Friday, September 7, 2012

Why the YMCA Moved!

We've moved to our new, improved website!

Check out our new website!Bookmark our new location so you can continue to hear from real people: parents, kids, staff members and volunteers.

You'll hear from folks who lost weight and others who gained friends. All can tell you why the Y.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Swim for Life Meet 2012

David Arukwe. You might want to remember the name.

Two years ago, David didn’t know anything about flip turns, diving blocks or medleys. He also had his dad.

Today, the 11-year-old competes on two A.E. Finley YMCA swim teams, the outreach team and the traditional summer swim team.

David started learning basic swim strokes at YMCA Camp High Hopes, the A.E. Finley YMCA’s subsidized summer day camp.

“Most of these kids, like David, didn’t know how to swim before they came to our Y camps,” said Kendall Harris, YMCA of the Triangle community outreach director. “At the Y, we consider swimming a life skill. That’s why we incorporate daily swim lessons into our outreach camps.”

When David’s dad died suddenly last Thanksgiving, time in the pool proved to be a positive distraction.

“Where can I start? He comes alive in the water,” says Queen Arukwe, David’s mother. “David wants to be like Michael Phelps. He’s motivating his siblings in the pool too.”

David also motivates his teammates. Today, the 11-year-old is developing a strategy to guide his relay team to a victory.

“The first or last swimmer has to be a booster,” exclaims David to his team.

“You go first, David. You’re the best,” says another member of the Finley Y relay team.

On July 28, David joined more than 150 YMCA of the Triangle outreach campers who dove into the Third Annual Swim for Life Meet. The event provides an opportunity for campers from the Alexander, Cary, Durham, Kerr, Kraft and Finley YMCAs to show off their new skills in a competitive setting.

Swimmers competed in the breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle and butterfly. The YMCA branch with the most points earned top honors.

Organizers say winning isn’t the ultimate goal.

“Nearly 60 percent of African-American children can't swim,” said Anthony Hardison, Kerr Family YMCA community outreach director. “According to a USA Swimming study, white children are twice as likely to know how to swim. Our YMCA strives to break those barriers in the pool.”

David broke some meet records, won his heats, earned MVP honors and led the Finley swim team to an overall win.

“I wish my husband was here to see this,” said Queen with tears streaming down her face. “But, the kids know he’s proud of them.”

So are we. Remember the name. David Arukwe.

More than 800 children attend YMCA summer day camp on full or partial scholarship. Swim instruction is a part of each camper’s day. Donations to the YMCA’s Annual We Build People program fund those opportunities.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As all eyes focus on the 2012 Olympics in London, we sat down with YMCA of the Triangle (YOTA) Swim Coach Chad Onken.

YOTA Head Coach Chad Onken
After all, nine of his former and current Y swimmers qualified to compete in the Olympic Time Trials. Former YOTA Swimmer Charlie Houchin will swim alongside Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in a quest for a gold medal in the 800 Free Relay.

What do you say to a young swimmer who wants to be the next Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte or Charlie Houchin?
Focus on your own development in the water. It's not a race against other people in your event. Our goal is to help our athletes eliminate their weaknesses and expand their own strengths.

Nine YOTA athletes qualified for the Olympic Time Trials. Can you put that in perspective?  
Not every team in the country had athletes at this meet -it's quite a privilege to have one swimmer at Olympic Trials. Keep in mind, in 2000, YOTA didn't have a qualifier. In 2004, we had one. In 2008, we had a small group of former YOTA swimmers at the meet, but none representing YOTA. We are blessed to have nine athletes who qualified for this year’s event.

What is the recipe for YOTA success in the pool?
It really is a team effort. First, I credit the culture of the YMCA. We have a
team-first focus that has created a family atmosphere. We work hard on the long-term development of our athletes. Our coaches are ridiculously talented. They really are the best coaching staff in North Carolina. It also helps that we have great athletes who are very goal-oriented. They simply get the job done.

The success of the YOTA Swim Team makes spectators wonder if there is something special in the water.
I wish it were that easy. I'm proud of the YOTA organization and everyone who is involved with what we do. I'm even more excited for the 2016, 2020 and 2024 Olympics. I feel confident that the YMCA will be sending even more athletes!

This summer has been amazing for the YOTA Swim Team. How proud are you?
Outside of the actual Olympic Games, the Olympic Time Trials in Omaha was the largest stage for our sport. It was amazing to have so many YOTA athletes represent us there. Many of these athletes have been swimming with the Y since they were very young. It makes me feel good about the YOTA program and what we’re doing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July's Best Snack

There is more to celebrate this July than our nation’s birthday. It’s also National Blueberry Month!

Did you know that blueberries are one of the best sources for vitamins A, C and E? The little berries contain antioxidants and can boost health, helping to prevent internal infections, and even cancer.

Here are some quick, easy recipes to make the most of this summer fruit:

  • Smoothie: Blend low-fat organic vanilla yogurt, ice, and fresh fruit for a refreshing snack this summer. Combining blueberries with other favorite fruits will produce you the perfect sweet treat.
  • Yogurt Parfait: Mix low-fat organic vanilla yogurt, granola and blueberries for a protein-rich snack.
  • Salad: Spruce up your favorite salad for sweet option. Top off with a light poppy seed dressing. 
So celebrate the red, white and blueberries. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

YMCA Healthy Communities Day 2012

When we say we strengthen the foundations of the community, we mean it at the Y.

Our YMCA Healthy Communities Day is one of the easiest ways to show you how we focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

On July 12, we joined forces with our community health partner, WakeMed, to provide free medical screenings to children who need them most. In fact, this is the fourth year we've hosted the event.

We couldn't offer this gathering without the help of Saint Augustine’s University, the permanent home of our largest outreach camp, the Alexander Family YMCA’s Camp High Hopes.

Here's a look at the numbers.
The numbers are impressive. But, the results of Healthy Communities Day are simply amazing.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Summer trips to the pool are a great way to dive into some old-fashioned fun with your family.

Practice basic swimming skills like kicking or floating with your younger kids.

If your children are capable swimmers try some of these classic pool games. If you don’t remember the rules, don’t worry. We’ll catch you up on the basics.

Marco Polo
Who doesn't love this fun water game of tag? One person is ‘it’ and counts (usually underwater) as the other participants scatter around the pool. When the person who is it comes up, she yells ‘Marco,’ keeping her eyes closed. The other participants respond with Polo! This call and response continues until the person who is ‘it’ tags someone.
It only takes two to play this classic pool game, but the more the merrier.

Simon Says
This traditional game takes an exciting twist when you’re in the pool. Players all line up with the exception of one player who is designated ‘Simon.’ Simon calls out directions for the other players. (Some examples of commands are jump, twist, dunk underwater, or cannonball in the pool). Players who don't follow Simon's orders are eliminated. The last player standing wins.

London Bridge
Two players stand in the water holding each other's hands shoulder level forming a 'bridge'. The other players then walk below the bridge one by one. Each time a player passes under the bridge, the bridge is lowered. Eventually the players must swim under the water to cross the bridge. This helps strengthen your child’s agility, concentration and coordination. It’s also a lot of fun!

Sharks and Minnows
This is the pool version of tag. One player is designated the chaser and must count to a certain number before chasing other players. The player tagged by the chaser then becomes the new chaser. Just remind your children to be mindful of other’s space in the pool.

Pool Rule
Remember, only play these pool games with a lifeguard or responsible adult watching.

We hope to see you at one of our Y pools.

Chick-fil-A President Unveils Leadership Toolkit at YMCA

Few entrepreneurs attend business seminars armed with a Slinky, a runner's baton, and an 18" pepper mill. Dan Cathy, however, arrived with all three—and a large fuzzy cow.
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy shares his leadership
toolkit at an Alexander Family YMCA luncheon.

On June 21, Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy shared his unique approach to leadership at a luncheon at the Alexander Family YMCA. While nearly 300 of Raleigh's business leaders watched, Dan unveiled a brown leather satchel containing the secrets to his success, his personal toolkit for effective leadership.

"When I get home this evening," Dan said, "I'm going to jump on my lawnmower and cut grass for a few hours to recover from all this extroverted interaction!"

The Leadership Toolkit
A self-pronounced introvert, Dan counterbalanced his quiet nature by developing an intentional approach to leadership. To prove his point, Dan pulled a railroad spike from his brown satchel.

"Stay on track," Dan said. “Every time a Chick-fil-A customer says 'thank you,' every one of our employees always responds with 'my pleasure’—a custom my father established through persistence."

The rusty railroad spike was followed by a parade of humorous but poignant visual aids. A Slinky—admonishing leaders to "go first" into new territory; a runner's baton--reminding the audience to groom successors; a pepper mill—stressing the value of quality service; and a conductor's baton to illustrate the importance of planning, practice and skill (an appropriate analogy for Dan who has played the trumpet for nearly 50 years).

Lasting Impressions
The lunch included a debut of the Chick-fil-A cow mascot, snippets of Chick-fil-A's newest commercials, and even a video of S. Truett Cathy, Dan's 91-year old father and the company founder. But Dan's closing remarks contained what may have been the event's most memorable moments.

Producing a cell phone and a small Bible from his coat pocket, Dan said, "Don't become so enamored with technology and business that you forget what really matters. Be bold. Be strong. Be courageous."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA: A Survivor's Story

Last summer, the YMCA of the Triangle launched LIVESTRONG at the YMCA at the Cary and Alexander Family YMCAs. Since then, nearly 60 cancer survivors have participated in the 12-week health and fitness program. Specially trained Y staff lead the twice a week sessions. Here’s the amazing part - this program is free to participants. This summer, we’re launching the program at the Kraft, Finley and Lee County YMCAs!

At the Y, we’re committed to supporting our friends, families and neighbors in their fight against this disease. After you read Debbi Braswell’s story, you’ll know why.


It took a few years and lots of twists and turns before I started volunteering at the Y.

When my family joined the Cary YMCA in 2008, we never connected with anyone. We came. We worked out. We left. My husband, Kevin, and I are both introverts, so it takes a lot to draw us out. (Our 10-year-old son, Alexander, on the other hand, has never met a stranger!)

Fast forward to 2009. That’s when Kevin was laid off.  We thought about giving up our Y membership to cut back, but we decided our health was too important. Four months later, I learned that I had stage III breast cancer.

Debbi (top row, far left) and her LIVESTRONG group.
God has seen me through the struggle of my life, including three surgeries, four months of chemotherapy and radiation. I was severely anemic, but I did my best to walk with a friend. Sometimes I had to sit on a curb to rest.
Eventually I returned to the Y, feeling lonely and lost. I didn’t know how to go about my recovery. How much exercise – and what kind - was too much and how much was too little? Finally one day I asked Cheryl Dichard, who had given me my orientation, if the Y had any help for cancer survivors.

I was shocked to learn that Cheryl was a 16-year cancer survivor! She told me that the Cary Y was preparing to launch a pilot program for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. It’s a 12-week program designed to help cancer survivors improve not only the functioning of their bodies, but also the quality of their lives.

I was in! I scheduled an upcoming surgery so that I could start LIVESTRONG a few weeks post-op. I even postponed the next surgery so I could finish the program. I loved it! Cheryl and Beth Blount gave us just the right mixture of encouragement, instruction and challenge. We all wore yellow LIVESTRONG T-shirts and called ourselves The Killer Bees!

I went on to recruit a good friend and fellow cancer survivor who joined the group. About that time I was invited to volunteer with the group. You might think I would pounce on the chance to stay involved.

But I considered the time invested. And I wondered – what could an introvert like me contribute to LIVESTRONG? That’s when I had my epiphany. Knowing that God had allowed me to go through the dark valley of cancer, I realized it would be selfish not to share the strength, encouragement and perspective He’s helped me gain through the journey.

So I volunteered, and I will be forever grateful. I still cannot believe the incredible people who joined the third LIVESTRONG group. Some were quiet, some were funny, some had hair, some were growing their hair back. We all jelled! You wouldn’t believe how much fun we had – or how hard we laughed! Sometimes visitors looked a little baffled by us. Was this really a cancer support group?

It’s true that our group struggled through some awful times. Some people like my dear friend Jessi had their cancer recur. She started as a volunteer with me, but she needed to become a participant again. She is a STRONG, STRONG woman! Another amazing woman named Lindy got worse and died. Lindy had a beautiful personality and none of us will forget the day she gathered two people to join her in doing the “Monkees walk.” (If you didn’t grow up in the ‘60s, look it up on YouTube!)

LIVESTRONG has been a wonderful way to feel a connection – to share a common experience. Although the group spent serious time working out, Beth and Amanda Dismukes made sure there was also time for talking and reflecting. This investment of time has resulted in enduring ties. Although this group finished a couple of months ago, the participants still email each other. One person held a fancy tea for the group. Most people attended Lindy’s funeral.

My official volunteer duties weren’t very challenging. I wiped weights and helped stack chairs. The most difficult task, at first, was talking to participants while they did their cardio workouts. I thought,  me, an introvert making small talk? What on earth could I say? But apparently even an introvert can make a workout more tolerable. I guess all a volunteer needs to be is herself.

If you’re interested in participating or volunteering, contact us at

Monday, June 25, 2012


The nation’s best swimmers are competing in Omaha, Nebraska June 25 – July 2 to determine who will represent the USA in the Olympic Games in London. Seven current and former YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA) swimmers are diving into the action.

“At the YOTA Swim Team, we have a team-first focus. We work hard at the long-term development of our athletes,” says Chad Onken, YOTA Swim Team Head Coach.

YOTA Swimmer Charlie Houchin 
The success of the YOTA Swim Team makes spectators wonder if there is something special in the water. Head Coach Chad Onken laughs off that theory. He credits some old-fashioned methods for the team’s lightning speed.

“We have the best coaching staff in North Carolina. And, our goal-oriented athletes simply get the job done.”

Those athletes are Sabrina Benson, Charlie Houchin, Dominick Glavich, Joe Bonk, Zach McGinnis, Colin Ellington and Nick Walkotten, who also serves as an assistant coach of the YOTA Swim Team.

“I am a coach first and an athlete second, says Walkotten, “It has been a juggling act to make sure I'm prepared to coach my groups and also find enough time to train myself. Wearing both hats has allowed me to maintain my athleticism by training smarter, not just harder.”

The competition is fierce. More than 1,800 swimmers are vying for 26 slots on the men’s team and 26 slots on the women’s team.

“I'm even more excited for the 2016, 2020 and 2024 Olympic Trials,” says Onken. “I know YOTA will be taking even more athletes.”

For a schedule and results go to You can also keep tabs on our YOTA swimmers on the YMCA of the Triangle website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Who knew that two straps with handles could provide a great workout? The Navy SEALs did, and that was the beginning of TRX. Now you can try it, too!

Y branches offer the TRX Suspension system and free training on how to use it. Members hook it to a secure place and work their muscles while using their own body weight as resistance.

TRX workouts improve strength, flexibility and balance. “Using TRX works your core and functional muscles,” says Romain Marriott, a personal trainer at the Cary Y. “You develop muscles that you use every day.”

“It’s great exercise because it’s body weight exercise,” explains Cary Y Wellness Director Amanda Dismukes. “A lot of our members love it. It’s popular with our members in their 20s, 30s, 40s and fit 50s.”

Interested? Complete a TRX training session at the Y. You’ll learn TRX exercises and proper technique. It might not be long before you get hooked!

Friday, June 15, 2012


Did you know that Father’s Day got its start at the YMCA?

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd heard a sermon honoring mothers. She wondered why there was no similar tribute for fathers. Dodd’s father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran who raised his six children on his own after his wife’s death.

Smart Dodd launched the first Father's Day celebration at the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. In 1972, President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law. The day dedicated to Dads has become an opportunity to lavish gifts and loving gestures on one’s father.

Today, fathers play an enormous role in the lives of their children. We see them daily, acting as coaches, teachers, role models and confidants. Our Y, as a leading community service organization, is totally committed in supporting and reassuring them.

On June 17, the YMCA of the Triangle joins the nation in celebrating Father’s Day and recognizing the impact fathers and adult male role models make in children’s lives.

Thanks, Sonora. And, thank you, Dad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Super Foods: What They Are and How They Work

Imagine a super food--not a drug--powerful enough to help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, cancers, anti-inflammatory and as an added bonus--helps improve mood. A.E. Finley YMCA’s Registered Dietician Sarah Schroeder offers some great advice.

I tell my clients to choose foods that work for them and with them. Choose foods you consume them on a regular basis that will help control or lower your risk for heart disease, cancers, osteoporosis, Type II diabetes and hypertension.


Choosing these foods on a regular basis may impact the above health conditions. And unlike any prescription pill, there is no long list of side effects. So it’s a win-win for you and your body!

Here’s my list of Super Foods in no particular order. I have tried to add the benefits or the key super nutrient in each food.

Avocados: High in monounsaturated fats Omega 3’s, high fiber, high in potassium.

Beets: Nature’s multi-vitamin. Beets provide a greater range of nutrients ounce for ounce than virtually any other fruit or vegetable on the planet. High in antioxidants (found in the deep red pigment), beets also help lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risks and aid in cleansing the body of harmful chemicals of processed foods, such as nitrates.

Photo Source:
Berries: Forget the high priced acai, we have an abundance of berries right here in our back yard. High in antioxidants, it’s best to eat a variety because one doesn’t contain all you need.
Strawberries - Vitamin K
Raspberries - Vitamin C
Blueberries - Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids high in K and Vitamin C, and high in fiber, also an anti-inflammatory.
Blackberries - Vitamin E

Cabbage and cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Cabbage is the best. Cabbage reduces risk of certain cancers including breast, stomach, lung and prostate. Helps reduce heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, Alzheimer’s and protects joints and risk of osteoarthritis. High in Vitamin A, C, and K.

Fish: The best choices are fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in contaminants. Generally these are cold water fish. Salmon, halibut, rainbow trout, herring, sardine, and mackerel. Avoid tilapia (if you have high cholesterol) because it’s very high in Omega 5 fatty acid (the bad oil). Fish lowers blood pressure and reduces inflammation. The oil in fish itself nourishes the brain and can slow the mental decline associated with aging. Packed with Calcium, Vitamin K and Omega 3’s.

Tomatoes: High in lycopene. Regular consumption of tomato products can reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. Cooking enhances the benefits and makes them more easily absorbed.

Spinach: Consider this kryptonite to cancer cells. Spinach is filled with anti-oxidants, equivalent to 2-3 servings of a vegetable and scores high in the USDA measure of foods able to rid the body of free radicals.

Lentils: A near perfect food, when mixed with rice, they form a complete protein. No cholesterol, high in soluble and insoluble fibers that help manage blood sugars, lower cholesterol and aid in digestion. All beans are high in fiber.

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Nuts: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts may be your best choices. These are full of heart-healthy fats which boost good cholesterol. Regular nut consumption actually makes people less likely to gain weight. Pistachio is the lowest in calories of the nut family.

Chia and flax seeds: High in Omega 3’s, reduce inflammation and help fight off effects of aging. Chia seeds are hydrophilic or hold 10 times their water weight. High in antioxidants.

Quinoa (keen-wah):  This grain comes closest to supplying all essential life-sustaining nutrients than any other food on the planet. Very high in fiber, protein and minerals and very low in calories and fat.

Soy: Tofu, soy milk, or edamame. Tofu takes on the flavor of marinades. High in calcium, protein, and low in fat.

Tea: Green or black, tea equals antioxidant power and it’s 0 calories unless it’s sweet tea.

Calcium: Recommended ~1000-1200 mg daily. Your brain and heart receives the first priority of calcium received and then your bones get what is left over. You can never make up for lack of calcium intake for a day prior. You must consume the amount above daily. I will focus on Calcium in one of my future articles since it is such an important mineral that all of us need daily.

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Dark chocolate: Packed with antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, 60% or higher cocoa content. Results in lower rates of: obesity, breast cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes and has some weight loss benefits.


Soluble fiber: Keeps cholesterol levels in check, lowers risk of heart disease, blood sugar regulation. Examples: grain and cereal foods, i.e., oatmeal, barley, rice, corn, beets, carrots, avocados, bananas, applesauce, nuts. Think of “gummy” and absorbs water.

Insoluble fiber: Passes through the body very quickly, does not absorb water. Examples: leafy greens, whole grains, celery, seeds and nuts, fruit skins.

Antioxidants: Fight off free radicals that attack the body’s cells that lead to aging and fight heart disease and cancer.


Dark leafy greens
Green or black tea
Whole grains

3x Per Week
Cauliflower and broccoli
Sweet potato
Oily fish

Reduce Intake
Red meat
White starch
Sodas and diet products

About Sarah: Sarah is a Registered Dietitian at the A.E. Finley YMCA. Sarah leads the Y Weigh weight loss class, nutrition seminars for marathon trainers, participates in health fairs and offers private consultations. Her expertise lies in weight loss, women and nutrition, osteoporosis, cholesterol and heart disease and, most importantly, healthy eating for you and your family.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Everyone out of the pool! That’s the last thing you want to hear on a hot, summer day at the pool. But at the Y, safety is our top priority. That’s why we want to remind you of our indoor and outdoor pool policies when it comes to severe weather.

YMCA of the USA and the National Lightning Safety Institute recommend that both outdoor and indoor pools be cleared during a lightning storm.

We follow the 30-minute rule at all of YMCA of the Triangle pools. All Y pools (indoor and outdoor) close for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

“A lot of members want to know why we close our indoor pools during a storm,” says George Allen, vice president of risk at the YMCA of the Triangle. “Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Just because a pool is surrounded by a structure does not make it safe during a storm.”

Here are some facts about lightning:
  •        13% of all lightning incidents involved swimming, boating or fishing.
  •        Thunder is usually heard up to 12 miles from a lightning strike. In other words, if you can hear thunder, you’re in danger of lightning.
  •          Lightning strikes can reach up to 10 miles.

We want everyone to have a fun, safe summer at our YMCA pools!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Bullying is an age-old problem getting a lot of new attention. Cyberbullying is a regular part of our vocabulary. The documentary, Bully, is required viewing in some communities.

Now, the Y is taking bullying head on.

Dr. Joel Haber, the Bully Coach, speaks to YMCA youth 
leadership staff about how to identify and prevent bullying.
“At the YMCA, our top priority is the safety of children in our care. We always want to provide our youth leaders and counselors with the tools to do their jobs effectively,” said Betsy Peters, YMCA of the Triangle regional vice president. “We can’t allow bullying to interfere with children enjoying camp to the fullest.”

National surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years. At least 10% are bullied on a regular basis. That’s why the YMCA of the Triangle invited the nation’s leading bullying prevention and solutions expert, Dr. Joel Haber, to lead summer day camp trainings.

“We’re proud to say we’ve never tolerated violence in YMCA youth programs. Our counselors requested specific training on how to stop bullying,” said Marco Ramirez, associate director of the Kraft Family YMCA. “It seemed logical that we would want to learn about bullying prevention from the best."

Dr. Haber, The Bully Coach™, is the American Camp Association’s (ACA) official bullying consultant. He helped set the standard for anti-bullying prevention for all accredited summer camps that went into effect this year.

On June 1 and 2, Dr. Haber led sessions with YMCA youth leadership staff, YMCA Summer Day Camp staff and Wake County Public School leaders. He offered tips on how counselors and other campers can identify bullying and how to stop it.

“A camp counselor’s job is to be a hero,” said Dr. Haber. “Discussing camper rules and role modeling good behavior lets campers know that bullying is not tolerated.”

The Respect U Camp Program helps camp personnel identify potential bullies in their staff or campers and "hot-spots" where bullying occurs. His program includes the specific tools needed to reduce bullying: hurtful gossip, relational aggression, sports bullying and cyberbullying.

Learn more about the Respect U program. There’s still time to register for YMCA Summer Day Camp. Check out the possibilities.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


While many of us folks celebrated the unofficial start of summer with a trip to the pool or the beach, more than 1,200 volunteers spent the holiday helping rebuild homes that were devastated by Hurricane Irene. Many of those volunteers are staying at Camp Sea Gull for boys and Camp Seafarer for girls , the YMCA of the Triangle's overnight camps located on the North Carolina Coast.

Eight Days of Hope volunteers worship at
Camp Seafarer before getting to work. 
There's an invasion in Pamlico County. They came from Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and beyond. They represent more than 45 states, all denominations and every age.

For eight days (May 26 - June 2), these volunteers are fanning out in Pamlico County repairing, and in some cases, rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Irene. It's called Eight Days of Hope.

“It's sort of like 'Extreme Makeover,' just consider it the Christian version,” said Steve Tabor, the leader of Eight Days of Hope. 

The Mississippi faith-based disaster recovery group began after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, thousands of volunteers travel the nation to rebuild homes after natural disasters. In January, Eight Days of Hope announced Pamlico County as the latest recovery mission. But where do you house nearly 2,000 volunteers? Enter Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer.

“We were so excited to help with this incredible effort,” said Elayne Steinman, associate director of Camp Seafarer. “There are still so many folks in need in our community. This is just one way we can support them.”

In fact, Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull have been supporting the community since Hurricane Irene hit last August. Within days after the storm, National Guard units used the camps as a staging area. Red Cross crews bunked on the grounds. And, staff members who lost their homes lived at camp for months.

Dawn Baldwin Gibson, chair for the Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition, is coordinating recovery efforts with Eight Days of Hope. Dawn was also a Camp Seafarer counselor in 1990.

“The Camps are such an asset to the community,” said Dawn. “The facilities are incredible, the summer programs are awesome, but the people are even more amazing. The staff, especially Elayne Steinman and Lynn Moss (Camp Seafarer Director), are always looking for ways to give back to the community.

I knew that Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull would be the perfect place for the volunteers to stay. Eight Days of Hope directors said they'd stayed at camps before. I told them they've never seen camps like these. When leaders saw the facilities and met the staff a few months ago, they were blown away!”

But would those facilities be available so close to the start of the summer season? Dawn says Lynn Moss and Elayne Steinman made it happen.

“We prayed and prayed. Now thousands of folks are here for eight days. What a blessing. We can never thank Camp Seafarer and Sea Gull for this opportunity.”

Dawn estimates that more than $1 million dollars in manpower will be donated over the eight days effort. She can't put a price tag on the hope that is being generated.

You can follow the volunteer efforts on the group's Facebook page. Be sure to check out the pictures on Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer's Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


We develop the next generation of leaders at the Y!  Last year, Zach Hinton was featured in this article by Stacy Chandler in 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.

Zachary Hinton graduated from Southeast Raleigh High School last year with a number of academic scholarships and big dreams. He credits the Lightner Y Achievers program.

During his four years in the local Lightner YMCA Achievers Program, Zach met community leaders, traveled to regional colleges and polished his interview skills.

"It's a program that tries to help a minority kid to make it in the global arena," he explained. "I thought that was really cool, to see someone that looks like me and they were doing well in society," Zach said.

Along the way, he also learned a thing or two about leadership while serving as the chapter's president. Zach was selected for a national YMCA Five-Star Ambassador Award, which came with a $10,000 scholarship.

Zach just finished his freshman year at Hampton University in Virginia. He sent one of his Lightner Y Achievers advisors this update.

“I just wanted to update you on a few of the activities I've been doing here at Hampton University,” wrote Zach.

“I earned a 4.03 GPA which allows me to be a part of the Hampton University Honors College. I just received acceptance for an internship in robotics at Rice University in Texas. The internship is all expenses paid, and I will receive a stipend at the end. So, I am basically living the life!

I would like to thank you not only for the scholarships (that have helped me greatly), but also for continuing the Y Achievers program. I really appreciate what all of the Y Achievers volunteers have done for me. I am very excited another student can also fulfill their dreams through this program.”

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.

Friday, May 18, 2012


On May 8, Moss Withers checked something off his bucket list. And, he did it for a great cause – the Cary and Kraft Family YMCAs Golf Marathon.

Moss Withers (far left) celebrates his big win!
“It’s a finish attitude out here and not about the score,” Withers remarked. “You get excited to play because it’s such a unique event.”

Since 1992, YMCA members, like Withers, have hit the links to raise money for the YMCA’s We Build People program. Participants spend a fun (and exhausting) day playing 100 holes of golf as part of an alternative fundraiser. In case you wondered, 100 holes of golf equals five times around the course.

This year the weather conditions at Crooked Creek Golf Club in Fuquay-Varina were perfect. Fifty-one golfers teed it up and raised more than $67,500 - surpassing the goal by more than $12,000.

Each year, 100% of the proceeds from the event allow thousands of children, families and adults to participate in life-changing YMCA program regardless of their ability to pay.

Moss Withers, a member of the Kraft Family Y, serves as volunteer chair of the golfing event.  In fact, he’s been part of the marathon since its start.

“I got involved because of my dad, Tony, who has been doing this since the beginning,” Withers said. “When I was a kid I used to come out here with him and drive the cart and spend time on the course. As soon as I got old enough I started playing and raising money on my own and being involved with the event.”

On May 8, Withers shot a 351. That’s four under par for 100 holes. But, the real winner was the YMCA’s We Build People program.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


You may never meet some of the Y’s most important employees – our YMCA bus drivers. Thirty-five staffers log more than 350,000 miles a year driving day campers, overnight campers and tracking out students throughout the region. Their main priority is safety. 

Fourteen of those drivers put their skills to the test in the First YMCA Bus Roadeo on May 5. Organizers, led by Kraft YMCA Transportation Coordinator Cyndy Paciocco, based the Rodeo course on a Wake County School Bus competition. This year’s theme was “We’re in control. That’s how we roll.”

“As a whole, our drivers have a great safety record,” said George Allen, YMCA of the Triangle Vice President of Risk Management. “We wanted to celebrate their skills and give them a chance to spend time together.”

The drivers from the Alexander, Finley, Cary, Kraft, Kerr and Lee County YMCAs were judged on how well they completed basic driving tests such as left turns, right turns, backing up, offset alley, diminishing clearance, and the stop line. That’s where YMCA Transportation Coordinator Johnny Elliott was stationed with measuring tape.

“This is fun, but it also lets us know how they’re doing,” said Johnny.

The goal for a driver was to attain the lowest score possible. The sense of friendly competition was obvious as drivers made their way through the course.

“The ones who’ve driven tractor trailers have the edge,” predicted Bud Schlademan, a Lee County YMCA Driver.

“I’ve been driving a bus for 20 years in Wake County and never got a ticket,” exclaimed another driver. “That’s my test!”

“This is a fun obstacle course. You got to get your slow on,” said Cynthia Benjamin, a driver for the Alexander FamilyYMCA since 2003. “It's nothing like being on the road. Every day is an adventure.”

Mike Moody from the Finley Y won the overall competition and took the grand prize – the golden safety cone.

The drivers can’t wait until the competition next year. But, they’re even more excited about the start of YMCA Summer Day Camp in a few weeks.

“I could drive anywhere else,” said Cynthia Benjamin. “I love the Y kids. The best part is the kids.”

Friday, May 11, 2012


Five-year-old Breanna developed a keen marketing strategy to sell lemonade. She dressed up as a princess and set up her stand outside the Kroger in Garner. It was unusually hot on May 5, which increased her sales.

“That’s what princesses do,” exclaimed Breanna. “They give back.”

Breanna wasn’t kidding. She raised more than $130 in just two and a half hours. She donated part of her proceeds to a family friend who has mounting medical bills. Breanna was just one of nearly 2,000 children who participated in Triangle Lemonade Day. The YMCA of the Triangle sponsored the event in this region.

“The YMCA of the Triangle has a long history of developing young leaders,” said Dawn White. Dawn is a youth programs director at the Cary FamilyYMCA and led the Triangle Lemonade efforts for the YMCA of the Triangle. “Our Y encourages young people to be civic-minded, socially responsible and to learn new skills. The Lemonade Day program aligns perfectly with our efforts.”

Lemonade Day was created in Houston in 2007. This nationwide free, fun, learning program teaches kids how to start, own and operate a business – a lemonade stand. Children learn goal-setting and problem-solving skills. Children are also encouraged to give a portion of their proceeds to a charity of their choice.

The YMCA of the Triangle is just one of 31 cities who participated in National Lemonade Day 2012. Visit to learn more and check out the video on YouTube.

Breanna felt confident about the return on her investment.

“I have magical lemonade,” said Breanna. “But, I can tell you. It’s strawberries.”