Howard B. “Howdy” Friend Inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

nullRetired educator Howard B. “Howdy” Friend was one of twenty military veterans inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame on Thursday, November 9. Several Y staff and many family members and friends traveled to Columbus to celebrate this momentous occasion with him.

Click HERE to read the Vindicator’s coverage

Quicken Loans Arena Hosts Youngstown YMCA Jr Cavs Night

nullNearly sixty boys and girls from the YMCA of Youngstown’s Jr Cavs Basketball League and their parents and siblings, accepted an invitation from the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team to participate in their second pre-season game against the visiting Indiana Pacers. Fifty of the Jr Cavs had the opportunity to take part in the pre-game and half-time “High Five Tunnel” where they line up along the players’ entrance to the court and “high-5” the Cavaliers players as they run onto the court. At half-time, another ten Jr Cavs players had the chance to play five-on-five on the court for twelve minutes.

nullA partnership of the YMCA of Youngstown and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Jr Cavs Basketball League is for boys and girls age 4-12. This league promotes healthy competition, teamwork, good sportsmanship, individual development, and focuses on life lessons learned through sports. For more information and to register, please contact the Y at (P) 330 744 8411 or click HERE.

Davis Family Y Leaders Club Wraps Diapers for Kids in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties and Beyond

nullThis October, the Davis Family YMCA’s Leaders Club volunteered to wrap diapers for Making Kids Count’s Diaper Bank. The bank currently distributes 25,000 diapers per month to partner agencies in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, and Ashtabula Counties. The Leaders Club brought their ambition and willingness to help to serve others.

Camp Fitch YMCA Alumae Sara DeAscentis Collects Supplies For Campers In Need

nullThroughout the summer, campers arrive at Camp Fitch with their belongings packed and ready for a great week of fun. It is not unusual for some campers, however, to arrive with less than they need. Alumnae, Sara DeAscentis, decided that she would do something to make these starting lines a bit more even. “I have watched these kids come and go, apprehensive at first and then in tears not wanting to leave after the best week of their life at Camp.” Sara observed, “Many of these kids come on the bus from the Youngstown YMCA and are sometimes unprepared to spend a week outdoors.”

Sara got the idea for Camper’s Closet in the summer of 2016 when she helped a child that her church had sponsored move in to camp on the first day. “I set up her bed with matching sheets and a comforter that I had acquired secondhand. When I took her home at the end of the week, she was amazed that she could take the bedding with her and said it was the first time she had ever had a blanket of her own,” Sara marveled. Another example where that which is given at Camp often lasts longer than just one week.

nullSara created a Facebook Group to tell her story and donations started pouring in from friends, members of the Canfield Presbyterian Church, family campers and other Camp Fitch alumni. Donors sent cases of deodorant, sleeping bags, pillows, sheets, clothing and monetary gifts to help Sara fill in the missing holes. Soon Sara’s house was filling up with the generosity of the Camp Fitch Community.

In June, the collection traveled North of the Tracks and with some sturdy shelving and lots of plastic totes the Camper’s Closet was complete. Sara’s daughter and summer staffer, Hannah, helped implement delivery with a trailer attached to her bike. During the summer, Sara convinced dozens of participants in the Holiday Valley Mud Run to donate their shoes after the race which Sara washed and recycled to the Camper’s Closet. Sara took her efforts one step further by volunteering even more of her time to wash all of camp’s lost-and-found throughout the summer and used what was appropriate for Camper’s Closet.

We are grateful to Sara for the difference she has made in the lives of these campers and glad that her mom, Nancy Kilpatrick, passed on her love of Camp Fitch to Sara and the rest of the Kilpatrick Family. Sara’s work is never done. She plans to oversee a collection of winter coats and boots for Youngstown City Schools’ students who will attend our Outdoor Education program this winter. If you’d like to help her fill her closet, please contact Camp Fitch YMCA.

Central Y Celebrates 20 Years of Spinning

Janice JanJanin, member of the Y’s Board of Trustees, shares what the Central Y’s 20-year anniversary spin on November 11th meant to her.null

For those of us who participated in the Central YMCA’s 20-year anniversary spin on Saturday, November 11th, you know what a fun, enthusiastic, memory filled, heartwarming and sweaty 😉 good time it was! Everyone had wonderful comments about the day and each of the instructors shared how they became a part of the program. It’s amazing what the black box has created over the last two decades.

I was excited to see our CEO, Tom Gacse, spin the third hour, especially as he is recovering from knee surgery. I think he actually likes it! Thank you, Tom, for being “one of us.” (If I could convince the board members to spin… LOL)

We all owe huge kudos to Maureen Horvath for her forward thinking to bring Spin classes to the YMCA. She has impacted all our lives with the foresight to try a new program. Michael Pesa, Chris Lipinski and Ron Crawford were the driving force to build the black box and lay the foundation of Spinning. I know we are all forever grateful for their knowledge, passion and skill. Many heartfelt thanks.

Thank you to Jan Grasso, Central Program Secretary and Chris Russo, Central Fitness Coordinator for creating the marketing materials, t-shirts, sign-ups and everything else that goes along with an event.

To all of the instructors, thank you for teaching on Saturday and creating music and sharing your personal spin journey. To all our spinners, thank you for being a part of the YMCA Spinning program. The instructors are encouraged and driven by your love of the program.

And, OF COURSE, we know the whole day went off flawlessly due to the dedication, organization, compassion and commitment of Beth Murray, Central’s Special Events/Spinning Coordinator. If you were lucky enough to spin the last hour, you got to experience the difference Beth Murray has made on the Spinning program. I have said it 100 times before, when Beth is teaching it’s like attending church. Her words come from the heart. They are not rehearsed or pre-written because they don’t have to be. She knows about every single one of us and truly cares. Beth has shared her physical challenges with all of us, so the amount of time she gave to the anniversary spin will literally exhaust her for days. Thank you, Beth Murray. Thank you for changing my life. Thank you for changing all our lives and creating such an impact on the Y – our wonderful Y.

Let’s keep the fire that started 20 years ago and we all felt again on Saturday, starting today and everyday forward.

Blessings to all of you.
Janice JanJanin
Member, YMCA of Youngstown Board of Trustees



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Jump Stretch at the Y Helped Kennedy Catholic Golden Eagles Win State Championship

Carl LaRosaCongratulations to the Kennedy Catholic Golden Eagles basketball team on their second consecutive State Championship title! Their off-season strength and conditioning coach is our very own Carl LaRosa, a full-time staff member at the Central YMCA of Youngstown. He has been running the team’s strength and conditioning program for the past two years, and in that time, players had no downtime due to ankle or knee injuries and have won two State Championship titles!

Carl has a degree in Exercise Science and Human Performance, various certifications, and has worked with athletes of all experience levels for over twenty-six years. The Jump Stretch Training System was invented by his father-in-law, legendary coach Dick Hartzell. This system uses large, continuous-loop bands to increase a participant’s vertical jump, speed and explosiveness, while preventing injuries. Many professional, college and high school athletic teams use this system, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Portland Trailblazers and The Ohio State University. US Army Soldiers at Fort Bragg and US Navy Seals use Jump Stretch as part of their physical fitness programs, as well.

The Kennedy basketball team began training with Carl in May and continued into the season. The program replaced barbell squats (which hurt lower backs) and Olympic lifts (which take too long to teach) with squats performed using huge rubber bands that can exert between 15-1000 lbs. of pressure.

Coach Hartzell created the system to “allow athletes to train quick to be quick, safely.” He emphasizes that it is safer for joints and easier to learn, producing great results. For example, vertical jumps for the Eagles increased up to three inches each month as a team, and without injuries.

Head Coach Rick Mancino and Assistant Varsity Coach Justin Magestro are both very happy about their team’s use of the Jump Stretch training system at the Y. “Over the last two years, my team has been trained specifically by Carl and without hesitation I attribute a lot of our success to him,” said Mancino, “The last two years our team had no injuries, compared to the previous five years when we had many. Carl is very organized and relates well to the players while still demanding a vigorous workout.”

The team has had many players go on to collegiate programs. Coach Mancino cited one of his players, Sagaba Konate, who went on to West Virginia University, “the strength and conditioning coach was very impressed with how advanced he was with this type of training since it is a part of their training program too.” Magestro’s son Drew has been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, and more players are gaining attention. “Carl is a first-class guy and without a doubt I would highly recommend him and the Jump Stretch program at the Y to any team or person who wants to make themselves better.” Carl is currently assisting Cardinal Mooney High School’s football strength coach in implementing their own Jump Stretch program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Jump Stretch Training System, you’re invited to attend one of the free orientation classes held every Monday at 5:00 pm at the Central YMCA.

Maker Movement at Camp Fitch

nullAlthough Mother Nature has shifted Camp Fitch’s sand to the east end of the beach, the patient beachcomber is not disappointed upon arrival at the extended lakeshore by the first pier. There, sculptures of driftwood, beach glass, rocks, and man-made trash have been made into artistic treasures that welcome the hundreds of campers who call this beach their home. Whether part of the Beachcomber Rope (a four-day focused small group program) or Exploratory Period at Lake Erie, Camp Fitch’s beach has been an inspiration for the Maker Movement that has flourished at camp this summer.

nullThe Maker Movement at Camp Fitch is centered around modifying, manipulating, and combining tangible materials to produce art or to learn more about the natural world. In a nutshell, kids and staff are “making” things using creativity to solve problems, while developing perseverance and grit in the process. At Nerdy Derby, old archery targets are used to build the body for cars that race down the Pinewood Derby track built at the Central Branch in the early 80s. Weight and friction are adjusted in the cars using objects found around camp from brass bullet casings to Lake Erie shale.

Every night after dinner, Ships (two cabin groups) build unity through creative Voyages that often flourish with the maker mentality. For example, eight 15-year-old girls have created candle holders for their Candlelight candles using tree wedges, paint and a drill to make a mementnullo that proudly displays the promise they will make at Candlelight until they return for summer 2018. Installment Art is also prevalent at the entrance to Friend Circle where painted rocks line the path, while the Adventure Playground by the new Boathouse dawns painted stumps and logs as part of the Painting Rope. In the background, a rope bridge that can be configured in different ways by campers is nearing completion.

Summer 2017 has been a record breaker with over 2,300 campers and four full-to-capacity sessions. With so many campers enjoying our Great Camp on a Great Lake, large group size would seem to be the norm. However, the Maker Movement at Camp Fitch has created an atmosphere with small group activities in which campers gain self-confidence through creativity that develops perseverance and grit – making kids better, forever.

YMCA Volunteers at Green Youngstown Streetscape Event

nullThe YMCA had ten volunteers from both Central and Davis participate in this year’s Youngstown Streetscape event on June 3rd. The Y included both members and staff from various departments and was involved in planting and mulching projects throughout the day in front of buildings along Federal Street, including the Commerce Building and City Centre One. The team sought out areas in which flowers, greenery and mulch were needed, weeded and picked up litter.

Kyle Hillman, Central Y Senior Membership Director and volunteer, explains the importance of joining the effort, “Giving back to the city that has given so much to this valley, the people and the nation as a whole is truly a privilege. Beautifying it with vibrant colors, landscaping and litter cleanup affords residents and visitors alike the opportunity to see that people are invested in the continued success of Youngstown. A sense of community, pride and accomplishment fills me when I drive into or walk around downtown and look at the efforts put forth by all those involved in Streetscape.”

Youngstown Streetscape, which started as a small effort twenty years ago with a handful of dedicated volunteers, has evolved into an annual city-wide tradition, attracting over 800 volunteers this year. The increased interest in the 20th annual event has allowed Youngstown CityScape to expand their Streetscape event to reach even more areas of Youngstown beyond downtown. Organizers and volunteers brought CityScape to more than fifty locations across the city.

Artists Shine at the Y

More than sixty local artists participated in the seventh-annual Slightly Off-Centered Art Show at the Davis Family YMCA. The show was open to artists from local adult-care centers in our community. The opening reception, on June 11th, was attended by at least thirty of the artists, with their guests. This art show is held for residents of the local senior-living community as a social gathering, and fun activity for all in attendance.

Suzanne Gray, Arts and Humanities Coordinator at the Davis Family YMCA explains, “It began when a Y member, who was also the activities director at Briarfield at Ashley Circle, stopped me in the lobby and asked if I’d be interested in creating a real art class (as opposed to crafts) at her facility. A woman with ALS had expressed the desire to take a painting class, and was not able to leave air conditioning. Jane passed away a few months after we started, but by then the class had many other interested residents. Gradually, other residential centers heard about the class and asked to start clubs of their own.

Each center has their own first, second and third place awards, and there are eight more prestigious awards that are given away to the group as a whole. Some of the winners from this year’s show were, Ron Byers from Briarfield at Ashley Circle, who won Best of Show. Juror’s awards went to Claudette Cook of Briarfield at Ashley Circle, Maxine Martin of Countryside at Elmwood, and Dorothie Wiley of Inn at Glenellen.

The YMCA taJayaira Grhimkes pride in featuring outstanding works of art from local artists. Recently, YMCA board member, Tim Bresnahan and his family purchased a painting by local artist, Jayaira Grhim. The piece, which was donated to the Y, depicts Grhim’s childhood in Youngstown, and in Campbell. She is a senior at Youngstown State University studying painting, and owner of AGarts LLC, a business that focuses on inspiring individuals through creativity.

“Jayaira’s every bit as wonderful in person as the write up on the display card next to her painting at the Y suggests. She is a wonderful example of what we try to inspire at the Y. A child of poverty, she has used every opportunity to not only lift herself up, but to mentor others along the way. I can’t say enough about her commitment to the community.” Jayaira’s piece, “Memories” is now on public display at the Central YMCA.

Splash into Summer Water Safety Event

Splash into SummerMemorial Day weekend is always a busy weekend for our Y because it marks the opening of our outdoor recreation facility and outdoor pools! We also take the opportunity to focus on water safety awareness with our annual Splash into Summer event. May is National Water Safety Month and the event provides children and guardians with information about how to be safe in and around water and what to do in case of an emergency.

Participants learned the importance of constant adult supervision, always getting permission before getting in the water, and a few “survival skills” including floating, treading water and what to do in case our children fall into the water.

Splash into SummerParents and guardians in attendance received a Water Watcher card. The Water Watcher card is a reminder to uphold the responsibilities of being a Water Watcher, which includes:
• Assignment to watch your children in the water and never leave them unattended
• Regularly scanning the bottom of the pool
• Completely avoiding talking on a phone, reading or engaging in any conversations
• Administering CPR and assigning someone to call 911 in the event of an emergency
• Ability to locate, and knowledge of how to use all on site pool safety equipment
Both guardians and swimmers also signed a National Pool Safety Pledge. (
Events like the Splash into Summer water safety event have a single purpose: create a safe and comfortable environment for both children and adults who are around any body of water.

Togetherhood at the YMCA at the Youngstown Marathon

Togetherhood at the YMCAThis year marked the first ever Youngstown Marathon. The race received an overwhelming response as over 1,000 runners from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia took to the streets of Youngstown.

More than fourteen volunteers from Togetherhood at the YMCA passed out water and Gatorade® to thirsty runners at two separate water stations.

“It was great to be a part of such a fun event representing Youngstown and our beautiful Mill Creek Park! So many of the runners expressed their thanks and appreciation for our being there.” said Togetherhood member, Deb Maruskin. “When I heard about the 1st Youngstown Marathon being organized, I brought it to the committee as a volunteer project. We are supposed to look for ways to volunteer in our community and I felt it was a great way to involve people in a one day event that did not require a lot of preparation or any special skill, and a fun way to promote Youngstown!”

Togetherhood is the YMCA’s signature program for its commitment to Social Responsibility. It is a volunteer-driven program dedicated to planning and executing four service projects per year. If you’d like to join the Togetherhood at the YMCA committee, or volunteer for a service project, please contact Chris Hughes at (330) 480-5655 or for more information.

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