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When it comes to helping youth reach their full potential, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA is raising the bar. We now have the ability to serve thousands of more kids with the addition of a new gymnastics center at the Bob Sierra Youth and Family Center. Classes are already underway at the new 11,500-square-foot Carrollwood facility.

Late last month, more than 1,000 community members got a sneak peek of the gymnastics center during an open house. Tampa Y Governance Board Chair Michelle Maingot kicked off the dedication ceremony earlier that week. “Can you believe it was only a few short months ago that we broke ground? What an accomplishment, ”Michelle told guests. “We want to thank all of our donors, especially The Sierra Foundation, Cy and Joanne Spurlino and the Shimberg family, for making this gymnastics center possible through their generosity and commitment to the Carrollwood/Northdale community.”

The $1.7 million facility features preschool equipment, two spring floors, competition bars and beams. The center offers recreational and tumbling classes for toddlers through teens. It also serves as the new home for the Bob Sierra Y’s Top Flight competitive gymnastics team.

With the new space comes a new focus on the Y’s adaptive programs. The Bob Sierra Y’s goal is to serve up to 40 special needs kids at a time in the center. “Families of special needs youth often have difficulty finding affordable afterschool and summer programs which provide opportunities to engage in developmentally-appropriate yet exciting activities,” explained Nancy Favilla, Chair of the Bob Sierra Advisory Board. “The Bob Sierra Family YMCA has a history of providing adaptive programs for these special needs community members and we plan to meet some of these needs through our second phase of fundraising,” said Nancy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Bob Sierra Y’s mission to serve the special needs community, please contact Group Vice President Pete Shattuck at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 813-962-3220. 

 

Pictured above: The Bob Sierra Y’s Top Flight competitive gymnastics team with Y leaders, volunteers and supporters at the dedication ceremony for the new gymnastics center.

 

There is a reason 17-year-old Emily Colburn is the youngest-ever recipient of the Plant City Family YMCAs volunteer of the year award. She earned the top honor by wearing several hats at the branch - from planning community events to helping members, answering phones and even sweeping floors.

Emily’s also the leader of the branch’s Teen Leaders club, which promotes leadership skills, healthy living and community service. “Teen Leaders has brought more of a leader out of me. It helps me feel more empowered to volunteer and take more control and not be afraid to try new experiences,” shares Emily.

Volunteering really strikes a chord with Emily. During a recent service project, she helped paint, garden and hand out donated diapers to families in need. “I loved it! I do anything I can do to help volunteer in the community.” She’s already looking forward to the next community project. “We’re doing Breakfast with Santa where we bring a Santa into the Y and we have these families that can’t necessarily afford to take their children to the mall to take their pictures with Santa,” shares Emily. “I can’t wait to see how happy these kids and families are going to be.” She’s also in the midst of planning the annual Teen Leaders 5K.

Teen Leaders also provides the opportunity for Emily to discover her full potential academically. “It helped me realize that I need to take more control school-wise and be thinking about what colleges I’m going to go to. I need to focus more on what certifications I may need to get to the job that I want,” says Emily. 

Emily is just one of the many young faces at the Tampa Y learning what it truly means to be a leader. Together, they are building the future, for themselves and the community.“If I wasn’t in Teen Leaders, I would just be staying at home, keeping to myself,” says Emily. “It makes me look forward to the new challenges it may bring us. It makes me push myself further than I think I could ever go.”

 

Pictured above: L to R: Plant City Y Executive Director Rick Gould, Volunteer of the Year Emily Colburn and her mother, Pamela.

 
 
 

Year after year, Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. has committed to helping strengthen communities with the Tampa Y. Over the summer, local leaders from Publix presented a check worth $31,000 to summer campers from the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA. To show their appreciation, the kids created a big Thank You card displaying their painted handprints.

Through its generosity, Publix helps keep our doors open to all—regardless of age, income or background. It’s a shared commitment that ensures all Tampa Bay community members have the opportunity to reach their full potential at the Y. Our thanks to Publix for their continued support!

As a Charity Navigator 4-star charity, the Tampa Y is very proud to say every dollar donated goes directly toward helping others in the local community. If you would like to contribute to the annual campaign, please 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: Summer campers from the Central City Y thank Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. for its generous contribution.

 
 

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 www.tampaymca.org.

 

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.

 
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