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."