For A Better Us

July 18, 2017

Florida Blue Donates $100,000 to First Coast YMCA Safety Around Water Program

To support the critical need of swim safety and drown prevention in Florida, the First Coast YMCA announced today a donation of $100,000 from health care leader Florida Blue. The support will provide free water safety lessons for hundreds of children on the First Coast. It is a program the Y is able to offer for free based on children/schools eligibility in the free/reduced lunch programs. This program is funded through grants, partnerships and our Annual Fundraising Campaign.

As a leader in water safety and swim instruction, the Y’s Safety Around Water program is designed to teach children how to reach the water’s surface if submerged, safely reach the edge of a pool, exit any body of water and respond to unexpected water situations. Research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children 1 to 4 years of age.

“Every child deserves access to water safety resources,” said YMCA of Florida’s First Coast President and CEO Eric Mann. “We thank Florida Blue for this incredibly generous support of the Safety Around Water initiative. This gift enables us to teach lifesaving water safety skills to more than 800 additional children in our North Florida community alone. Building a stronger, safer and healthier community is an ongoing effort that cannot be achieved without partnerships like this.”

In recent years, Florida Blue has contributed more than $700,000 to support various YMCA initiatives across the state of Florida, and has stayed actively involved in improving overall health and wellness for people of all ages and backgrounds. Here on the First Coast, the company also played a significant role in helping the Y open the Florida Blue Wellness Center at the Winston Family Y along with the Healthy Living Center, a comprehensive resource for all local residents to receive programs that address health concerns in surrounding neighborhoods.

“The quality of life in Jacksonville is personified by its natural resources,” said Florida Blue Market President Darnell Smith. “Every child should be able to explore and enjoy the full, life-enabling energy of water. Learning how to swim and be safe around water will enable parents and children to conquer fears and embrace life more abundantly.”

Susan Towler, Florida Blue executive director of corporate social responsibility, has long been passionate about bringing this life skill to children and their families. “Drowning is a preventable tragedy, and we have a responsibility to help parents understand the importance of teaching themselves and their children how to survive in water. Learning lifesaving water safety skills is a solution that helps ensure children can grow up strong and healthy.”

The YMCA has offered swim lessons on the First Coast since the 1950s. Safety Around Water is offered at all pools at all First Coast YMCA locations, plus the Galimore Center and Calhoun Center pools in St. Augustine.

To support the critical need of swim safety and drown prevention in Florida, the First Coast YMCA announced today a donation of $100,000 from health care leader Florida Blue. The support will provide free water safety lessons for hundreds of children on the First Coast. It is a program the Y is able to offer for free based on children/schools eligibility in the free/reduced lunch programs. This program is funded through grants, partnerships and our Annual Fundraising Campaign. As a leader in water safety and swim instruction, the Y’s Safety Around Water program is designed to teach children how to reach the water’s surface if submerged, safely reach the edge of a pool, exit any body of water and respond to unexpected water situations. Research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children 1 to 4 years of age. “Every child deserves access to water safety resources,” said YMCA…


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…


September 16, 2016

Olympic Spirit Strong for Ponte Vedra YMCA Swim Team

Submitted by: Jennifer Ryan / Executive Director, Ponte Vedra YMCA

Members of the Ponte Vedra YMCA’s Flyers Swim Team recently gathered to celebrate a very successful 2015/2016 year with an award ceremony, and kicked off the new season with an Olympic-themed party. More than 40 swimmers enjoyed treats and fun with their teammates. The Flyers team has grown dramatically in the past two years under the coaching of Jennifer Salles-Cunha. So many swimmers wanted to join that an intermediate division was added in the Fall of 2015 under new coach Monique Salles-Cunha.

At the award ceremony, Coach Jen and Coach Monique presented their swimmers with Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. Bronze medals went to swimmers that participated in USA Swimming Competitions, Silver was given to those swimmers who competed in individual events at a championship meet, and Gold medals were awarded to the top two swimmers in each age group:

10 and younger Tristan Lewers and Ryland Zuniga
11-14 Jason Hepfer and Reilly McCabe
15 and older Jesse Hagy and Lilly McCabe

 

The Coaches also welcomed several new swimmers to the team. With the presentation of the medals, the coaches took a moment to acknowledge their accomplishments as well as their potential for the new season.

  • Highlights from the 2015/2016 Season include:
    Jesse Hagy taking 10th place in the 100 yard Breast Stroke and 7th place in the 50 yard Breast Stroke with a time of 28.55 seconds.
  • Jason Hepfer dominated his age group by placing in the top ten in six events, most notably winning first place in the 100 yard Butterfly with a time of 57.31. Jason also took 2nd in the 50 yard Butterfly, 3rd in the 100 yard Individual Medley, and 3rd in the 200 yard Freestyle.
  • Reilly McCabe excelled in the 50 yard Freestyle and 50 yard Back Stroke, taking 7th and 8th places, respectively.
  • Lilly McCabe was also in the top ten in the 100 yard Breast Stroke with a time of 1:09.59.
  • The Sectionals event was attended by Jesse Hagy participating in three events and Lilly McCabe swimming in five.
  • At the Summer Flags Event, Tristan Lewers did great in the Back Stroke, taking 9th place in the 100 yard and 7th place in the 50 yard, with a time of 38.35.
  • Reilly McCabe shined by getting in the top ten in four events, most notably taking 2nd place in the 50 yard Free Style with a time of 28.23, the same event that she won when she was a ten-year-old.

The new season started in September and the coaches and swimmers of the Flyers Swim Team are anticipating a fun and successful season for 2016/2017. Click here to learn more about YMCA Aquatic Programs.

Submitted by: Jennifer Ryan / Executive Director, Ponte Vedra YMCA Members of the Ponte Vedra YMCA’s Flyers Swim Team recently gathered to celebrate a very successful 2015/2016 year with an award ceremony, and kicked off the new season with an Olympic-themed party. More than 40 swimmers enjoyed treats and fun with their teammates. The Flyers team has grown dramatically in the past two years under the coaching of Jennifer Salles-Cunha. So many swimmers wanted to join that an intermediate division was added in the Fall of 2015 under new coach Monique Salles-Cunha. At the award ceremony, Coach Jen and Coach Monique presented their swimmers with Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. Bronze medals went to swimmers that participated in USA Swimming Competitions, Silver was given to those swimmers who competed in individual events at a championship meet, and Gold medals were awarded to the top two swimmers in each age group: 10 and younger Tristan Lewers…


May 6, 2016

Enjoy Summer Fun in the Water, But be Safe!

Every summer I feel the same nervous anticipation about my girls.

I say to myself, “Both of them could swim fairly well last year…but will their romp in the water this summer be like starting all over again — a frantic search for a towel when a mere drop of water hits my 6-year-old’s face, or an attempt by my nearly 4-year-old to choke down half the water in the pool, in a day?”

By the end of this summer, I know they’ll be darting through the water like fish, but right now — because their bodies grow every year — it could take some time for them to readjust their movements and techniques to become comfortable with the way their ‘new’ bodies now work in water.

I learned that last year, when teaming up with the YMCA of Florida’s First Coastand its Safety Around Water program, to get the message out about swimming safety and teaching kids life-saving swimming skills.

….To read the rest of the article, click here.

Every summer I feel the same nervous anticipation about my girls. I say to myself, “Both of them could swim fairly well last year…but will their romp in the water this summer be like starting all over again — a frantic search for a towel when a mere drop of water hits my 6-year-old’s face, or an attempt by my nearly 4-year-old to choke down half the water in the pool, in a day?” By the end of this summer, I know they’ll be darting through the water like fish, but right now — because their bodies grow every year — it could take some time for them to readjust their movements and techniques to become comfortable with the way their ‘new’ bodies now work in water. I learned that last year, when teaming up with the YMCA of Florida’s First Coastand its Safety Around Water program, to get the message out about swimming safety and teaching kids…


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