For A Better Us

May 10, 2017

How one Fernandina Beach Child’s Love of Water Inspired His Entire Family to Learn to Swim

Camaron’s Story

McKinley and MoRonica Ravenell moved to Fernandina Beach from Mississippi with their oldest son Camaron 13 years ago. Now living in Florida, they realized how much Camaron loved water – no matter if he was in the pool or just the bathtub – he was always splashing. When he was 5 years old, his parents decided it was time for Camaron to learn how to swim so they took him to the McArthur Family YMCA.

“I never would’ve imagined that day would change our lives forever. We explained we were looking for private swim lessons. We needed someone who was very understanding with kids,” said MoRonica. “We explained to them that Camaron had Speech of Apraxia (speech delay). We needed a swim instructor who would make sure he understood the instructions and would give him visual prompts. When it comes to Camaron, I’m sheltering as McKinley calls it. I call it being a good mom. I wanted them to understand, but they did. They said ‘we know the right person for you’.”

The Ravenells met Michelle Stein, the McArthur Family YMCA swim team coach. She’s also a swim instructor and elementary school teacher. Within a week, Camaron was able to swim to the middle of the pool. “As I watched a tear began to fall. I was so happy he was happy. Just the smile on his face was priceless,” MoRonica explained. “Michelle would tell us he was born to swim. She said, ‘he will be a great swimmer. Watch and see’.”

Michelle was right. Camaron continued to improve and eventually earned a spot on the McArthur Sailfish swim team winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place ribbons at swim meets. He now competes with the McArthur Flyers and Special Olympics swim teams where he has won five medals including gold.

Camaron is also a champion at something else – talking his mom into taking swim lessons. “Michelle taught me how to swim two years ago. Camaron was there every day cheering me on saying ‘mom you can do it’ or ‘I believe in you’,” MoRonica said. “Now Camaron and I swim together and of course, he beats me in races. And I’m so happy to announce that Michelle is now teaching McKinley and his little brother Malik to swim, too and they are doing great.”

In addition to reducing their risk of drowning, children who take swim lessons and participate in the Y’s Safety Around Water program also become confident in and around the water so like Camaron, they too can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from learning new skills.

With your help, the Y hopes to provide free swim instruction to 5,000 at-risk children on the First Coast. Please consider the following gift amounts: $60 to sponsor one child, $600 to sponsor 10 children or $1,200 to provide lessons to an entire classroom!

DONATE ONLINE

Read: Rotary Club of West Jacksonville’s Generous Gift to Safety Around Water

Watch: Safety Around Water Instruction at Brooks Family YMCA

Camaron’s Story McKinley and MoRonica Ravenell moved to Fernandina Beach from Mississippi with their oldest son Camaron 13 years ago. Now living in Florida, they realized how much Camaron loved water – no matter if he was in the pool or just the bathtub – he was always splashing. When he was 5 years old, his parents decided it was time for Camaron to learn how to swim so they took him to the McArthur Family YMCA. “I never would’ve imagined that day would change our lives forever. We explained we were looking for private swim lessons. We needed someone who was very understanding with kids,” said MoRonica. “We explained to them that Camaron had Speech of Apraxia (speech delay). We needed a swim instructor who would make sure he understood the instructions and would give him visual prompts. When it comes to Camaron, I’m sheltering as McKinley calls it. I call it being a…


January 4, 2017

Robotics Program Launching at Brooks Family YMCA

In an effort to engage more children in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities, the Brooks Family YMCA officially announced a new engineering program—Robotics. The program is set to debut on Jan. 17 with free classes open to YMCA members and their children ages 6 to 14.

This program is part of the Y’s effort to create more experiences for children to explore opportunities through STEM that nurture their curiosity, inspire their creativity, help them develop critical-thinking skills and teach them how to succeed.

Two classes included in the program are the Junior First Lego League for children who are 6 to 9 years old and the First Lego League for those who are 10 to 14 years old. Classes will also be available to non-members with a $75 monthly fee.

Rajiv Gupta, former software developer with the City of Jacksonville and a First Coast resident since 2000, was recently named instructor of the robotics program.

“We are proud to have Rajiv Gupta lead our engineering and robotics program here at the Brooks Y,” said Brooks Family YMCA Executive Director Carl Simcox. “The Y aims to help all children reach their full potential by supporting their unique youth development journeys and we’re excited to see this new STEM initiative in action.”

Through a grant provided by the University of North Florida, Gupta has volunteered each weekend since 2008 with elementary and middle-age students, teaching the basics and fundamentals of science and engineering through a robotics curriculum. After nearly eight years of volunteering, Gupta will continue to dedicate his time and services as a proud employee of the YMCA.

“I want to inspire kids to become interested in science and technology through robotics,” Gupta said. “My philosophy—make science easy—motivates me to help our youth discover the fun and impact of this subject.”

With 11 years of robotics teaching experience, Gupta earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Jai Narain Vyas University in Rajasthan, India and an MBA from the University of Rajasthan. Gupta currently works for Landstar, a company that specializes in logistics and supply chain solutions.

To enroll your child in the Brooks Family YMCA Robotics program, please visit the Welcome Center or contact Deb Barley at dbarley@firstcoastymca.org. For more information about the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, visit FirstCoastYMCA.org.

In an effort to engage more children in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities, the Brooks Family YMCA officially announced a new engineering program—Robotics. The program is set to debut on Jan. 17 with free classes open to YMCA members and their children ages 6 to 14. This program is part of the Y’s effort to create more experiences for children to explore opportunities through STEM that nurture their curiosity, inspire their creativity, help them develop critical-thinking skills and teach them how to succeed. Two classes included in the program are the Junior First Lego League for children who are 6 to 9 years old and the First Lego League for those who are 10 to 14 years old. Classes will also be available to non-members with a $75 monthly fee. Rajiv Gupta, former software developer with the City of Jacksonville and a First Coast resident since 2000, was recently named instructor of the…


October 3, 2016

Watch this POWERFUL 1-minute look through the eyes of a child

All kids have potential. From one child’s point of view, see the true impact of our words.

The Y nurtures the potential of every child and teen by supporting their unique youth development journey through holistic programming. From cradle to career, the Y provides all youth with the tools and resources they need to succeed in life. Click here to learn more about our Before and Afterschool Care and Early Learning programs.

The Y.™ For a better us.™

All kids have potential. From one child’s point of view, see the true impact of our words. The Y nurtures the potential of every child and teen by supporting their unique youth development journey through holistic programming. From cradle to career, the Y provides all youth with the tools and resources they need to succeed in life. Click here to learn more about our Before and Afterschool Care and Early Learning programs. The Y.™ For a better us.™


June 27, 2016

Summer Celebrations: Try This Instead

Planning to host a kid-friendly July 4th bash or summer party? Try these quick fixes for turning high-sugar, low-activity rituals into fresh ideas and healthy fun!

1. Serve a Watermelon Cake
Kids are sweet enough without added sugar. Redefine dessert by showing off fruits and veggies in a fun way! Slice up a thirst-quenching, naturally-sweet melon and invite campers to dig in. Watch these instructions to get started.

2. Jump in!
Kids who burn more, learn more. Rather than celebrating with a movie (passive connection), choose a pool party (active connection) for kids to interact and be stimulated. They will also sleep better after physical activity.

3. Invite the Family
Provide opportunities for families to bond and strengthen their social-emotional and cognitive development. This may work best at the end of the camp day or during pick up. Involving camp staff in play is also a good way to stimulate interpersonal skills and connection.

Summer Celebrations

Planning to host a kid-friendly July 4th bash or summer party? Try these quick fixes for turning high-sugar, low-activity rituals into fresh ideas and healthy fun! 1. Serve a Watermelon Cake Kids are sweet enough without added sugar. Redefine dessert by showing off fruits and veggies in a fun way! Slice up a thirst-quenching, naturally-sweet melon and invite campers to dig in. Watch these instructions to get started. 2. Jump in! Kids who burn more, learn more. Rather than celebrating with a movie (passive connection), choose a pool party (active connection) for kids to interact and be stimulated. They will also sleep better after physical activity. 3. Invite the Family Provide opportunities for families to bond and strengthen their social-emotional and cognitive development. This may work best at the end of the camp day or during pick up. Involving camp staff in play is also a good way to stimulate interpersonal skills and connection.


June 20, 2016

4 Ways to Save Kids’ Lives This Summer

With increased access to beaches, lakes and pools, summer fun can quickly turn to danger for kids across the country. Swim lessons are an important youth development opportunity that ensure young children have self-rescuing skills, but adult supervision is always necessary when it comes to water safety.

Safety Around Water graphic

Four tips that will save kids’ lives this summer:

1. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water

2. Never leave a child unattended in a bath tub

3. Empty kiddie pools immediately after use

4. When visiting a new home, check the premises for potential water hazards

Looking for more tips and support?

The YMCA is committed to nurturing kids’ full potential by keeping them safe during summer camp and every day year-round. Click here to learn more about our Safety Around Water swim programs.

With increased access to beaches, lakes and pools, summer fun can quickly turn to danger for kids across the country. Swim lessons are an important youth development opportunity that ensure young children have self-rescuing skills, but adult supervision is always necessary when it comes to water safety. Four tips that will save kids’ lives this summer: 1. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water 2. Never leave a child unattended in a bath tub 3. Empty kiddie pools immediately after use 4. When visiting a new home, check the premises for potential water hazards Looking for more tips and support? The YMCA is committed to nurturing kids’ full potential by keeping them safe during summer camp and every day year-round. Click here to learn more about our Safety Around Water swim programs.


Mission Statement: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.