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 LemonadeDay.org 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.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Shymel has plenty of reasons to be proud. On April 28, the 10-year-old played goalie for the Kerr Family YMCA Weasels soccer team. During the tournament, Shymel made 12 saves and won MVP honors. It’s hard to believe this is the first year he played the game.

Shymel is one of more than 100 children in the YMCA’s Y Life and Y Learning tutorial programs who participated in the Second Annual Soccer Kids of America and Y Learning Soccer Tournament. Twelve teams from the Alexander, Cary, Durham, Finley, Kerr and Kraft YMCAs faced off at West Cary Middle School to put their new skills in action.

“Most of these kids hadn’t even seen soccer game a few months ago. Their families couldn’t afford to sign their children up for area soccer leagues,” said Michelle Rhino, a YMCA Outreach Director at the Cary Family YMCA. “This tournament is a fun, exciting way for the kids to play this game and show their new skills to their families.”

Over the past few months, students in the Y Learning program have been getting some extra tutoring in the game of soccer. Y Learning is a fully subsidized, after school tutorial program for children in grades 3 – 8. School counselors identify children who need academic assistance. Currently, more than 1,100 students participate thanks to contributions to the Y’s We Build People campaign.

Two years ago, the Y teamed up with Soccer Kids of America. The organization teaches character development and soccer skills at after school sites throughout the country.

When Anthony Hardison heard about the program, he knew the Y and Soccer Kids of America were a perfect fit. Anthony is the community outreach director at the Kerr Family YMCA.  Soon, Y Learning sites throughout the Triangle incorporated the soccer program into their curriculum. This partnership gives kids exposure to a popular sport that helps them get active and have fun.

“It’s crazy how excited the kids are,” exclaimed Anthony. “They are just pumped!”
Even the professionals were pumped. The Carolina RailHawks conducted a clinic for players in between games. The two teams that advanced to the championship game won RailHawks tickets for the players, coaches and families.