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"I thought nothing was wrong, until it happened," shares Bryan Lewis as he recalls being rushed to the hospital after a blood clot ruptured in his brain. “I went to sleep one night and woke up eight weeks later,” recalls Bryan. “My body was preparing itself for death.” After he awoke from his coma, Bryan discovered he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. “I felt like life was over basically,” shares Bryan.

When Bryan first started physical therapy, he had to retrain the left side of his body. “It’s like a new baby brain,” he explains. Despite the major setback, Bryan stays motivated to regain his strength at the WestPark Village YMCA Express. He builds up his endurance there twice a day. “Everybody here is so helpful. I have new friends,” says Bryan. As a college student unable to work due to his disability, Bryan appreciates the scholarship that enables him to benefit from the Y at an affordable rate.

Bryan’s main source of inspiration is his 7-year-old daughter. “I tell her every time she sees me that I’ll be better,” he says. That desire to improve is pushing Bryan to set and achieve personal goals. In fact, about a year ago, he completed a one-mile walk in 38 minutes with a cane. This year, he set a goal to complete it in 28 minutes without a cane. Not only did Bryan ditch the cane, but he accomplished the feat in 27 minutes! As you can see, the Y has truly made an impact on Bryan’s life and we’re proud to be here for him throughout his recovery.

 


Pictured above: Bryan Lewis is a stroke survivor who frequents the WestPark Village YMCA Express to regain his strength.

 

Florida tops the list when it comes to kids under the age of five who have drowned. To reverse this unfortunate ranking, the Tampa YMCA and the Tampa Bay Rays teamed up again this summer to pitch water safety.

The initiative called "Be Water Smart From the Start" is a collaboration between the YMCAs of Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Rays, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, United Way Suncoast and Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County to offer drowning prevention programs to the community. One of the programs is called “Go for Green,” which provides free swim lessons to YMCA summer campers unable to pass the swim test. They receive free swim lessons throughout the summer until they pass the swim test and get a green wristband.

On July 28th, a special celebration was held at the Northeast High School pool in St. Petersburg to congratulate and hand out medals to 75 kids who learned how to swim this summer. Serving as the “Be Water Smart From the Start" spokesman, Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier says the initiative hits close to home. "It means a lot to me because I was always swimming when I was younger," says Kevin. "And it just reminds me of my childhood."

So far, about 5,000 children across the YMCAs of Tampa Bay have learned to swim through the program. To learn more about "Be Water Smart From the Start," click here.

 


Pictured above: Rays outfielder and "Be Water Smart From the Start" spokesman Kevin Kiermaier high-fives a South Tampa Y camper, who received a medal for passing the swim test.

 
 

When a group of rising 1st and 2nd graders at Graham Elementary School spent their summer with the Y, they had no idea they were boosting their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It’s part of the Tampa YMCA’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program (SLLPP), an enrichment program for children from low-income environments to support them in literacy and academics.

Unfortunately, when school ends, many kids, especially those from lower-income households, don’t have easy access to enriching experiences that others may take for granted, like summer camps, family time, and field trips to museums, parks and libraries. Research shows all kids experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Moreover, low-income students almost always fall further behind than their middle/upper-class peers. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

Thanks to our collaboration with the YMCA of the USA, Triad Foundation and Hillsborough County Public Schools, the Y’s SLLPP is improving learning outcomes and closing the achievement gap. For six weeks, SLLPP campers spent their mornings engrossed in literacy and STEM work. They then filled their afternoons with enrichment activities including art, science, field trips, classroom visits from community partners and swimming lessons once a week at a nearby Y. The program also places a strong emphasis on parental involvement. Parents pledged to read each night at home with their children. They also participated in family nights with a focus on literacy and healthy living.

“The YMCA is a big part of community involvement,” says B.C. Graham Elementary Principal Sharron Doyle. “Our school has a relatively high percentage of homeless children and children living in subsidized housing. The parents build trusting relationships with the YMCA team and that changes lives.” Click here to see how these Y campers gained STEM skills this summer.

 


Pictured above: Click on the video above to see Y campers gaining STEM skills this summer.

 
 

The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA is rolling into underserved neighborhoods in a bright, colorful van - but instead of ice cream, we are bringing kids and families healthy fruits and vegetables. We call it the Veggie Van — a Mobile Market Place. With the Veggie Van, the Y is distributing fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables into targeted communities, which are labeled food deserts. A food desert is defined as an urban neighborhood without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. “It’s when the corner convenience store or gas station serves as the grocery store, where healthier food options are severely limited and prices are inflated,” explains Central City YMCA Executive Director Mike McCollum at an unveiling ceremony on July 10th.

Only 20 percent of residents in Hillsborough County meet the recommended five-a-day servings of fruit and vegetables. In underserved communities, the statistic drops to below 8.5 percent. With the Veggie Van, the Tampa Y is providing seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables to communities which have a demonstrated need for nutritional wellness — Wimauma Village, Tampa Heights and Sulphur Springs in Hillsborough County and Lacoochee in Pasco County. Other communities may be added depending on need. Community food distributions take place every two weeks on a rotating basis.

Darlene-Anika Christian participated in one of the early Veggie Van stops in Sulphur Springs. “They can supply you with things you really need and at such a low price. It’s unbelievable. You get more than your money’s worth,” says Darlene-Anika. “I wasn’t buying the vegetables I truly needed because I couldn’t afford it. But now, I’m baking more potatoes and eating more salads with radishes and tomatoes.”

Veggie Van participants are pre-screened and children receiving free or reduced-price lunches automatically qualify. A nutrition education coordinator is on hand to work with families on improving food preparation and cooking habits to minimize the risk of obesity, chronic disease and high blood pressure.

And the Veggie Van is much more than just about good health. By providing kids the basic necessities in life — like food — the Y is helping them succeed. “For example, if we have a child that is struggling in reading, we get them a tutor. However, if the child then shows up for tutoring hungry, it will be difficult for them to focus and learn,” says Tampa YMCA President & CEO Tom Looby. “We hope the Veggie Van will make an impact here. This is one of the programs that will help the pieces of the puzzle fit together better.”

The Y hopes to serve about 600 families a month with the Veggie Van, impacting more families like Darlene-Anika’s. “You can’t beat this. It’s a good nutritional meal,” testifies Darlene-Anika. “It’s a blessing, truly a blessing.”

The Tampa YMCA is able to launch the Veggie Van thanks to generous funding from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, The Joy McCann Foundation and Bank of America. Additionally, the Florida Department of Agriculture has played a key advisory role. For more information, contact Mobile Food Market Director Elizabeth Roman at 813-229-9622 ext. 1729 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


Pictured above: The Tampa Y’s Veggie Van is bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved neighborhoods.

 

 
 

Bethany Mattacchione felt a rush of panic as she watched her 4-year-old son, Roman, fall head first into a pool. "He was running around very fast, which he had been told not to do, and ricocheted off of the metal beam of the screen and it threw him into the water,” shares Bethany. She recalls physically holding her mother-in-law back from jumping in after Roman. You see, Bethany had full faith that Roman would put to use the skills he learned from the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) program at the Campo Family YMCA.

ISR is designed to teach children 6 months to 4-years-old water self-rescue skills. Tailor-made lessons help young children become comfortable around water and learn how to save themselves if they come in contact with water in a harmful way. Bethany says although she was worried when her son fell in, she felt “comforted in the thought that he had mastered so much, so quickly, with the program.” ISR instructors are trained for eight intensive weeks before they become certified to teach. “Our instructor was patient and saw the strengths and weaknesses of my 2- and 4-year-olds that she could tweak and use to her advantage to get them to do what she needed from them,” says Bethany.

As an avid Y member, Bethany is thrilled with the extra layer of protection ISR provides her children. “I love that now, at 5 and 3, my kids are excellent swimmers,” says Bethany. “They know how to float if they get exhausted. It was an inadvertent result of rescue swim that my kids are such fluent swimmers, but I'm so thankful.”

The ISR program and the Y, in general, have truly affected Bethany and her family in a positive way. “Good people seem to congregate here,” testifies Bethany. “People who actively pursue betterment of body, soul and spirit are very much what I have encountered. I love the Y!”

Click here to learn more information about the Tampa YMCA’s ISR program. It’s just one of the ways the Y is working to ensure not one more child drowns in the Tampa Bay area.

 


Pictured above: 5-year-old Roman learns water survival skills in the ISR program at the Campo Y.

 
 

This summer, YMCA Teen Achievers from one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Tampa are learning how to row. It is a sport many of the Sulphur Springs students may never have come in contact with if it weren’t for the partnership and generosity of The Stewards Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization with the mission to use the sport of rowing as a vehicle to raise self-esteem and teach teamwork and responsibility to youth.

Row Tampa Camp started its inaugural summer program earlier this month. Every day for two weeks, the Y transported Y Teen Achievers from the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA to the docks and boathouse at Riverfront Park. The Stewards Foundation, Inc. provided the coaching and equipment to teach the Olympic sport of rowing, giving the teens from Sligh Middle School – where 86 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch – the opportunity to improve their fitness while enjoying the sights and sounds along the Hillsborough River.

Y Teen Achievers is a career and college readiness program designed to support middle and high school students who otherwise may not set post-graduation goals to either enroll in a higher education institute or begin a chosen career path. Y Teen Achievers helps teens raise their academic standards, develop a positive sense of self, build character, explore diverse college and career options, and interact with professionals who serve as role models to inspire them to greater heights.

The Y and Stewards Foundation, Inc. are looking for generous donors interested in helping continue this collaboration throughout the year. If you’re interested in donating to help at-risk youth succeed, contact Amber Carpenter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 813-224-9622 ext. 1241.

 


Pictured above: Teen Achievers from Sligh Middle School learning how to row during summer camp.

 
 


As a single mother, Torrie Williams says she depends on the school system and community for help with her 10-year-old son, Tory Giles. "Typically, I don't look forward to summer break because of the high cost of childcare,” shares Torrie. Generous donations funded a full-paid camp scholarship for Tory at the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA last summer.
 

Torrie says not only did Y Summer Camp provide a fun and safe environment for her son, but it also prepared him academically for the 4th grade.  “The educational program is a life saver. The time set aside to incorporate math, reading and science specific to his grade level is remarkable,” says Torrie. “Because of the daily lessons, he is faster, sharper and more accurate.” 
 

To help community families, the Tampa YMCA also provides free breakfast and lunch, not only to our summer campers but to any child in the community. “There is a huge comfort in knowing he is getting two nutritious meals, five days a week. That takes a great deal of financial burden off me,” claims Torrie.
 

At the Tampa Y, we believe when a child’s basic needs are met, he or she is free to focus on learning. We’re committed to closing the academic achievement gap between children from low-income households and their middle/upper-income peers with a focus on academics in our summer camp, afterschool and other youth development programs. To find out more or register for Y Summer Camp, click here.

 


Pictured above: Summer camp keeps 10-year-old Tory’s mind and body active at the Central City Y.

 

 
 
 
 


The past motivated Hilary Konigsberg to start her three-year-old daughter in swim lessons at a very young age. "We put Maggie in as soon as we could because our son jumped in a pool at two years old and didn't know how to swim. Thankfully, we were standing there and watching him,” recalls Hilary. “We want all of our children to understand how to be safe near water.”
 

Maggie has been taking swim lessons at the North Brandon and Campo Family YMCAs for more than two years. In that time, Hilary has seen her daughter blossom. “Maggie has become very confident in the water, overly so,” says Hilary. “She can get herself to the side and get out without any assistance. It puts me at ease, slightly, that she has this skill down.”
 

Y swim programs not only teach technique, but also provide a safe place to meet new friends and develop life skills. “Maggie has gained confidence and independence through this program,” shares Hilary.
 

At the Tampa Y, we’re truly committed to drowning prevention and encourage all children, teens and adults to learn how to swim, like Maggie. It’s especially important in Hillsborough County, which regularly ranks among the highest counties nationally for drowning cases in children under the age of four. Basic swimming skills and water safety practices save lives every day. Click here for more information.

 


Pictured above: Three-year-old Maggie learns how to swim at the North Brandon and Campo Family YMCAs.

 

 
 


Our lifeguards are trained and ready to save lives! The Tampa Y is committed to water safety and uses a comprehensive, rigorous training program to prepare lifeguards to be vigilant and effectively guard our pools, lakes and splash areas. We strongly believe in ongoing training and development, requiring monthly in-service trainings and facility-specific instruction for our lifeguards.
 

Last month, 130 lifeguards across the Tampa YMCA association participated in our annual Summer Safety Training at the Bob Sierra Youth and Family Center. For two hours, lifeguards are trained in vigilance, overall safety of Y pools and expectations of a Tampa YMCA lifeguard. The team also hears from aquatic experts, top Y executives and aquatic directors from our ten pool locations.
 

Tonya Roy, a risk consultant with the Redwoods Group, provided the keynote speech during the training. “She was quick to say we had a wonderful group that was engaged, on time and well trained,” shares Associate Vice President of Risk Management Joe Mangione. “We have a great group of guards that are ready to keep our pools safe this summer.”

 


Pictured above: 130 lifeguards across the Tampa YMCA association participated in our annual Summer Safety Training at the Bob Sierra Youth and Family Center.

 

 
 

10-year-old Amarion Lock has his sights set on being a professional football player. But, in order to get there, he knows he has to focus on school. “It’s important to read and I tell him he won’t make it if he doesn’t get an education,” shares his mother, Framaine Brock. Amarion is already on the right track with the Y READS! program at Sulphur Springs Elementary School. It’s an intensive literacy tutoring program that pairs a trained adult with one or two children for two hours each week.

The YMCA of the USA selected Amarion and his family to document their Y READS! experience through video storytelling. They sent him a complementary iPad and asked the Tampa Y to help capture his story of impact on camera.

Framaine says Amarion’s biggest challenge is “…being embarrassed for not pronouncing the words right or someone picking on him because he’s taking too long to read the sentence. He doesn’t want anyone to be around when he’s trying to read.” But, all that’s changing as Amarion gains more confidence. “When I see a hard word, I just go with it and sound it out,” shares Amarion. “What I like most about reading is talking about my book with my mom. I love to write about the books.”

Framaine notices a big change in Amarion since starting Y READS! “He has come a long way. His reading has really improved,” testifies Framaine. “He’s starting to read more books. I see that he enjoys it. He tries to tell someone else how to pronounce words now.”

Y READS! teaches Amarion more than reading skills. It’s boosting his self-esteem, imagination and his ability to succeed in and out of school. And no matter the career path he chooses, Amarion knows his mom is his number one fan. She says, “I really want him to get above level in reading, continue striving to be the best, and to know that everyone makes mistakes.”

The Tampa Y offers Y READS! at Sulphur Springs, Twin Lakes, Pizzo and Frost elementary schools. To volunteer or for further information, please contact 813.924.7563 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Click here to watch Amarion’s video storytelling project in its entirety.

 


Pictured above: Click on the video to follow Amarion Lock as he improves his reading skills through the Y READS! Program.

 

 
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