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Irene De Rocco and her late husband, Jack, did everything together. They even exercised together at YMCA Camp Cristina. "He was always there with her and when he passed away, it was really hard because so many people loved Jack here,” recalls SilverSneakers™ trainer Sharon Dimezza. “Irene kept coming because this is like her little family and we all embraced her and kept her involved with everything. She just has a heart of gold and we all love her.” 


The feeling is mutual for 75-year-old Irene who still participates in SilverSneakers every Friday at YMCA Camp Cristina. She enjoys walking and swimming but her favorite is water aerobics. “I find if I’ve been here and did the exercises then I feel more like doing something the next couple of days instead of just sitting around. I just want to keep moving,” says Irene.


Without Jack, Irene knows she can count on her Y family to embrace her and lift her spirits. “All the instructors are very friendly, very nice and very personable,” says Irene. “I always tell my family, ‘Don’t plan on me for Friday because I’ll be at the Y.’”


The Tampa Y offers very specific programs, like SilverSneakers, that help senior citizens maintain and improve their physical and social health while aging. Many health plans include SilverSneakers as a benefit for those eligible for Medicare. For more information, contact your local Y.


Pictured right: Irene De Rocco at the annual YMCA SilverSneakers picnic.

At only 16 years old, Joshua Heiman sure knows how to be a leader. Not only is he the president of the Teen Leaders Club at the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA, he’s also the only student serving on the branch’s advisory board. “I think the other board members look at me as an equal,” says Joshua. “They understand what I am trying to do for the teens and that I represent them and there are a lot of teens at the YMCA.”

The Teen Leaders’ Club helps build a solid, positive foundation for youth through the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Joshua leads the Northwest Y’s group in building new relationships, learning valuable skills and getting involved in the community.  “We are willing to do anything that helps make the community a better place,” says Joshua.

One of the ways they’re strengthening the community is through volunteer work. Teen Leaders dedicate hours of community service together at events such as Family Fun Nights for Kids. They also host an annual 5K to bring awareness to childhood obesity.

Along the way, they’re learning life lessons and how to reach their full potential. For Josh, that will eventually mean a career as a Navy SEAL. “It’s something that is important to me,” shares Joshua. “The biggest thing about being in the military is to think of all the things they have given us. We have freedom. We can practice any religion and people can follow any goal they choose.”

To learn more about the Teen Leaders’ Club, stop by your local Y.


Pictured above: Joshua Heiman (middle) is the president of the Teen Leaders’ Club at the Northwest Y.


At first, LaTasha Henderson felt bad for sending her seven-year-old son, Dedrick, to the Tampa Ys Summer Learning Loss Prevention (SLLP) program. But when she realized SLLP incorporated sports and fun activities into the curriculum, she says, “Through play, he got to learn. The playing element was huge for him; educational and character-building.” After spending the summer engaged in literacy work, enrichment activities and field trips, Dedrick is now in gifted classes with stronger reading and retention skills than ever. “I’ve seen a definite improvement in him. It’s so wonderful just to see him learn and grow and retain it,” says LaTasha. “He is picking up books more often. He is sounding things out, without us prompting him to. He takes more initiative now.”


The healthy living curriculum really resonated with Dedrick. “She taught us the good things to eat and things we shouldn’t eat. Calcium is good for your body and healthy and your bones get strong,” recalls Dedrick. “We learned 5-2-1-Almost None. Five means 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, two means 2 hours in front of a screen and one is 1 hour of playing and almost none means almost no sugary drinks.” Not only can Dedrick repeat the 5-2-1-Almost None formula verbatim but LaTasha says, “He came home and he explained it and he quizzed us.  We started right away.”


During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, the Tampa Y wants families to understand the lifetime benefits of healthy eating and active living. That’s why we incorporate physical activity and healthy eating in all our out-of-school programs. We believe if these healthy habits are brought home, they will carry over to when children are out of their parents’ care and that will dramatically help reduce obesity in our community.


Pictured above: Dedrick Henderson is in gifted classes now after attending the Y’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention (SLLP) program.


new study shows K-5 students who participate in afterschool activities receive higher math scores. University of California/Irvine researchers also discovered other correlated benefits including better work ethic and higher grades, with low-income students reaping especially large benefits. Studies like this show the value of high-quality afterschool programs, like Y Success Afterschool.

Recently, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) sent a film crew to document the impactful work the Tampa Y and YMCA of the Suncoast are doing with Success Afterschool. The result is this moving video full of honest feedback from students, parents, principals, teachers and counselors. “The school system increasingly is telling us they recognize they can’t do it all by themselves and they need powerful organizations, like the Y, to work with them and help them and assist them,” says Tampa Y President & CEO Tom Looby. “So, that’s why we’re doing this work; to help kids get on a path to success.” 


The high correlation of poverty and low literacy skills to poor academic performance has been proven in many studies. The Tampa Y is committed to closing the academic achievement gap between children from low-income households and their middle/upper-income counterparts with a focus on academics in Y Success Afterschool, Pre-K, VPK and several other youth development programs. For more details, head to


Caption: Click on the video to see how the Success Afterschool program at the Tampa Y and the YMCA of the Suncoast is helping close the academic achievement gap.


At only 17 years old, Elijah Rodriguez is already learning lessons in leadership and networking. As a Teen Leader at the East Pasco Family YMCA, he also serves on the branch’s Advisory Board. Although Elijah is the youngest board member, he plays a vital role. “I’ve never been in a situation where I sat down with the executive director of the Y, people from City Hall, the school board and businesses. So, it was a little daunting at first, but after awhile, I became used to it and it actually has opened a tremendous amount of doors for me,” shares Elijah.


One of the doors opened to a summer gig as a Y camp counselor. “It really was a life-changing experience for me. It’s amazing because for a lot of kids, with low-income backgrounds, summer camp can be the only positive thing going on in their lives,” says Elijah. “When I realized that, it meant so much more. Growing with these kids, being the cause of their happiness throughout the day, learning about them and getting attached - it was a fulfilling experience.”


In addition to having a voice in the community and giving back to those in need, Elijah is also growing as a person. “I hope a lot of kids our age realize what we do now can help determine the rest of our lives,” says Elijah. “In Teen Leaders’ Club, we’re not only volunteering in the community and helping out the Y; we’re also bettering our lives. We’re getting opportunities that we wouldn’t get with any other organization or club.”


Teen Leaders’ Club helps build a solid, positive foundation for youth through the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Elijah is just one of hundreds of young faces at the Y learning what it truly means to be a leader. Together, they are building the future, for themselves and the community. “You’re out there making a difference,” testifies Elijah. Stop by your local Y to learn more about the Teen Leaders in your community.


Cutline: Elijah Rodriguez is a Teen Leader representative on the East Pasco Y’s Advisory Board.


At first, Karen Smith-Robinson was apprehensive about enrolling her son, Jaden, into Y Success Afterschool at the Bob Sierra Family YMCA. “I was concerned that he wouldn’t fit in because of his developmental delays and behavior issues,” recalls Karen. “But I was pleasantly surprised by how the staff stepped up and made Jaden feel like family.”


Now, Jaden has a safe and healthy place to go after school to learn foundational skills, develop healthy, trusting relationships and build self-reliance through the Y values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Karen has seen her son flourish at the Y. “Since being here, Jaden has grown tremendously and his social skills and behavior as well as his language skills have improved beyond my expectations,” says Karen.


The working mother also appreciates the affordability and convenience of the quality afterschool program. She says, “The hours work really well and are flexible for working families. I love the different activities that my son participates in and the personal care that each child receives here.” Most of all, Karen loves the way her boy is welcomed at the Y. “I owe this all to the staff at the YMCA. They have gone above and beyond for me and Jaden and I will be forever grateful. I’ve already recommended several families here,” claims Karen.


In the Y's Success Afterschool program, children in grades K-5 receive academic enrichment, homework help and healthy nutritional snacks. They also participate in fun physical activity while certified instructors care for the total child and benefit the entire family by infusing successful values in every student. Y Success Afterschool is available at 29 elementary schools across Hillsborough County, plus at the following Y facilities/branches:

  •  Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA in Seminole Heights: 813­.229­.9622

  •  Bob Sierra Family YMCA in Carrollwood: 813­.962­.3220

  •  Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA in Town 'n Country: 813­.249­.8510

  •  YMCA Camp Cristina in Riverview: 813­.677­.8400

  •  Sulphur Springs YMCA @ Sulphur Springs Elementary School: 813­.924­.4207


For more information, contact the Y's Childcare Services Office at 813­.223­.2895.



Cutline: Jaden attends Y Success Afterschool at the Bob Sierra Y.


Hundreds of Sulphur Springs residents got a healthy start to the summer thanks to the Tampa Y, The Junior League of Tampa, Children's Board of Hillsborough County and other community partners. The Junior League of Tampa spearheaded a free Family Food Fest in the community on May 17th.


On this Saturday afternoon in Springhill Community Park, more than 120 families got to take home free food provided by Feeding America’s mobile pantry. They also learned how to make healthy meals from Celebrity Chef George Stella, an official spokesperson for the Association of Junior Leagues International’s Kids in the Kitchen initiative and a frequent guest on the Food Network. Tampa Bay Rays’ Raymond, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Thunderbug and cheerleaders also made special appearances.


Amidst all the fun, families participated in different educational stations, including family literacy where they received free books and learned ways to help kids avoid summer learning loss. Guest speakers also taught residents about ways to help prevent childhood obesity.


None of this would be possible without the leadership of The Junior League of Tampa and generosity of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Together we are strengthening the Sulphur Springs community!




Cutline: The Sulphur Springs Y teamed up with the Junior League of Tampa and Children’s Board of Hillsborough County to host a free Family Food Fest in Sulphur Springs.


Nearly 1,000 more students across the nation now have the opportunity to beat the summer learning loss. The summer slide is the educational ground children could lose during the three-month break from school, particularly when it comes to reading.


Tampa is one of nearly 30 cities selected to implement the Summer Learning Loss Prevention (SLLP) program. It’s all part of the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA)’s efforts to help improve the academic readiness and success of children in low-income environments. Students in the SLLP program typically gain three months in reading proficiency during a free six-week summer program. This success is largely due to the fact that SLLP uses certified teachers, hired directly from the schools we serve.


This is the Tampa Y’s third year implementing SLLP at B.C. Graham Elementary School. One success story involves 7-year-old Kiara Mullens. Last summer, Kiara was engaged in literacy work, enrichment activities, swimming and field trips. “We do self-selected reading and a lot of times when the teacher is reading she does funny voices with the characters,” recalls Kiara.


The 2nd grader really took an interest in reading during the program. She says, “I like lots of books. I like to read about animals and how they live.” She even experienced a boost in her self-confidence over the summer. “In school, I’m very good. I’m almost smarter than the whole country,” claims Kiara. She says her mother appreciated the free summer program. “It helps my mommy save a lot of money and the other programs cost a lot of money to be there. She only gets paid on Friday and she’s looking for another job.”


From swimming to museum trips to handwriting lessons, Kiara says her mother always wants to hear about her day. “She asks me every day after summer school if I had a good day and I say, ‘Yes,’ and I tell her where we go for field trips and I tell her it’s fun,” recalls Kiara. “Now, she smiles all the time.”

If you want to learn more about the Y’s SLLP program, contact Executive Director Candace Culver at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 813-223-2895 ext. 1251.


Cutline: L to R: Lourdes Romero, Kiara Mullens, Justice Gennari.

Mostly everyone has heard of the YMCA, but few knew the Y hosts a National Gymnastics Championship each year. But now, ALL of Tampa Bay knows about it. For the first time, the Tampa Y and Sarasota Y teamed up to host one of the largest championships to date with competitors coming from as far away as California and New York.


The three-day competition kicked off July 2nd with an Olympic-style opening ceremony at Raymond James Stadium. The “Treasures Discovered” theme was complete with pirates, beads and nearly 1,800 gymnasts “invading” the stadium. Then, for three days straight at the Tampa Convention Center, Y athletes rotated from bars to floor to beam to vault.


The Tampa YMCA was well represented at the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships. The Bob Sierra YMCA had over 60 gymnasts compete while the North Brandon Y had over 20 gymnasts compete during the three day competition. Both teams had successful meets with many gymnasts placing in individual events as well as the All Around Competition.


Following is a list of gymnasts who place in the top three in their level and age group.


Top Flight Bob Sierra:


Level 4
Luke LaPointe - Tied for 3rd on Floor
Jackson Byam - Tied for 3rd on Rings and Vault
CJ Hovan - Tied for 3rd on Vault
Xander Pascua - 1st on Vault, 2nd on High Bar
Tyler Sussman - Tied for 2nd on Rings
Cody Mead - Tied for 3rd on Vault
Brady Boyer - Tied for 2nd on Vault



Level 1
Cheyenne Booth - 3rd on Bars, 2nd on Floor, 3rd Place All Around
Daisy Pitchford - 2nd on Vault, Tied for 2nd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around

Level 2
Tatiana Restrepo - Tied for 3rd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam, 2nd on floor, 3rd Place All Around
Angela Galbraith - 2nd on Balance Beam
Sofia Marotta - 2nd on Vault

Level 3
Remi Helms - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Floor
Chloe Troyer - 2nd on Floor
Kimberly Taylor - 3rd on Vault

Level 4
Kira McClard - 1st on Vault, 3rd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 1st on Floor, 1st Place All Around
Abby Vazquez - 2nd on Balance Beam
Baleigh Pennington - 2nd on Floor
Gracie Tramel - 1st on Vault, 2nd on Bars, 2nd on Floor, 1st Place All Around
Marisa Sapienza - 3rd on floor

Excel Silver
Nya Hill - 3rd on Bars

Excel Gold
Evelyn Arbogast - 1st on Balance Beam, 3rd Place All Around
Madison Pickett - 3rd Place Vault, 2nd on Bars, 2nd on Balance Beam
Jadyn Taylor - Tied for 3rd on Bars
Gretchen Strunk - 1st on Bars, 2nd on Balance Beam, 3rd on Floor, 2nd Place All Around

Excel Platinum
Lauren Shields - 1st on Balance Beam, 3rd on Floor
Anna Mersinger - 1st on Vault, , 2nd on Floor
Lisa Cochran - 1st on Bars, 1st on Floor, 1st Place All Around

Level 7
Taylor LaPointe - 3rd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Emma Barton - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam

Level 8
Destiny Garcia - 1st on Bars, 3rd on Floor
Hanna Barton - 2nd on Floor

Special Recognition:
• Destiny Garcia qualified to compete in the Level 8 All Around Finals on Saturday, July 5th by placing on the Top 25 of 100 girls. She tied for 7th Place All Around during Saturday Finals.
• Top Flight Bob Sierra Level 8 Team received the highest combined floor score out of 23 teams. Level 8 team members are Destiny Garcia, Hanna Barton, Jenny Teixiera, Marina Roberts and Jazmin Sobotker

Top Flight North Brandon

Level 2
Abigail Williamson - 3rd on Vault, 2nd on Balance Beam
Alessandra Cappucci - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Bars, 1st on Floor, 2nd Place All Around
Kelsey Stone - 1st on Vault, 1st on Floor
Desiree Scott - 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd on Floor
Natalia Collaza - 3rd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Maria Abreu - 1st on Vault, 2nd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 1st Place All Around

Level 3
Laura Bergman - 3rd on Bars, 3rd on Floor
Savannah Finn - 2nd on Balance Beam
Kaitlyn Sewell - 2nd on Vault, 2nd on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Alycea LaHay - 2nd on Vault

Level 4
Lexi Kirshner - 2nd on Vault, 2nd on Floor
Ariya Harris - 1st on Floor, 2nd on Bars, 3rd on Balance Beam, 1st Place Around


More than 400 volunteers, including YMCA staff, dedicated their holiday week doing everything from setting up gym mats, to handing out awards and timing. The Tampa Y wants to send a huge ‘thank you’ to the sponsors, volunteers, competitors, coaches and judges for helping pull off a wonderful event. The 2014 National Gymnastics Championships attracted over 6,000 athletes, spectators and visitors to the community resulting in an estimated $4.5 million economic impact to the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Y was honored to serve as host and hope we made everyone feel welcome in Tampa Bay and the Y!


The Tampa Y recognizes the following organizations for their support in nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility:

Amazing Photos
American Athletic, Inc. (AAI)
GK Elite
Graphix Screen Printing
McDonald’s Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Sports Commission
Tampa Sports Authority
Taylor Rental
The Home Depot
Visit Tampa Bay


Cutline: The Bob Sierra YMCA Top Flight Gymnastics team enjoys getting together at Opening Ceremonies outside Raymond James Stadium.

The Tampa YMCA is committed to saving lives in our community. It's why drowning prevention is a top priority in our strategic plan. And as we work hard to provide more water safety resources and knowledge to the community, we are excited to announce two new partnerships this year to help save more lives.

Earlier this month, the South Tampa Family YMCA served as the backdrop of a press conference to launch the “Be Water Smart from the Start” summer partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, in partnership with United Way Suncoast, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Juvenile Welfare Board, are spearheading a generous $100,000 gift to fund several drowning prevention summer initiatives at the Tampa Y, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and YMCA of the Suncoast.

“I’m pleased to be a part of this initiative,” said Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist at the press conference. “My wife and I have two kids; a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and it’s so important for us to be careful with them around water. The things families can do to prevent accidental drowning are of upmost importance when you’re around water.”

The gift will also go toward providing more free swim lessons to at-risk children and more swim scholarships to deserving families. Additional in-kind support from the Rays include game, radio and TV public service announcements; an achievement award for participating kids; and branch visits from the team’s mascot, Raymond. The Y is looking forward to strengthening our partnership with the Rays in the years to come.

The Y is also teaming up with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to launch a statewide Water Safety Campaign. We launched this collaboration at the South Tampa Y during Memorial Day week. The Water Safety Campaign urges parents and caregivers to keep your “Eyes on the Kids” at all times when children have access to water. In addition, the campaign brings together resources for swim lessons and highlights the importance of teaching all children in Florida how to swim.

“Our state loses more children under the age of five to drowning than any other state in the nation,” DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Parents and caregivers must be vigilant about keeping their eyes on children around water. Taking extra precautions can save a child’s life.”

Tampa YMCA Aquatics Executive Amanda Walker made an exciting announcement during the press conference. “The Tampa YMCA plans to expand the nationwide Y SPLASH program to all our family branches next year. The SPLASH program offers the entire community free swim lessons at their local Ys for a whole week in March, said Walker. 

As you can see, the Tampa Y is going above and beyond to ensure not one more child drowns in Florida. Many of our initiatives wouldn’t be possible without strong collaborations with community organizations, like the Rays, DCF, DOH, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and United Way Suncoast. It’s why we were honored to host both press conferences at the South Tampa Y. Together, we are saving lives!

For more information on the DCF partnership, visit For more information on the Rays partnership, visit


Cutline: Two press conferences recently took place at the South Tampa Y to announce two different drowning prevention partnerships with the YMCA.

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Our Mission HeadlineThe Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, a charitable association dedicated to building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities, puts Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.