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Reba Cain says she came to the Bob Sierra Family YMCA with one goal in mind: "to remain healthy and flexible enough to always be able to play with my grandchildren.” Her journey started with indoor cycling classes. “By spinning, I increased my cardio, lost a few pounds and got healthier and stronger,” recalls Reba.


From there, Reba signed up for more intense classes like Burn & Learn. “I learned so much about sensible healthy eating but, even more important, I learned how to work out in all areas – weights, machines, TRX®, stability ball and group fitness. It caused me to expand my ideas of what I could do to be fit.”


To get even better results, Reba tried out personal training and says, “I have gotten stronger and am able to do things I never thought I could do.” Willing to challenge herself even more, Reba entered a Triathlon Training Program at the Y. There, she overcame her fear of open water swim and successfully completed her first triathlon.


Reba didn’t stop there. You can add a Masters Swim class and a run group to her list of achievements. She even finished a second triathlon with a nine-minute improvement time. “I was astounded! I realized that my personal training had actually established a fitness foundation and I had become much stronger,” exclaims Reba.


What started as a simple goal turned into a long list of new goals that Reba has happily checked off her ever-growing list. “I am so grateful for the Y for all that it has given me. The trainers and staff at the Bob Sierra YMCA all have a mentality of wanting to help,” shares Reba. “I have always been supported and acknowledged for my accomplishments. This has made fitness fun for me.”


The Tampa Y provides the right equipment, programs and people to help determined health seekers, like Reba, turn their New Year’s resolutions into life resolutions. Click here to learn how you can become the best version of yourself…and kick off 2015 the right way!


Pictured above: Reba is turning her resolutions into reality at the Bob Sierra Y.


Did you know 90% of the brain is developed by age five? Research shows positive interactions at an early age enhance brain development while a lack of personal engagement and attention can stunt brain growth. The Tampa YMCA works day-in and day-out to reverse this trend among kids from low-income neighborhoods. One of the ways we do this is with our Early Head Start Program, a community-based program for low-income families with infants and toddlers. Its mission is to enhance the development of very young children and to promote healthy family functioning.


To help spread the word about the importance of early learning, the Y’s Early Head Start staff and volunteers hosted a Winter Wonderland event last month at the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA. More than 50 families from across Hillsborough County came to enjoy the music, storytelling, holiday crafts and dinner. Every child and adult left with a door prize, a bag of books and fresh ideas on how to engage little ones in early literacy.


“The families appreciated the event so much that they refused to leave at the end of the night before helping staff clean up and break down the gym,” recalls Tampa Y Quality Assurance Specialist Carla Soto. “It was truly a harmonious and safe family-engagement event.”


Click here to learn more about Early Head Start.


Pictured above: The Y’s Early Head Start staff and volunteers hosted a Winter Wonderland event for young children and their families.





When the temperatures dip this winter, warm pajamas are a must-have for families in the Tampa Bay area. But for some families, new pjs are a luxury they can’t necessarily afford. Thanks to the generosity of the Joy McCann Foundation, more than 50 of those families now have pajamas to keep them toasty overnight.


Just before Christmas, the Joy McCann Foundation delivered pajamas, teddy bears and toys to youth from the Sulphur Springs YMCA and Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club, our partnering agency in East Pasco County.


“The families were extremely grateful for the gifts! The parents loved them and gave thanks over and over again,” recalls Sulphur Springs Y Senior Program Director Lakema Massey. “One of the students even brought the pj’s to school the next day to show them off.”


Thank you to the Joy McCann Foundation for its generosity and continued support of the YMCA. Together, we are strengthening the community!


Pictured above: The Joy McCann Foundation donated pajamas to help keep families in Sulphur Springs and Lacoochee warm this winter.




November is Military Family Month, providing Americans the opportunity to recognize the dedication, sacrifice and service of military personnel and their families. The Tampa YMCA supports military families year-round though programs and initiatives that improve their well-being and provide opportunities to connect with other families waiting at home. 


Sheena Farley says she and her military family have lived in many cities and been members at many gyms. But, the Plant City Family YMCA stands out among the rest. “The YMCA has been so much more than just a gym for me and my family. It has been like a second home to us,” says Sheena.


Sheena’s husband is out of the country for up to six months every year. “During the time of his last deployment, I had 3-month-old twins and a 3-year-old that I was caring for all on my own,” shares Sheena. “Coming into the Y everyday gave me the much needed break that I so desperately needed.”


After her workout, Sheena stays at the Y to work on earning her nursing degree. “I sit at the tables, have a cup of coffee and work on my reading assignments and homework while my kids play with all of their friends in the childcare area,” says Sheena. From basketball to soccer and swimming…Sheena is confident her kids are in safe hands at the Y. “My children being at the Y has given them the opportunity to be around children their own age. I love that they come to the Y and make friends with children from all nationalities, races and backgrounds.”


For Sheena, that family feeling starts the second she walks through the Y’s doors. “I love that everyone knows us by name and is so warm and welcoming. When we leave, someone always offers to carry a baby out to the car for me. How awesome is that,” asks Sheena. “You can't get that kind of service and hospitality at (another) gym. I honestly feel like the YMCA is the heart of Plant City.”


Pictured above: The Farley family considers the Plant City Y their second home.


More kids are up on their feet at the North Brandon Family YMCA. The newly renovated Youth Activity Center (YAC) now offers children a safe environment to exercise, learn about healthy habits and increase their peer interaction. Thanks to a $12,500 grant from Winn-Dixie (formerly Sweet Bay Supermarkets), the YAC now features new state-of-the art equipment including Dance Dance Revolution, interactive gaming bikes, a rowing machine and an obstacle course for kids ages 6-12.


The North Brandon Y invited the community to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 28th followed by a free fall festival. Folks got to see for themselves how the new center helps prevent childhood obesity. Physical training inside the new center is based upon guidelines stated by the American College of Sports Medicine and the YMCA of the USA. Additionally, kids using the facility are encouraged to adopt healthier living styles with an emphasis on the "5, 2, 1, Almost None" curriculum. This program focuses on encouraging kids to eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day, watch no more than two hours of television each day, exercise at least one hour each day and consume almost no sugary drinks and opt for drinking water instead.


Click here to see more pictures of the new YAC at the North Brandon Y. 


Pictured Above: The new Youth Activity Center at the North Brandon Y features interactive gaming machines such as Dance Dance Revolution.


The community came together late last month to celebrate a major milestone for the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA. A special 20th anniversary celebration party took place at the new Ulele restaurant in Tampa Heights. And what would the celebration be without acknowledging the man behind the namesake himself? Former Tampa Y President and CEO Bob Gilbertson and his family traveled all the way from Seattle to attend the celebration. “This YMCA broke ground in a whole lot of different ways,” said Bob. “It demonstrated, for so many of us in the community, that we could do something that was highly integrated.”Bob is currently the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle.


The Central City Y’s first executive director, Ernest Coney, was also in attendance. Ernest grew up in Tampa Heights and played football for Blake High School. When he opened Central City’s doors in 1994 at Palm and Florida avenues, Ernest’s knowledge of the neighborhood led him to spearhead innovative programs that strengthened local families who called the Heights neighborhoods home. Ernest built Central City’s advisory board and membership base from the ground up. “I would like to thank all the volunteers,” said Ernest. “A lot of people get the limelight and the glory but the volunteers are the people who are low-profile but they get the job done.”


Today, with President & CEO Tom Looby at the helm, Central City Y has grown to serve more than 5,000 members, including 1,800 children, primarily from the Seminole & Tampa Heights neighborhoods. After serving as a learning laboratory for the integration of families from all walks of life, the Central City Y remains to be a successful, relevant and vital Y thanks to our board members’ and staff’s undying commitment to the community.


Click here to see more pictures from the Central City Y’s 20th Anniversary Party.


Pictured Above: The Central City Y’s Teen Achievers attended the 20th Anniversary celebration party.


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.

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