July CEO Message: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

 

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By Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” These words are familiar to you if you’ve ever heard of – or followed – one of the greatest boxers of all time. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, he was given the Islamic name Muhammad Ali while spiritually searching – and ultimately joining –  the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Ali got his start in boxing with an ironic twist of fate. At the age of 12, he went to a store with a friend as they left their bicycles outside. When they came out, the bikes were gone. As a result of that experience, Ali met a police officer, Joe Martin – who also trained young boxers at a local gym. Ali started working out there to learn how to spar, and from there his boxing career began.

It was reported that Ali was bold at a young age; unafraid to fight anybody. Ali won national Golden Glove Tournaments and the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics before turning pro in 1963. By 1964, Ali had become the world’s Heavyweight Champion by knocking out Sonny Liston. He had to take a 3-year hiatus from the sport due to a suspension from boxing when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam war as a ‘conscientious objector’. Upon returning to the sport, he fought in several championship bouts. Ali eventually retired from boxing in 1981.

It was during the peak of his career that I personally met the self-proclaimed “greatest” fighter of all time. As a teenager, I was training to be an amateur boxer at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach. The gym was opened by Chris Dundee; Angelo Dundee’s brother – who happened to be Ali’s trainer. I went for a run one day near the gym. Ali happened to be in town training for a fight. We actually met on the street – he with his entourage – and me by myself. He took a few minutes to speak with and encourage me. It was an honor. To this day, I remember how gracious and soft-spoken he was. It was for this impression he made on me in the mid 70’s, that I felt it fitting to write about him this month.

Ali passed away in June. His wife, Lonnie, said, “Muhammad indicated that when the end came for him, he wanted us to use his life and his death as a teaching moment for young people, for his country and for the world. In effect, he wanted us to remind people who are suffering that he had seen the face of injustice. That he grew up during segregation, and that during his early life he was not free to be who he wanted to be. But he never became embittered enough to quit or to engage in violence.”

Former President Bill Clinton spoke about how Ali found self-empowerment: “He decided that not his race nor his place, the expectations of others – positive, negative or otherwise – would strip from him the power to write his own story. ”

Here’s to you, Mr. Cassius Clay.

Jeff

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The Origin of Father’s Day

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By Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

This month is a time to recognize the father figure in your life. Regardless of the good, bad or indifferent feelings that may be conjured up about dad, I am sure the relationship is/was meaningful and has a tremendous influence on your life.

In case you’ve ever wondered how this celebration of fathers came about, the first Father’s Day celebration was held in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910 by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Her father, a civil war veteran named William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children! After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day a year earlier in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them.

Sonora initially suggested June 5th – her father’s birthday – to celebrate Father’s Day. Interestingly enough, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, so the celebration was moved to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers” were presented throughout the city of Spokane.

Early memories of my father include growing up in Miami Beach and watching his utter enjoyment laying out on the beach or at the pool sunbathing. He was a sun worshipper. Maybe the fact that he was born and raised in New York had something to do with that. After experiencing a few winters here, I can relate.

My father had the ‘gypsy’ bug in him; he loved to travel, see new places and experience new things. Even when he was home on weekends, we found ourselves watching travel documentaries on TV which connected us to the rest of the world. He also, by the way, had a bad temper. There are times I can still picture his facial muscles tightening up as if he was about to explode.

He drove a yellow Volkswagen Bug and was in the advertising business, which required occasional travel to the Caribbean Islands where some of his agency’s clients were located. On one of his business trips to St. Thomas, USVI, he brought me with him. I remember it being a special experience, not just for the beauty of the island – but because my dad cared enough to want me with him and show me new things. My dad is no longer with us. Even so, Happy Father’s Day to my dad – and all father figures who devote themselves to raising happy, healthy families.

Yours Truly,

Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

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Be Safe in the Water This Summer

By Taylor Lubi and Nick Burt
Aquatics Department, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

Happy Summer!

‘Tis the season for cookouts, picnics, camping, s’mores, swimming, and boating.  There’s nothing like the summer; there’s something for everyone to do!

If you enjoy activities in the water during these outdoor months, we’d like to remind you of the importance of water safety knowledge. Will you and the kids be spending time by the pool or on the lake this summer? Have you made sure that everyone knows how to swim?

In an area surrounded by as much water as we are, learning how to swim and the importance of water safety is an absolute must. Unfortunately, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional deaths for people ages 1-to-14, and the fifth leading cause of all deaths in people of all ages. As we enter into the warmer months of the year, swimming becomes one of the most popular forms of recreation.

A local youth member receives swim lessons at the YMCA.

A local youth member receives swim lessons at the YMCA.

Learning to swim is not only a fun way to get children involved in a lifelong sport they can practice for the rest of their lives, but also a way for our youth to develop character as a member of a team. Swimming is a life-changing and potentially life-saving skill that all members of our community should have.

We hope you have a happy and safe summer!  Below are a few safety tips for your summer aquatic adventures:

Safety Tips

  • Never go into the water to get someone if you believe them to be in trouble. Always be sure to reach something out to them or throw them a floatation device or rope to tow them back to safety. Reach, Throw, Never Go.
  • Always use a USCG approved floatation device when on a boat or for at risk individuals such as children.  Avoid any floatation that is filled with air.
  • Avoid alcohol use while swimming.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Learn CPR.  Having the knowledge of CPR can possibly help save a loved one, even outside the aquatic realm.
  • If you are responsible for children or loved ones while they are in the water, please leave your cell phone with the towels.  Nobody wants to be distracted while tasked with the safety and lives of others.
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Five Historical Reasons the Y Makes “For a Better Us™”

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On June 6 the YMCA marks more than 170 years, as more than a place, it is a movement that offers programs and services designed to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Here are five past notable events and achievements that demonstrate the Y’s commitment to the communities it serves:

  1. American Institutions: Celebrations such as Father’s Day, and organizations like the Peace Corps, all have their roots at the YMCA.
  1. Camping Under the Stars: The oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, first opened in 1855 and countless numbers of boys and girls have since learned the skills and wonders of camping through the Y, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.
  1. Inventing New Ways to Play: From James Naismith’s invention of basketball to instructors creating racquetball and what would eventually become volleyball, the Y has a rich tradition in activities that are played by millions of people around the globe. One Y staffer, Robert J. Roberts, is even credited with inventing the term “body building.”
  1. Nobel Laureate: YMCA leader John R. Mott was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for the Y’s groundbreaking role in raising global awareness and support and for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
  1. Furthering Education: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a second language courses.

How the Y is relevant in 2016

Today, the Y serves more than 22 million people annually and offers resources at over 2,700 locations across all 50 states. Here are three ways “community” continues as the Y’s number one cause:

  1. Nurturing the Potential of Our Kids: When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Nationwide, the Y helps over nine million youth to close gaps in hunger, health, learning, water safety and safe spaces while providing a place to stay healthy, build friendships, and achieve more – all while having fun! Each program demonstrates the Y’s unwavering commitment to ensuring children are on track for a successful education, especially those in underserved communities.
  1. Improving the Nation’s Health: More than a place to work out, the Y offers programs that help individuals and families improve their health and enact changes that strengthen community and society as a whole. From working with people who are trying to find ways to improve health, but don’t know how, to preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and helping people recover from serious illnesses like cancer, the Y is one of the few organizations in the country with the size and influence that can effectively reach millions of people. Ys are also active in the community, creating communal gardens, increasing access to farmers markets and ensuring children have a safe route to school.
  1. Support For All Our Neighbors: As one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, the Y’s social services and volunteer programs help more than 10,000 communities nationwide. From organizing volunteers when disaster strikes to member-led community service projects through the Togetherhood program, every effort helps to make a difference.

For more information on Y programs please visit: ymca.net/forabetterus

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April CEO Blog: Be Aware of your Stress in April

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By Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

“Stress” is an interesting word. For me, it conjures up the anxiety I felt in college, struggling to discipline my study habits so I could make good grades – especially in subject areas I didn’t like. I also think about the stress related to staying fit, healthy, within budget, being a good role model and more.

The National Institute of Mental Health cites at least three different types of stress:

  1. Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family and daily responsibilities.
  2. Stress brought about by sudden negative change; losing a job, divorce or illness.
  3. Traumatic stress, experienced in events like an accident, war or natural disaster.

Stress – as we know – can lead to a number of health problems, ranging anywhere from anxiety to depression and from mild acne to heart attacks.

However, not all stress is bad! One thing I also learned in college was a type of stress called “eustress.” Eustress is a positive reaction to stress that generates within us a desire to achieve and overcome a challenge. Eustress is quite literally a good form of stress that can actually increase our performance at a task, our general happiness and sense of well-being. Think about it as having just enough stress to be motivational instead of destructive.

To get from stress to eustress, Will Bowen, author of the best-selling A Complaint Free World and Complaint Free Relationships, has helpful ideas. Here are my favorites:

  • Make Up Your Mind to Get and/or Stay Healthy – taking control of your personal health can make a great difference. Whether it’s through diet, exercise, or simply getting that check up you’ve been putting off, put yourself back in control.
  • Make a Change – It can be as simple as clearing clutter off your desk or taking a well-deserved vacation; the important thing is doing something different.
  • Focus on Now – Many people live in yesterday or tomorrow. Focusing on Now, provides a magical escape from the disappointment of what once was and the fear of what might be, and leaves stress stuck in a time warp.
  • Help Someone Else – Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is by providing relief to someone else. Putting your focus on others takes the focus off your own challenges. Look around you, see who needs a hand up, and then offer yours.
  • Meditate – Connect with your mind and spirit, and especially use Positive Self-Talk; encourage yourself, acknowledge your uniqueness and strength, be kind to yourself.
  • Laugh – There is a reason that laughter is considered the best medicine! When you’re laughing and in a good mood, all sorts of healthy physiological things happen inside our bodies. Not to mention, we’re having fun!

So next time you’re feeling stressed, try and remember some of the tips on this list. For me, exercise, a good diet and serving others helps keep my life in balance.

Yours Truly,

Jeff

 

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Sharing Stories: Wellsville YMCA

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“When the Y came to Wellsville, my family was unable to afford a membership. Then I learned about the assistance program and enrolled my daughter in the school-age child care program. Two years later, my doctor recommended my husband and I meet with a personal trainer to improve our health. We applied for a scholarship and are able to pay based on our income. Now, my family comes to the Y together. My husband and I have ‘date nights’ in the gym, while my children go to child watch. We now have an affordable, safe and caring environment where we can spend time and get healthy. Without the Y and its financial assistance program, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

– Janine Mosher, Wellsville, NY

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Sharing Stories: Bradford Family YMCA

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“When I came to the Y, I became part of something bigger. I saw first hand how the Y makes a difference in our community. My children and husband love the Y as well, and they always volunteer for special events. Everyone has a Y story, but to me, this is more than a story, it’s a place that creates an ever-lasting bond that cannot be broken. Change is forever, but the Y will always be the future of our community and our youth.”

– Nickie Troublefield, Bradford, PA

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“It’s been a dream come true to wake up and hear my kids beg me to take them to the YMCA. My entire family has been involved with every program and event the Y offers. We are at the Y every day; and it just feels wrong if we’re not. Healthy living is great, but to live well, that involves positive role modeling. The YMCA provides that.”

– Frank Troublefield, Bradford, PA

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March CEO Blog: Are Energy Drinks Really That Bad?

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By Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I was in my office drinking one of those (in my opinion) delicious coffee flavored “energy drinks,” when one of my co-workers commented on how bad they are for you. I don’t drink them every day, but it caused me to do research, as I like to know what I’m putting in my body. I’m guessing that others have wondered about the safety of these drinks and the research that’s been done. So I thought it was worthy of my monthly message.

According to U.S. News and World Report, sales of energy drinks have grown 60 percent between 2008 and 2012, creating a market worth more than $12.5 billion. The market is predicted to grow to $21 billion by 2017. That’s a lot of energy!

These days, almost anyone with a demanding personal or professional schedule might consider having an energy drink. Experts believe it’s safe for most healthy adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day – about the equivalent of one “venti” 20-ounce Starbucks coffee or two shots of 5-Hour Energy. The caffeine content of energy drinks, meanwhile, can range from 80 milligrams in an 8-ounce Red Bull, to over 350 milligrams in 16 ounces of the no-calorie energy drink Bang​, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Downing multiple energy drinks daily can put someone over that limit, increasing their risk for headaches, higher blood pressure, and increased heart-rate, according to Ruth Litchfield​, an associate professor at Iowa State University. Some groups, including children and adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with heart conditions, are advised to avoid them altogether. Athletes, too, might be at higher risk for complications if they guzzle energy drinks before a race or game.

There are cases where people who drink excessive amounts per day have been linked to heart and neurological problems. However, it’s a relatively small population compared to the total number of people that consume energy drinks.

Still, the ‘best’ and perhaps safest way to get an energy boost, say some experts, include getting good sleep, exercising and eating a snack packed with protein and complex carbohydrates. If all else fails, there’s always coffee.

As with so many other choices in life, decisions to consume energy drinks is highly individual. In my opinion, everyone is responsible to do their own homework to determine what is safe or not for their own bodies. My takeaway from the report was that if consumed in moderation, the chances of any health side effects are minimal. Either way, I support getting a good night’s sleep, exercising (especially at the Y) and making healthy nutritional choices!

Wishing you all the best in health, mind and body,

Jeff

 

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Terrific Winter Soups to Try

Beat the winter chill without busting plans for healthy eating

Try these 6 winter soup recipesWhat goes better with a cold winter day than a comforting bowl of warm soup?  Try a rainbow of flavors and colors with these six healthy soup recipes:

  1. Very Green Lentil Soup on EatingWell:
    Lentils seem to go with just about anything and here they play well with a collection of greens and some cumin and coriander to add a gentle spicy note to this soup recipe.
  2. Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup on Better Homes & Gardens:
    Peel and dice a butternut squash, then puree it with carrot. Adding toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) creates a crunchy finish for this low-fat soup.
  3. Tomato Basil Soup on Better Homes & Gardens:
    Gorgeous red tomatoes are the star in this bisque imitation. Garlic, onion, basil and optional cognac add depth.
  4. Black Bean Soup from Martha Stewart:
    Pureed black beans + garlic pepper sauce + broth + lime juice = sensational winter soup. Consider adding a low-fat dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt for a bit of creaminess.
  5. Ukrainian Red Borscht Soup from AllRecipes.com:
    The original recipe calls for a bit of sausage—which can be omitted for an even healthier, vegetarian version.
  6. Split Pea Soup with Rosemary from Cooking Light:
    Classic split pea soup is given an herb makeover with the addition of rosemary in the ingredient list. Another unexpected (but delightfully delicious) flavor? Soy sauce!

Photo courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens.

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Stay Active, Fit and Warm with Swim Lessons at the Y!

Swim lessons are a great way to stay active and warm during cold winter months.

Swim lessons are a great way to stay active and warm during cold winter months.

As arctic air reigns over the Southern Tier in these cold winter months, children and adults alike may be searching for ways to stay active, fit and warm. While most individuals think of cardio workouts and pumping some iron to get healthy in the New Year, there are certainly alternative methods for those who aren’t entirely comfortable in the gym setting. One of those methods includes taking up swim lessons in the Olean Family YMCA’s state-of-the-art aquatic facility.

Whether you’re an infant or a full-grown adult, the Olean Family YMCA offers an easy way for you to hone your skills in the water. The aquatics department, led by senior aquatics director Taylor Lubi, offers a wide-array of swim lessons for children 6-months and older, their families, or independent adults.

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“Swim lessons are a great tool for new swimmers to get acclimated and comfortable in the water,” said Lubi. “They’re also a resource for intermediate and advanced swimmers to hone their skills. We offer group or personal swim lessons at various skill levels in every age group.”

The YMCA offers the following levels of lessons:

  • Skips: Young children with a parent accompanying them in the water
  • Pike (with Parent): 3-5 year olds with a parent accompanying them in the water
  • Pike: 3-5 year olds without a parent accompanying them in the water
  • Eel Ray Starfish: 3-5 year old advanced lessons without a parent in the water
  • Polliwog: Basic lessons for 5-12 year olds
  • Guppy: Intermediate lessons for 5-12 year olds
  • Minnow: Advanced lessons for 5-12 year olds
  • Fish/Flying Fish/Shark: Highest level of advanced lessons for 5-12 year olds
  • Youth Personal Lessons: One-on-one, personal lessons for youth
  • Adult Personal Lessons: One-on-one, personal lessons for adults
  • Adult Group Lessons: Every Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in a group setting

The YMCA also plays host to the Barracuda Swim Team, which comprises of 5-to-18 year olds who are able to swim at least 25-yards on their front or back. The swim team, coached by Caren Barnes, competes against other YMCA swim teams in New York State and Pennsylvania and features swimmers from both the Olean and Bradford YMCAs.

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“The swim team introduces children to friendly competition and team-building,” Lubi explained. “It’s a great way to make friends and stay active while representing our community and this YMCA around the state.”

Swim team participants are limited to members of the Olean Family YMCA, while swim lessons are open to the general public.

For more information on YMCA swim lessons, visitwww.YourYMCA.org, or contact Lubi at (716) 701-1324 orTaylorL@YourYMCA.org.

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