The Y’s History of Building a Better Us

On June 6 the YMCA marks more than 170 years as more than a place, it is a nonprofit organization 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.

2. Summer Camp: 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.

3. Innovating & Inventing: 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 credited with inventing the term “body building.”

4. A Nobel Peace Prizewinner: 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.

5. Furthering Education: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

How the Y is relevant in 2018
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.

2. 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 their community and society. 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.

3. 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 helping newcomers and immigrants adjust to new communities 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:


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A Healthy Heart Thank You


Brent Raabe, Executive Director Bradford YMCA

I could not be more proud of the team at the Bradford YMCA. Last year was a great year for us. I am so pleased with the team we have in place. 2017 brought many changes to the Bradford Branch. Heidi was added to our team and has done a truly remarkable job. Nicole was added as support staff for Heidi and has been a wonderful asset. Natalie joined us in January and has hit the ground running, and I know she is going to do amazing things with the development of our youth sports, teen, and corporate wellness programs. Jayden has taken the role of head lifeguard, and I look forward to seeing his growth here at the Y. Stacie has taken on additional roles in the child care center. She has added so much to the center in a short period of time. I am grateful to Ink, Lisa, and Taylor for their added senior leadership to the Bradford Branch. For the rest of the team and staff – Thank you for your dedication and commitment to the Bradford Y. We have great momentum as an association and I look forward to seeing what we all can do together in the future. I am very proud to be part of such a great association. We have strong support from our CEO, Corporate Office, Marketing Resources (Mark) and a committed volunteer led Board of Directors.



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American Heart Month

Ink Young, Senior Wellness Director
YMCA Olean, NY

February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving the nation’s health, we’d like to offer the following tips to help our members, our community members and their families be heart healthy.

1. Get Physical: Being physically active every day is fun and can improve the function of your heart. Plan and schedule opportunities for active play; for example, include a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after meals or a 10-minute walking break during the day. If your family enjoys video games, select versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.

2. Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep can be associated with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven, but no more than nine hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Develop bedtime routines for the whole family to assist with falling asleep faster and staying asleep.

3. Shape Up Those Recipes: Makeover your family’s favorite recipes by reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat and substituting a lower fat food without sacrificing tastes. For example, use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream and skip the seasoning packet and use pepper and olive oil instead. Read food labels to learn more about what is in the package, select foods that have less than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.

4. Feeling the Pressure: Revised blood pressure guidelines from American Heart Association mean that nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) have high blood pressure. Lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Start self-monitoring your blood pressure and know the numbers. Discuss the results with your doctor if needed.

5. Play Together: Spending time together as a family is a great way to reduce stress, which is important to heart health. Make homemade valentines for your children’s classmates or build a snow fort together in the yard or the park.

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Reflections on my time at the Y

Victor Novelli, Sport and Youth Director
YMCA Olean NY, 5/2016-9/2017

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people” – Jim Rohn.

The “opportunity” that I was given was the Sport and Youth Director at the Olean YMCA back in March 2016. I cannot start to explain how rewarding my time at the Y has been. I have built so many close and endearing relationships with children, parents, members, and participants in my programs.
All of my programs, youth and adult, that I had the opportunity to operate have allowed me to develop not only as a professional, but a person in the Olean community as well. Coming from a metropolitan area, the idea of a small community was intimidating. This feeling quickly changed and I felt welcomed right from the start. The kindness that members and program participants showed me is unforgettable and I will hold all of these memories close to me as I continue to grow.
It is only fitting that with September being my last month here at the Y, I write the September blog! Starting October, I will take the Director of Athletic Business and Finance position at St. Bonaventure. But before I go, I want to share with all of you the kindness and warm blessings along the way that you have shared with me. Thank you for a great experience and for opening your arms as a community.
“He has a gift with children, a born natural!”  – T-Ball
“I appreciate all the hard work it takes to put these leagues together and thank you to Victor and the others who run the program.” – Youth Basketball
“I just wanted to let you know that my son loved having you as the coach, at practice tonight and he talked about you the entire drive home! He said you were a great coach! I just wanted to say thank you!” – Flag Football
“Thanks for hosting a great 3 on 3 tournament, my boys and I appreciate your hard work” – 3 on 3 Tournament.
“They’d LOVE to see you out in the community…They have connected with you and love you so much!” – Homeschool
“I just wanted to say thanks for a great indoor season! This is the most organized and well run the league has been for a long time. Looking forward to next year!” – Adult Soccer
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MOVE IT! Functional fitness at your YMCA

By: Marc & Molly Boutillette
YMCA Members

MOVE IT comes to the YMCA

Husband and wife, and long-time Y members, Marc and Molly Boutillette are enthusiastic about the new MOVE IT program at the YMCA. Marc has been participating in the demo sessions and Molly is a MOVE IT instructor. We thought you  might enjoy their thoughts on the new program.

MARC: The workout consists of exercises that focus on building core strength, stability, and flexibility while providing a ‘full body’ workout. This is all packaged in a high intensity interval training format that has been pushing me to my cardiovascular limits. I have taken the class consistently for the past two weeks and can already see some of the benefits this type of program offers like being more balanced during the workout, more aware of how my body is moving, and being able to increase workload and intensity.

What I like most about the class, and the instructor, is the concentration on form.  The workout you get from performing the exercises is great but a big part of the gain is from performing each move with good form, this is where you really feel your core strengthening and that mind-body connection building.  What makes Molly such a great instructor in this program is that she herself has great form and can show very clearly how to perform each move, she is awesome at spotting where others need help, and she understands how the body is supposed to move so can guide people to the right form.

The other main thing I like about the class are the types and variety of exercises. Each class has a mix of exercises that range from classic strength moves like dead lifts or lunges, body weight exercises like standing jumps and sprints, and core building moves like picking up sand bags over your shoulder or swinging a weighted grip bag.  Many of the exercises are based on real world moves that require bending, twisting and lifting and engage under used stability and core muscles.  I feel like my body as a whole is getting stronger, all the connective tissue, tendons, stability muscles, not just the main big muscles you hit with normal weight lifting.

I really think this program is the whole package, you get all the strength, flexibility, balance, and core benefits from real world strength building moves and all the cardio vascular, endurance, and health benefits from high intensity interval training without spending 3 hours in the gym.

(Editor’s note: Molly felt Marc had done such an eloquent job she really didn’t need to add much, but we wanted to highlight her comments here because she is a valued Y member AND a MOVE IT instructor.)

MOLLY: Every body needs strength. But strength alone is not enough. Combining strength with coordination, balance, flexibility, range of motion and cardiovascular fitness builds a complete picture of health. The high intensity interval training of the MOVE IT program provides all of these in a super-charged, high-energy environment. The workouts are fun, motivating and challenging. Trained instructors ensure you stay on task with correct form. It is a workout suitable for all ages and fitness levels, bringing participants together for the best 45 minutes of their day.

Marc & Molly

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2017 Healthy Kids Day

By: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers


As part of a nationwide YMCA effort to promote health and well-being among children, each of our branches held events on April 29 that included medical/dental/vision screening, fun educational activities for both kids and parents, and even I.D. cards issued to young people by law enforcement.

Collectively, more than 2,000 people participated across our service area; at least half were school-aged children. As a result, hundreds of families will be receiving follow up calls from local health providers to ensure that children who demonstrated a need have access to services.

A heartfelt thank you to our organizers, volunteers, sponsors and staff who invested many hours in making this event successful one more year! Everyone involved brought to life the Y’s focus areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

Yours truly,


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Savannah at the Y

By: Nick Burt
Assistant Aquatics Director, Bradford Family YMCA

This is Savannah Swanson. She’s a young lady who swims with me in a private lesson setting. More than instruction on technique, her mom is looking for something that is able to keep her engaged and active. Savannah and I meet twice a week and work on different ways to keep moving in the water. We swim laps, play volleyball​, fetch water rockets across the pool, and use our water exercise for a variety of exercises.

As we meet in the evenings, Savannah has heard children talk about “the sharks that live in the deep end after closing time.” At the end of our session one night, Savannah asked me if I saw any sharks and when I came up from scouring the bottom for any aquatic carnivores, she had her fin up and was ready to chase me! After being chased by a shark for a bit, I was recruited into their ranks and we swam the rest of our cool down/play time underwater with our fins up, looking for the other sharks who live in the deep end.

Savannah is a wonderful girl that loves swimming, biking, boating, and being outdoors. She likes to stay active in the winter time through the Y’s pool and always has a blast with our staff here. She never fails to bring smiles to our faces and is always willing to share her cool pool toys with open swimmers so they can have (almost) as much fun as we do!

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Giving Comes in Many Forms

jeffBy: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I was recently doing some research on year-end giving. Many people have favorite charities they support throughout the year, and for various reasons. One thing I appreciate about working for the YMCA is that giving is in our DNA. Many think that because an organization is a not-for-profit, we only ask for money. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Allow me to share with you something we give that (in my opinion) is worth the equivalent of – or even more than – cash. It’s our heart and soul.

This holiday season, I give props to my co-workers, along with hundreds of others in our region who may be working for a non-profit or social service organization.    

At times, society takes for granted people such as the child care employee who devotes most of their waking hours to pouring love and attention into developing other families’ children – while at times struggling themselves to care for their own household. The same analogy can be made for caseworkers, nurses, educators and staff who teach kids water safety or how to play fairly with others in recreational sports.

This class of ‘givers’ pour their time, energy and character into developing and helping others. The hours are long and the rewards are not measured in dollars. And many, in addition to contributing their time and talent to a variety of worthwhile missions, also donate money to the causes they care about. That’s the kind of people they are.        

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans gave an estimated $373 billion in 2015, a 4.1% increase from 2014.

  • In 2015, the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $268 billion, or 71% of total giving; followed by foundations ($57 billion/16%), bequests ($29 billion/9%), and corporations ($18 billion/5%).
  • An interesting fact…the majority of charitable dollars in 2015 went to religion (32%), education (15%), human services (12%), grantmaking foundations (11%), and health (8%).

The average annual household contribution is $2,974. And in case you’re wondering, 63% of high net worth donors cite “giving back to the community” as a chief motivation for giving.

Tis the season – and good reason – for giving. Whether it’s money, clothing or time…please consider giving to help those who may have less and need more.

To all who give selflessly at work, at home and in relationships…I wish you and yours a blessed holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.

Yours truly,

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Take Care of Yourself!!

jeffBy: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

Is it my imagination, or does life seem a little more relaxed during the holiday season? Somehow, we make more time for parties, goodwill, visits to friends and family; things may slow down just enough to hit the gym or that favorite trail more than usual.

If you’re like many professionals, it’s easy to feel ‘tethered’ to the workplace and other personal obligations. According to an Ernst and Young study completed a year ago, 24% of U.S. employees said their work-life balance is getting tougher to manage and 35% of American workers reported having to work on any given Saturday, Sunday or holiday. According to Joe Staples, CMO of Workfront “More times than not, there are no parameters set by employers on what they require from employees after hours. So the default can be an ‘always-on’ lifestyle…this presents a potential for burnout.”

I will admit – with all the ‘smart’ electronic connections that I have, it often seems that my life is on high alert; always on call! Recently, I had a chance to get away and recharge. It was my first real vacation of the year. I felt a little guilty leaving at a time when seasonal programs were gearing back up at our after school sites and the budgeting process was just beginning to get traction. But I knew that I needed a break and had to ‘reboot’ my energy level and capacity.





My trip out west included hiking into the Grand Canyon and up Yosemite Falls. The beauty and grandeur of the scenery (not to mention the peace and quiet) were a blessing. This trip made me a believer in doing better at maintaining my work/life balance.

So, as we approach this holiday season, remember this statistic; 38% of employees have missed life events because of a bad work-life balance. From birthdays to kids’ baseball games to anniversaries, nearly two in five survey respondents revealed that they’ve had to skip some milestone moments due to work.

Start planning now; mark those important dates and keep those commitments to yourself and your loved ones! Get out there, enjoy and stay healthy!

Yours truly,

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How the Y helped me find my way HOME

melissa_curran3By:  Mel Curran
Association Communications Assistant, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I’m a transplant to the Olean area; a big-city girl from Boston, MA. 🙂 I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into when I first moved here with three small children six years ago. My husband was traveling a lot and I was instantly lonely and overwhelmed. What would we do all day? Where would we go? How would we meet people? As the first few weeks passed and the house full of boxes started to become a home, I still felt isolated. I knew I had to do something about it. I looked around for options and the one that seemed the most promising was the YMCA. I was planning to get a job and would need childcare. Y Care came highly recommended – check. I needed to find a place to run as the winter approached, nice indoor track – check. With a place to drop the kids to be supervised while I ran??? – BONUS! Swimming lessons for the kids – check. A place to meet new people – check. A beautiful, well-run, clean facility and friendly staff – check, check. Okay, you get the picture. So I signed up for a family membership in our second month in WNY. And boy, did the Y deliver, BIGTIME.

All three of my children went through the Y Care program. Kelsie Vine, now the director, basically helped raise my children and we felt lucky to have her and the rest of the Y staff to depend on. They learned to swim. They played basketball and football. They complained about being dropped off to play while I ran, but they always had fun and they were always safe. The Y helped us become part of this community. That’s a pretty big deal to us.

When people find out I am from Boston they always ask if I am happy here. This is what I tell them… For the first few years I thought of Boston as home. I missed my family. I missed the ocean. I missed the city. Slowly, without my even realizing it, I started to think of WNY as home. Now, when I travel back from Boston a few times a year, as I pass Binghamton, then Hornell, that feeling you only get when you are coming home embraces me. The mountains seem comforting, the air smells cleaner, the landscape feels familiar and my heart fills with happiness. The Y helped make that a reality. What more is there to say?

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