes into the locker room with the automated external defibrillator or AED. George and Jeff step aside as Delynda places the AED pads on Bobby’s chest.

“Clear,” says Delynda as she administers the first shock of the AED.

Like intricate choreography, George immediately takes over with more chest compressions. Within 30 seconds, Bobby starts to become alert. George and Jeff place Bobby in the recovery position and give him oxygen.

As the fire department and EMS crew arrive, Bobby is talking and answering questions.

“Delynda and George care so deeply for the members of the Cary Y. I am thankful that I work beside such quick reacting, talented and compassionate people,” said Diane Hillsgrove, Cary Family YMCA Branch Director.

Bobby and Rachel Sunukjian have been regular members of the Cary Y. They know the faces and names of many of the friendly staff. But Bobby and Rachel didn’t know that many of those Y staff members are trained emergency responders.

“We are blessed to have staff members like George and Delynda on our team who are willing and ready to respond when life threatening situations arise,” Brad Emory, Associate Branch Director Administration, remarked. “God certainly used them on October 31 to provide the care that Bobby Sunukjian needed at that moment. “

In June, the Triangle Chapter of the American Red Cross presented George Wait and Delynda Ramirez-Carter with the Lifesaving Award for the Professional Responder, the highest award given by the American Red Cross. Click here to watch the presentation.

A healthy and very happy Bobby Sunukjian was there for the presentation.

“I couldn’t ask for a better team that day,” Bobby said at the presentation. “George and Delynda were so well trained and in the right place. The right equipment was in place. But this was much more than equipment. When it all comes together it is a like a symphony. In this case, the symphony saved my life.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Finley Frenzy: A.E. Finley Youth Triathlon

Mark your calendar for the 2011 Finley Frenzy, the A.E. Finley YMCA's Youth Triathlon on August 21.

Reagan at 2010 Finley Frenzy
Nine-year-old Reagan Leandro decided the summer of 2010 was going to be about more than movies, silly bands and friends. She set her goal to train for the Finley Frenzy, Finley’s youth triathlon.
Her mother, Jennifer, was excited about Reagan taking the initiative to create her own healthy lifestyle. Reagan even convinced her dad, Scott, to bring her to the Finley Y every Saturday morning to prepare for the race.

“I didn’t think she would actually go through with it until we were on our family vacation this summer,” said Jennifer. “Instead of playing in the pool, she was swimming laps,” Jennifer said.

Reagan began her training by concentrating on the two portions of the triathlon that she felt would be the most difficult: swimming and running. A slow, steady training schedule of running in her neighborhood and swimming laps at the Finley pool, and whenever she could get into the water, helped build her confidence. In addition to the physical training, Reagan made healthy eating choices to support her goal of finishing. Fruits and vegetables were the order of the day!

When Sunday morning, Aug. 22 came, Reagan was nervous, yet determined to finish the race. Volunteers welcomed her to the triathlon, and directed her in line with the other some 200 participants in the swimming portion. The nerves faded and Reagan told her dad, “I can finish this.”

By then, Reagan’s hard work had paid off in other areas of her life. At soccer, she played with more energy and her new found confidence could be seen on the field. She even decided that for Christmas, she wanted a new bike, “one with gears”, so she can start work on next year’s (2011) Frenzy. When she finished the final portion – the run – she crossed the finish line and received her medal with a great big smile!

Reagan was happy to have the opportunity to take responsibility for her own actions and accomplish something that she never thought possible. Now she can incorporate her eating and workout habits into a long-range strategy for healthy living and carry over her newfound confidence into other areas that affect her life. Congratulations to her and all our other Finley participants for a job well done!

The Finley Frenzy is just one example of how the YMCA strengthens community through youth development and healthy living. We’re looking forward to another wonderful race in 2011!

To find out more about this year's 7th Annual Finley Frenzy or to sign up contact: Caitlin Palczuk.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


When we say we strengthen the foundations of the community, we mean it at the Y. Here's one of the best examples of how we focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

How tall?
What happens when you combine the expertise of WakeMed, Saint Augustine's College and the YMCA of the Triangle? We call it Healthy Communities Day. 

It started this morning at 9:00 sharp on the Saint Augustine’s College campus. More than 700 children from our subsidized Y Summer Day Camps came to get free medical screenings from WakeMed, Eye Care Associates and local dentists. They also had a lot of fun.

This amazing event started three years ago as a dream of Dexter Hebert, Community Outreach Director of the Alexander Family YMCA.

 “The Y does a lot of amazing things, but we can’t meet all of the needs of children and families in our community,” says Dexter. “It just seemed to make sense to join forces with other organizations.”
Eye screening
Dexter started with WakeMed, the Y’s community health partner and Saint Augustine’s College, the permanent home of the Alexander Family Y’s Camp High Hopes, the Y’s largest fully subsidized day camp. They were thrilled to help. In fact, they decided to offer the event to all Y outreach campers.

"Many of the children involved in YMCA outreach programs don’t have access to preventative health screenings,” said Linda Barrett, manager of WakeMed Corporate & Community Health. “It’s exciting to see so many community agencies come together to make this happen.”
This year, the Raleigh Police Department even sent some four-legged friends for a visit.

But, the real purpose of the day was summed up by nine-year-old Sha-niaya.

“Are you healthy? I am!”

YMCA Camp High Hopes and other outreach programs are funded through the Y's We Build People program. Click here to learn more.

Monday, July 11, 2011


We’re teaming up with the American Heart Association up for Triangle Heart Walk on Sept. 25. There are three easy ways to get involved. 

Nominate yourself or someone you know for the YMCA Lifestyle Change Award. Four winners who have made healthy lifestyle changes will receive a free year at the Y! Winners will include a youth, two adults and a family. Complete a nomination form by Sept. 2. Read Midge's story to see how someone made a positive lifestyle change.

Participate in the Triangle Heart Walk on Sun., Sept. 25 at the RBC Center. Join us for a one-mile or three-mile walk with fun and educational opportunities. Put on your walking shoes; bring your kids; you can even bring your dog! The walk is free, but donations to the American Heart Association will be accepted. Register here, and join the YMCA of the Triangle team. Festivities begin at 1 p.m, and the walk starts at 2 p.m.

Improve your heart rate. The Y is holding a Heart-Healthy Challenge prior to the Triangle Heart Walk. Choose your distance. Here's how it works. Be active an hour a day for 6, 13 or 26 days. Just print this handy chart to get you started.
Participating in the Triangle Heart Walk for a fun way to complete the challenge.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Marathon Training: A Helping Hand from the Y

Think training for a marathon is just too hard? Sometimes you just need some encouragement from your friends at the Y. Just ask Alexander Family YMCA member Torey Peeler.

“‘Why do you keep coming to spin class with wet hair?’” my friend Marjorie kept asking.”

It started during a grocery trip to Whole Foods, where Torey Peeler spotted the cover of Endurance Magazine promoting upcoming triathlons.

“The women on the cover just looked so empowered,” Torey said, “And she looked like a normal person—someone like me.”

Torey Peeler

Inspired by that picture, Torey made a bold commitment: she decided to complete the Ramblin’ Rose for her 50th birthday—her first sprint triathlon that included a 225-yard swim, a nine-mile bike and a two-mile run.

It was completely new ground for Torey. “I had a fear of running,” Torey recalled. “I’ve done lots of cycling and yoga, but I’ve never, ever been a runner.”

Despite her reservations, Torey began piecing together a training routine. She started by signing up for the “Do It Your Way Fitness Challenge” at the Alexander Y—a program designed to help members set and achieve fitness goals—with the personal goal of running two miles.

From there, Torey tapped into every training resource she could find, from triathlete websites to local workshops. “The instructors at the Y became my personal network for advice and encouragement,” she recalled, “They were one of the main building blocks in the whole process.”

It wasn’t long before Torey’s training regime piqued the interest of cycling buddy, Marjorie. (“I swam before cycling class, and Marjorie kept wondering why I showed up with wet hair!”) Marjorie wanted in on the fun, and the two began training together.

Just two weeks before the Ramblin’ Rose, Torey received bad news: she was diagnosed with pneumonia. But she wasn’t about to give up her months of

“My goal was to finish that race,” Torey said. “My goal had only ever been just to finish.” And on Sunday, May 22, 2011—despite doctor’s orders—that’s exactly what Torey did.

After the Race
“It was like a red-carpet moment,” she recalled. “At the end of the race, I just hugged Marjorie, laughing and crying (and coughing!) all at the same time!”

Today, Torey credits her success to the accountability, focus and encouragement of her friends at the Y, the close-knit community who supported her through her journey.

“I hated to run,” Torey said, “But I did it. I have this incredible self-satisfaction of learning and mastering something new for my 50th birthday.”


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kraft Y Brings Out the Best in Camper

This spring semester, a 4th grader named Joseph was referred to the Kraft Y after being expelled from another youth program in the community. Program Director Brian Skilton tells us how he and his staff worked together to bring out the best in Joseph.
After speaking with Joseph’s grandmother, I learned that his situation was a tough one. His home life wasn’t picture perfect, and he was also heavy and living a very unhealthy lifestyle.
When Joseph arrived at our early arrivals and after school programs, we learned that he had trouble interacting with others, didn’t handle change well, and struggled with quick transitions. Within his first two weeks, he had started a fight, yelled profanity at other children and counselors, and arrived at the point of having a conference with myself and his grandmother to discuss if the program was the right fit.
Following the Y mission and not giving up on him, the program staff and I decided to invest in Joseph and his family to let the Kraft Y try to make a change in his life. At our next staff meeting, we discussed how to best serve Joseph and let the great child inside of him find a way to come out for good! 

We decided to each take on a specific role:
  • I committed to being a strong male role model to teach him how to be a good leader as he grows older.
  • Taylor, the site coordinator, committed herself to guiding him through conversations about life, good character and friendship.
  • Kelsie, a huddle counselor, decided to use knowledge she had gained through classes in child nutrition and wellness to help him begin a healthier lifestyle and lose weight.
  • And Marc, a huddle counselor, promised to use skills he had gained through obtaining a teaching certification to help Joseph get back on track scholastically and improve his grades.
That next day, we all got to work!

After months of hard work by the staff and Joseph, things started to change. He began making friends. He started participating in games and activities. He began bringing healthier snacks and being more active. Most important, his attitude towards life and others changed for the better. We started seeing Joseph ask to help as a leader in the program. We saw him setting great examples with his behavior for other children in the program. We also saw a happy side of Joseph that didn’t come out before.
One day, his grandmother notified us that she would be sending a therapist to our after school program once a week to work with Joseph and help him continue to find ways to keep his life moving on the right track. By early May, we witnessed a huge breakthrough.
He and his therapist were sitting at a table by themselves in the cafeteria, and Taylor just so happened to overhear their conversation.
“How are things going, Joseph?” asked the therapist.
“Oh, they’re going a lot better!” replied Joseph.
“Oh really,” said the therapist, “and why do you think that is?”
“Well, it’s definitely because of the YMCA. They help me stay active, and that’s gotta be a good thing! I’ve made more friends, and I like to play in all of the fun games. And the last time I went to my doctor, he told me I’ve lost 10 pounds. ”
Taylor began to feel a sense of pride and happiness at the sound of this news, and as she looked at Joseph and his therapist, they could do nothing but talk with smiles on their faces.
Since then, Joseph has continued to stay active, lose weight, and be an invested camper before and after school. His grades and behavior in his classroom have improved dramatically, and it’s been more than four months since he has been sent to the principal’s office.
Who knows where Joseph may be without the Y, but thanks to the dedication of the staff and his willingness to try, Joseph is on a path to success!