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year in review – 2016: Year in Review

2016: Year in Review

year-in-review2016 has been a great year for the Harrisburg Area YMCA. We recently celebrated our 162nd Annual Meeting, reflecting on the year and recognizing our Board Members, Donors, Volunteers, and Staff. It is with the help of these individuals that we have been able to fulfill our mission of the YMCA and impact the Harrisburg community on a larger scale this past year.

Each of our branches played a vital role in strengthening the community, developing our youth, and promoting healthy lifestyles in 2016. We’d like to share with you some stories that help paint a picture of the work we do at the YMCA through each of our YMCA Branches, including our most recent addition, the YMCA Center for Healthy Living.


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“When I come to the YMCA everybody knows my name. I never knew they knew my name!” said Isaiah. His eyes sparkled with pride as he shared his experience with the Camp Curtin YMCA Math, Science & Reading Summer Day Camp. “They helped me learn more! When I do my work, I do it better, because (the teachers) helped me learn.”

Isaiah is one of thirty 3rd and 4th Grade students who participated in the Summer Camp program this year. The program was specially designed to help students entering the 3rd and 4th grade in Harrisburg School District to retain the lessons of the previous year, and build a solid foundation of success. Isaiah and his classmates read books, took educational trips, and participated in physical activity throughout their time at the YMCA.

“I really wanted him to have that extra help over the Summer to help him learn,” said Isaiah’s mother Shannon. “His behavior got better, his work as far as school got better and when he started school, he wasn’t as far behind as he has been in the past. The Summer Camp helped tremendously. I’m raising two boys, and I work full time, but in the summer time they need more interaction with other kids and education than they get with day care.”

Math, Science & Reading Summer Day Camp was taught by Karen C. or “Ms. C” as she is known by her students. Ms. C is a teacher at Phase Four Learning Center who worked with Branch Executive Jamien Harvey to provide the Summer Camp to the community. “I was new to the Harrisburg Area, and actually new to the YMCA,” said Ms. C, “I wanted to spend my time in the summer helping kids in the city, and this experience became available. I have absolutely loved getting to know the community here at the Camp Curtin YMCA and my experience was wonderful from start to finish.”

Summer Camp was made possible through the support of local companies and donors. “Without the sponsors and all of the things that we received, we would not have been able to serve all of the kids this summer, so thank you so much for everyone who supported the Summer Camp,” said Ms. C. “The kids got so much as far as their meals, the tee shirts they wore, and I was able to order anything I needed, and all that added to the greatness of the program.”

Keeping kids active and engaged in educational enrichment activities during the summer months is a priority at the Camp Curtin YMCA. Thanks to support from the community, that experience was enjoyed by many deserving children in 2016.
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face-photos2From under the table in the conference room there is a chorus of whispers and giggles. Whitney coaches her two daughters Aubrey and Heather to be quiet, and as she talks they gradually settle down. “They have a lot of energy.” she says with a hint of a smile.

This is the Get Fit at the YMCA program at the East Shore YMCA where Whitney recently completed the class with her daughters. “I came to learn more about how to live a healthy life. I think the biggest changes came from listening to the nutritionist who told us about food choices and how to manage my diet a bit better. I’ve now incorporated more grains, fruits and vegetables.”

Whitney’s children participated with her in the Get Fit at the YMCA program at the East Shore YMCA because she was looking to get involved with a fitness program. “You get the opportunity to work with trainers and learn more about what is offered here at the East Shore YMCA.”

“The Get Fit at the YMCA program is all about families,” said Dianna Carmichael, Wellness Director for the East Shore YMCA, “We wanted to come up with some type of program where families worked out together. Not only do they work out, they learn more about each other, and it makes a stronger family unit.”

The Get Fit at the YMCA program is provided to participants at no cost, with a focus on serving lower-income families. The program includes access to a nutritionist and YMCA fitness classes like personal training that are often hard for lower-income families to afford.

“Whitney came to us as a non-member, and it was really neat for them to get the experience of what the YMCA is all about. Her kids got to try new things and fall in love with the classes and the Y in general. This is a family unit where you can do things together, and learn how to be a stronger family.”

Programs like the Get Fit at the YMCA are important to bring new faces into the YMCA and help them learn the power of teamwork and healthy choices. Providing this program at no cost is only possible thanks to the donors and partners of the YMCA. “These are opportunities that many of these families might not otherwise have,” said Dianna. “This is a family unit where everyone can get involved and be healthy inside and outside the YMCA.”
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The room is full of kids; they laugh and talk excitedly as their leaders try to calm the room. It is Friday night at the offices of the Police Athletic League (PAL) and tonight, the Tobacco Resistance Unit (TRU) program is in full swing.

Four teens stand in front of their peers wearing latex gloves. They speak passionately to the gaggle of kids in front of them about the examples they hold; a set of teeth rotting in tobacco, a black emphasemic lung, a set of healthy and unhealthy lungs that inflate lazily as they step on a floor pedal. This is the TRU program in action – teens educating their peers about the dangers of tobacco.

“How many of you know people that smoke?” Asks Darrell. Most of the hands in the room go up, and the TRU leaders give tips on how to respond to peer pressure. According to the CDC, Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence. Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26. The TRU program is focused on educating teens and helping them to pass their knowledge on to their peers.

Darrell has participated in the TRU program for about a year now. “The biggest thing I learned about at TRU was looking at the lungs,” he said, “Like, looking at the healthy one and the unhealthy one. It’s just phenomenal what a difference tobacco makes on your body. I decided to be a part of TRU because I felt like I was a part of the family. I knew I wanted to study the health effects of tobacco. I think I have learned a lot about being a leader. TRU is the greatest thing ever!”

Angela is one of the adult leaders at the PAL program, and has been working with the TRU program since it began. “At the PAL program, we invite all agencies to come in and help our youth learn more about positive behaviors using the tools they have to offer us. So, Mr. Eric came to us and asked if we would have the program, and the children were delighted to have this first program in Dauphin County.” said Angela, “My PAL kids in the TRU program have stepped outside of their normal realm and they are now able to go out and engage other children and speak to them about tobacco and the harm it does to their bodies.”

YMCA collaborations with organizations like PAL are critically important to the community. The Northern Dauphin County YMCA works hard to provide these programs and build lasting partnerships with groups like PAL.
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face-photos4Paula is the type of person that lights up the room when she walks in. With an infectious smile and winning sincerity, she speaks proudly of being involved in the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program at the West Shore YMCA.

“I had heard about the program from my surgeon,” she said. “It took me a while to call, but once I got started I didn’t look back.”

Paula and the other participants in the West Shore’s LIVESTRONG® program experience challenges due to their cancer diagnosis that have changed everything about their lives. Paula describes her life post-diagnosis, “Everything was different. It wasn’t even that I was always unable to do things, I just didn’t know where to start, or what was safe for me to do. It can be really intimidating to walk into a gym and just start working out. I didn’t feel like I could do that.”

Exercise is only one component of the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program. “The program is designed to build community for the survivors by providing them with free access to the YMCA and personal training with the LIVESTRONG® staff,” said Jason Snyder, LIVESTRONG® Trainer and YMCA Wellness Director, “This program allows people who need a helping hand to get information about nutrition, and to build strength, balance and stamina.”

“I had no clue that it was a gift,” said Paula. “I didn’t have to worry about what it would cost, because what if I couldn’t do it? I didn’t want to try something that I couldn’t do and then pay for it. I haven’t worked in a year, but when I learned the program was free, I didn’t have anything to lose but to try it.

“To me it was the fork in the road – the arrow- that showed me which way to go. I hadn’t exercised, I had just laid in bed. I made a pledge to myself – it’s 12 weeks, if there’s nothing else I can do, I will come to class. The group is a family, and we support each other. I always feel better when I leave. It’s been a huge blessing, support-wise, exercise-wise, and that’s what it means to me.”

Paula is just one of the many participants that needed a small push forward to lead a stronger, healthier life after a cancer diagnosis. The LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program is important to these individuals that need just a little bit of extra support and accountability.

“I don’t look the same, and I don’t feel the same, but when I come here, I feel special.” Paula said “It’s a family, and I know we will be here for each other, no matter what.”
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It’s not every day that you meet someone as passionate and driven as Susan Jacobs. In her distinguished career with the Harrisburg Area YMCA, Susan has worked hard to further the mission of the YMCA, most recently in 2016 as the Executive Director of Healthy Living for the newly formed YMCA Center for Healthy Living.

“A couple years ago we created a new strategic plan for the Harrisburg Area YMCA based off of the YMCA of the USA’s model,” said Susan. “We found that the YMCA is much more involved now with disease prevention programs. I found that to be very interesting, and together with the Harrisburg Area YMCA, we began to work on partnerships to combat various disparities in chronic disease programs.”

In her previous capacity as Executive Director of the Northern Dauphin County YMCA, Susan began to build a base of support for the flagship program of the YMCA Center for Healthy Living, the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program. It’s a very personal program to Susan.

The Harrisburg Area YMCA was awarded the LIVESTRONG® certification in August of 2015, and shortly after Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Going through that process helped me to truly understand how important the survivorship program is to the individual,” said Susan. “It’s scary – you go through your treatments, and when you’re done, there’s a lapse where you’re not meeting with your doctor every day anymore. There’s no one to tell you that you’re okay, and it can be very isolating. It’s really important to get your life back, get your strength back, and deal with the fatigue. That’s exactly what the LIVESTRONG® program provides.”

The LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program is only one of the focus programs for the YMCA Center for Healthy Living. Additionally, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program and Enhance®Fitness have become opportunities for Susan and her team.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps overweight adults at risk for type 2 diabetes reduce their risk for developing the disease by taking steps that will improve their overall health and well-being. The program provides a supportive environment where participants work together to achieve the program goals of reducing individual weight by 7% and building up to 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for the purpose of reducing their risk for developing diabetes. The program is delivered over a 12-month period in a classroom setting and is currently offered in Elizabethville and Harrisburg to participants who meet qualification criteria.

Enhance®Fitness is a proven community-based senior fitness and arthritis management program. It helps older adults become more active, energized, and empowered for independent living. The program is lead by a certified instructor with specialized training and exercises focus on cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. These exercises can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms in participants.

Physical activity is a major component of the programs facilitated by the YMCA Center for Healthy Living. YMCA programs also serve another purpose for their participants by providing a community of support as they seek to improve their lives. “The YMCA is the perfect place for these programs to exist,” said Susan. “Our mission is to help all individuals, and we serve everyone. With these programs we are able to reach everyone in some capacity. This brings everyone together to accomplish that mission.”
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-Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator

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