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.

 

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…


July 11, 2017

Mann celebrates 6 years with YMCA of Florida’s First Coast

This article was first published on Jacksonville.com on July 5, 2017.


This month, Eric Mann is celebrating his six-year anniversary as the president and CEO of the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. From day one, he has set out to strengthen this community by pursuing his vision to make the Y a total wellness resource for the entire First Coast.

Mann says the Y is a nonprofit like no other because of its ability to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to bridge the gaps in community needs. He strongly believes in the power of community collaboration. In fact, it has played a crucial role in his plan to change lives on the First Coast through one of the Y’s key mission areas—healthy living.

“Hospitals are primarily focused on sick care,” Mann said. “To transform from sick care to well care, they would need a community partner who has experience in wellness and programming with credibility in the community.”

Brooks Rehabilitation was the Y’s only medical partner when Mann came on board in 2011. Under his leadership, the Y successfully formed new community partnerships with various organizations committed to improving the health and well-being of all Northeast Florida residents.

The Y Healthy Living Centers are a direct result of this commitment. Healthy Living Centers bring programs, services and professionals from Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation and Florida Blue into the Y, making their services more accessible to the surrounding community. The Healthy Living Centers are available at the Ys in Mandarin, Northside, Northwest Jacksonville, Riverside and Ponte Vedra.


“Like every city, Jacksonville faces its unique challenges,” Mann said. “It’s not about having one individual organization doing everything; it’s about a lot of organizations doing what they do best to make a sustainable impact on our community.”


As a nonprofit, the Y relies on generous gifts of time, talent and treasure to deliver on its promise to strengthen community. Donations ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.

Jacksonville business leader Rusty Newton has been part of the Y for most of his life. He started swimming at the Y at age 6 and over the years has been one of the most generous supporters of the Y’s mission. He’s a longtime member of the First Coast YMCA’s Metropolitan Board of Directors and now a Trustee. Newton says the Y is “the finest, most important organization in this community.” Newton agrees with Mann that the Y must harness the collective power of people in our community to do more good. He says, “Eric is the best at identifying people in the community who can help make a difference. He’s also built a team of superstar leaders. Their heart and caring attitude is what makes me want to be part of it all.”

Peggy Bryan governs the growth and operation of the First Coast YMCA association as the chairwoman of the Y’s Metropolitan Board of Directors. Like Newton, she’s dedicated much of her time and treasure to ensure the Y is a positive force in Northeast Florida. Bryan believes that with Mann, the Y is in very good hands. “As a volunteer, I’ve watched Eric work tirelessly to further the Y throughout our community. He has a unique ability to transform strategic vision to productive reality. With the heart of a missionary and the head of a business executive, he has moved the Y forward with amazing passion and soundness. The Y is so multifaceted, it’s hard to appreciate the depth and breadth of its broad range of programs and services. Under Eric’s leadership, the Y has built on years of experience and exposure to meet today’s wellness and wholeness needs as never before. It is an honor and a wonderful experience to work beside Eric as he brings the best of Jacksonville together for the benefit of so many.”

Mann gives high praise to the Y’s strong volunteer leaders like Newton and Bryan for their full and enthusiastic support. He says they play a vital role in realizing the promise of the Y’s mission and cause, including expertise and guidance in developing a strategic plan. The strategic plan defines how the Y will address some of the key issues facing the First Coast community, including chronic disease and obesity. Strategic planning also ensures the Y has the collective capacity to achieve its goals in all three areas of focus. In addition to healthy living, the Y is equally dedicated to youth development and social responsibility.

Through programs like Before and Afterschool Care, YMCA Reads! and Youth in Government, the Y is working to nurture the future success of children and teens, specifically closing the achievement gap.

“The Y is far more than a gym and swim. All of its programs and services showcase the Y’s unwavering commitment to the Jacksonville community through education, wellness and quality out-of-school time,” Mann said.

Safety Around Water (SAW) addresses another critical community issue: child drowning. This free drowning prevention program developed by the Y is delivered to at-risk children and all YMCA summer campers. Mann takes this to heart because he knows the program saves lives, especially in a community like ours that is surrounded by water.


“Any youth-serving organization should put the safety of young people as its top priority,” says Mann.


Darkness to Light, a childhood sexual abuse prevention program, is another initiative that has expanded its impact in Jacksonville under Mann’s direction. The Y has partnered with other local agencies to form the Northeast Florida Stewards of Children Coalition to eliminate childhood sexual abuse in Northeast Florida. The goal is to build a preventative movement that overwhelms the size of the problem, empowering an unprecedented number of people with the skills and knowledge to protect children through the Darkness to Light (D2L) Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training.

In the last three years, the Y has also experienced double-digit growth in the number of kids served in its summer camp and before and afterschool program. By integrating fun and educational activities into the curriculum, the Y has helped prevent summer learning loss and increase math and reading test scores among local youth.

In 2018, the Y will celebrate 110 years of nurturing the potential of kids and teens, improving individuals’ health and well-being, and providing support to our neighbors on the First Coast. Mann credits generations of the Y’s staff and volunteer leaders determined to make the Bold City better FOR ALL.

This article was first published on Jacksonville.com on July 5, 2017. This month, Eric Mann is celebrating his six-year anniversary as the president and CEO of the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. From day one, he has set out to strengthen this community by pursuing his vision to make the Y a total wellness resource for the entire First Coast. Mann says the Y is a nonprofit like no other because of its ability to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to bridge the gaps in community needs. He strongly believes in the power of community collaboration. In fact, it has played a crucial role in his plan to change lives on the First Coast through one of the Y’s key mission areas—healthy living. “Hospitals are primarily focused on sick care,” Mann said. “To transform from sick care to well care, they would need a community partner who has experience in wellness and programming…


July 6, 2017

Roaring with Pride

First Coast YMCA’s Tiger Academy Named a ‘B’ School

Tiger Academy, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast charter school, was recently named a ‘B’ school by the Florida Department of Education. Additionally, Tiger Academy was within one percentage point of the Department’s grading scale of receiving an ‘A’ rating.

Average 2017 Florida Standard Assessment (FSA) scores for Tiger Academy students jumped from 40 points to 53 points in reading, representing a 75 percent increase from 2016. Math scores grew from 37 points to 58 points, a 63 percent increase.

“We are thrilled with Tiger Academy’s new rating as a ‘B’ school, which reflects our commitment to offering a high-quality education to our students,” said Tiger Academy Principal Charles McWhite. “This achievement is a joint effort of our staff, our board, community leaders and, most importantly, our parents and their scholars.”

Tiger Academy is a free public charter school located in Northwest Jacksonville. It is operated by the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. Through a unique partnership with the Johnson Family YMCA, Tiger Academy’s students enjoy enrichment opportunities and benefit from family support services.

“Tiger’s terrific ‘B’ grade is an external validation of a powerful internal school discipline and culture combining rigorous academics and nurturing teacher/student interaction that helps the children soar to the height of their ability,” said Peggy Bryan, Chair, First Coast YMCA Metropolitan Board of Directors. “It’s so exciting and wonderfully well earned!”

Tiger Academy Board Chairman Ted Baker also shared his gratification for the charter school’s significant accomplishment. “I would like to congratulate the Tiger students, parents and staff. It is great to see so much hard work rewarded.”

To learn more about the Y’s Tiger Academy, visit YMCATigerAcademy.org.

First Coast YMCA’s Tiger Academy Named a ‘B’ School Tiger Academy, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast charter school, was recently named a ‘B’ school by the Florida Department of Education. Additionally, Tiger Academy was within one percentage point of the Department’s grading scale of receiving an ‘A’ rating. Average 2017 Florida Standard Assessment (FSA) scores for Tiger Academy students jumped from 40 points to 53 points in reading, representing a 75 percent increase from 2016. Math scores grew from 37 points to 58 points, a 63 percent increase. “We are thrilled with Tiger Academy’s new rating as a ‘B’ school, which reflects our commitment to offering a high-quality education to our students,” said Tiger Academy Principal Charles McWhite. “This achievement is a joint effort of our staff, our board, community leaders and, most importantly, our parents and their scholars.” Tiger Academy is a free public charter school located in Northwest Jacksonville. It is operated…


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…


April 24, 2017

Together, We Can Keep Kids Safe

Child sexual abuse is one of the most prevalent, most hidden risks that kids in our communities face.

1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 in the US, and still too few people know about the extent of this problem, and what all of us can do to keep kids safe.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we invite you to join us to raise awareness about child sexual abuse prevention. The facts are shocking. But we can work together to prevent it.

WATCH: The Impact of Child Sex Abuse

Did You Know?

Adult Education is Key

The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast has partnered with other local organizations to create the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition. Our goal is to train 50,000 adults through the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training. It is the only nationally available program scientifically proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors.

Appropriate for any adult, this training will teach you how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Training is available online and in a classroom setting.

Join us today in STOPPING child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is one of the most prevalent, most hidden risks that kids in our communities face. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 in the US, and still too few people know about the extent of this problem, and what all of us can do to keep kids safe. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we invite you to join us to raise awareness about child sexual abuse prevention. The facts are shocking. But we can work together to prevent it. WATCH: The Impact of Child Sex Abuse Did You Know? Adult Education is Key The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast has partnered with other local organizations to create the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition. Our goal is to train 50,000 adults through the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training. It is the only nationally available program scientifically proven to increase knowledge,…


March 24, 2017

You Can’t Afford to Ignore This

In the United States alone, diabetes affects nearly 29 million people; another 86 million Americans have prediabetes, yet only about 10 percent are aware of it.

These statistics are alarming, and the impact on the cost of health care makes preventing the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes more important than ever before. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed more often in adults, and type 1 diabetes is diagnosed more often in children, but the rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing rapidly for both adults and children.

In 2012 alone, the American Diabetes Association estimates that diabetes cost the health care system $245 billion.

The nation’s struggle with obesity and type 2 diabetes is no surprise but the number of people with prediabetes is a growing issue, especially when so few people realize they have the condition. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

Often preventable, people with prediabetes can reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by adopting behavior changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity. People with prediabetes are at risk for not only developing type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.

Tuesday, March 28, is American Diabetes Association (ADA) Alert Day®, and it’s important that you know your risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as preventive steps you can take today to reduce the chances of developing the disease.

As the leading community-based network committed to improving the nation’s health the First Coast YMCA encourages all adults to take a diabetes risk test. Several factors that could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes include family history, age, weight and activity level, among others.

“Studies show that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by making simple lifestyle changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity,” said Kristy Cook, Director of Healthy Living Innovations at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. “Steps taken now to prevent developing diabetes not only makes good health sense; it makes good economic sense.”

The First Coast YMCA is helping people make healthier choices that can help reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes with YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program classes in April and May.

Some basic lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and an increased focus on healthy living can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among these are:

  • Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat that may be high in fat or calories.
  • Keep a food diary to increase awareness of eating patterns and behaviors.
  • Be moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week.
  • Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.
  • Incorporate more activity in your day, like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your destination.
  • Speak to your doctor about your diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history of the disease or are overweight.

Test Your Knowledge and Earn Y Rewards Points

In the United States alone, diabetes affects nearly 29 million people; another 86 million Americans have prediabetes, yet only about 10 percent are aware of it. These statistics are alarming, and the impact on the cost of health care makes preventing the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes more important than ever before. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed more often in adults, and type 1 diabetes is diagnosed more often in children, but the rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing rapidly for both adults and children. In 2012 alone, the American Diabetes Association estimates that diabetes cost the health care system $245 billion. The nation’s struggle with obesity and type 2 diabetes is no surprise but the number of people with prediabetes is a growing issue, especially when so few people realize they have the condition. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal,…


February 24, 2017

An Apple A Day…

March is National Nutrition Month. With a balanced approach, even the busiest families can discover ways to eat healthier and feel better. Here are some quick and easy recipes to try at home.

Apple Nachos

Total time: 10-15 mins
Serves 1-4

Ingredients:

Mix of apples (Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala) – 1 per serving
Sun butter or peanut butter
Coconut Flakes
Raisins

Directions:

Core and slice apples, lay out on plate
Heat nut butter until creamy, drizzle over apples
Let each person choose their own toppings to sprinkle on top

No-Cook Strawberry Applesauce

Total time: 10-15 mins
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 apples (suggested: Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, McIntosh)
10 strawberries

Directions:

Core and chop apples
Remove strawberry tops
Blend apples and strawberries together in food processor or blender
Serve cold

Cinnamon Applesauce

Total time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

4 apples (suggested mix: Honey Crisp, Granny Smith)
1 cup of 100% apple juice or 100% apple cider (may substitute water)
1 tablespoon of Cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)

Directions:

Core and chop apples
Add apples, 100% juice and cinnamon to saucepan on medium heat (cover)
Allow apples to simmer and mash softened apples in saucepan or add to blender
Serve warm or cold

March is National Nutrition Month. With a balanced approach, even the busiest families can discover ways to eat healthier and feel better. Here are some quick and easy recipes to try at home. Apple Nachos Total time: 10-15 mins Serves 1-4 Ingredients: Mix of apples (Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala) – 1 per serving Sun butter or peanut butter Coconut Flakes Raisins Directions: Core and slice apples, lay out on plate Heat nut butter until creamy, drizzle over apples Let each person choose their own toppings to sprinkle on top No-Cook Strawberry Applesauce Total time: 10-15 mins Serves 4-6 Ingredients: 4 apples (suggested: Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, McIntosh) 10 strawberries Directions: Core and chop apples Remove strawberry tops Blend apples and strawberries together in food processor or blender Serve cold Cinnamon Applesauce Total time: 20-30 mins Serves: 4-6 Ingredients: 4 apples (suggested mix: Honey Crisp, Granny Smith) 1 cup of 100% apple…


January 31, 2017

A Treat for YOUR Heart

Give your own heart a treat in February with two simple ways to prevent heart disease: monitoring your blood pressure and reducing sodium intake.

HighBloodPressure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer. High blood pressure is most prevalent in minority communities, and is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms.

Research shows that the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over a four month period, along with regular physical activity, proper nutrition and reducing sodium intake, may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast is now offering a Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring program that helps adults with hypertension lower and manage their blood pressure. The program focuses on regular monitoring of one’s blood pressure at home using proper measuring techniques, individualized support and nutrition education in an effort to reduce blood pressure and improve their quality of life. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) seminars are also part of the program. These seminars will highlight the importance of practicing healthy eating habits. Participants of the Blood Pressure Self- Monitoring Program to measure their blood pressure with coaching for proper measuring techniques from a trained Healthy Heart Ambassador.

WATCH: News4Jax’s Melanie Lawson Reports on YMCA Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program

For more information on the program, call 904-265-1810 or email prevention@firstcoastymca.org.
Besides monitoring your blood pressure, reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. According to the American Heart Association, too much sodium in your system puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels. In some people, this may lead to or raise high blood pressure. Everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Having less sodium in your diet may help you lower or avoid high blood pressure.

“There are many factors in keeping your heart healthy and having a handle on your blood pressure is an effective tool in the preventing heart disease,” says Lisa Peacock, Director of Healthy Living Innovations: Chronic Disease Prevention, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. “Whether you have high blood pressure or are at risk for heart disease, the Y has many options available that can help.”

In addition to programs and services offered in Northeast Florida, the Y offers the following tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help reduce sodium in your diet.

  1. Think fresh: Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions—especially cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli/luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli and soups. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.
  2. Enjoy home-prepared foods: Cook more often at home—where you are in control of what’s in your food. Preparing your own foods allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.
  3. Fill up on veggies and fruits—they are naturally low in sodium: Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits—fresh or frozen. Eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal.
  4. Adjust your taste buds: Cut back on salt little by little—and pay attention to the natural tastes of various foods. Your taste for salt will lessen over time. Additionally, keep salt off the kitchen counter and the dinner table and substitute spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods.
  5. Boost your potassium intake: Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower your blood pressure. Potassium is found in vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, beet greens, tomato juice and sauce, sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), and bananas. Other sources of potassium include yogurt, clams, halibut, orange juice and milk.

Give your own heart a treat in February with two simple ways to prevent heart disease: monitoring your blood pressure and reducing sodium intake. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer. High blood pressure is most prevalent in minority communities, and is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms. Research shows that the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over a four month period, along with regular physical activity, proper nutrition and reducing sodium intake, may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast is now offering a Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring program that helps adults with hypertension lower and manage their blood pressure. The program focuses on regular monitoring of one’s blood pressure at home using proper measuring techniques, individualized support…


January 23, 2017

“I Feel Like I’m at a Party with 50 of My Closest Friends”

Letter submitted by Marsha Brown, Brooks Family YMCA member

Dear Mr. [Carl] Simcox:

For almost a year, it has been my family’s good fortune to be an active member of the Brooks Family YMCA. Glenn and I had relocated to Jacksonville and were researching various places to work out when we were referred to the Brooks Family YMCA by an employee at The Mayo Clinic. We immediately joined on the spot, as a result of the friendly and professional greeting and tour from the front desk staff. Additionally, the numerous group exercise schedule offered every day and the vast selection of times sealed the deal.

All of my life, I have been a person who loves exercise classes, and have taken many of the classes offered at the Brooks Family YMCA. I have been impressed by quite a few of the instructors. However, there is one person who stands out from all the rest. Her name is Helenjoy Ojastro, and she teaches a class called Body Jam on Saturday and Thursday night.

Group Exercise fun at the Brooks Family YMCA

Group exercise fun at the Brooks Family YMCA. Helenjoy is sitting in the front row, second from left.

What makes Helenjoy Ojastro so outstanding are her enthusiasm, work ethic, and patience with everyone, including the disabled.   The energy she brings to every workout is contagious. Even if I come to the class tired, watching Helenjoy give everything she’s got into the workout changes my whole attitude and before I know it, I’m working out harder and most importantly having a wonderful time. Helenjoy makes Body Jam so much fun and that is the key ingredient to people coming back. I feel like I’m at a party with a bunch of my 50 closest friends, because most everyone is laughing out loud, shouting, clapping, and having a joyful time together.

I am very sensitive to the Down Syndrome members of our community. There is a young man who comes to Helenjoy’s Body Jam class and works out directly in front of the stage. Helenjoy always has time for him and is so kind, patient, and understanding. What a gift she is to all of us.

I have observed that Helenjoy embodies the Christian values that the YMCA projects nationwide. After the class is completed, she has time for everyone who wants to speak to her.

Mr. Simcox, I wanted to take the time to make you aware of this exceptional young woman in your organization from a member’s prospective, and what she has so graciously contributed to your team. I would attend any and all classes that she teaches in the future. In my estimation, Helenjoy has a following of members who feel the same way that I do about her. I know this, because they are there all the time as I am. I do hope that you share this letter with her and solicit her input and perspective on what other talents and insights she can offer the Brooks Family YMCA!

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my letter. Should you have any questions or would like to speak to me directly; I am available at your convenience.

Lastly, thank you for the secret Santa Christmas tree. My husband and I really enjoyed purchasing a bunch of gifts for the two youngsters that we selected.   This is the true meaning of Christmas.

May you and your family have a healthy New Year full of laughter and goodness.

Best wishes,

Marsha Brown

 

*Carl Simcox is the Executive Director of the Brooks Family YMCA.

Letter submitted by Marsha Brown, Brooks Family YMCA member Dear Mr. [Carl] Simcox: For almost a year, it has been my family’s good fortune to be an active member of the Brooks Family YMCA. Glenn and I had relocated to Jacksonville and were researching various places to work out when we were referred to the Brooks Family YMCA by an employee at The Mayo Clinic. We immediately joined on the spot, as a result of the friendly and professional greeting and tour from the front desk staff. Additionally, the numerous group exercise schedule offered every day and the vast selection of times sealed the deal. All of my life, I have been a person who loves exercise classes, and have taken many of the classes offered at the Brooks Family YMCA. I have been impressed by quite a few of the instructors. However, there is one person who stands out from all the rest. Her…


January 17, 2017

Top 5 Benefits of Having a Workout Partner

Roughly 36% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by week 3. Don’t be one of them! While choosing a resolution is easy, sticking to it can be impossible. Having a workout partner may be just the thing you need to keep you going. Here are the top 5 benefits of exercising with a friend:

 

1. Accountability

Arguably the most worthwhile reason to have a workout partner is accountability. Workout partners hold each other responsible for going to the gym because they keep each other on track and always reaching for their goals. If both go regularly, they will know whether a workout has been missed.

2. Sharing goals and progress

A workout buddy offers companionship, but also creates a competition that can be extremely helpful when someone needs to push through that extra mile or squat. They also give each other someone to celebrate milestones with. Both members can go out to dinner and feel comfortable getting healthy meals without giving in to temptation.

3. Validation

Many people who are trying to lose weight get discouraged because of the rough weeks where weight doesn’t come off. Workout partners can see each other’s progress from the outside and provide motivation, positive feedback and constructive criticism.

2014-06-19_AOF_4533_RGB4. It’s fun!

Workout partners provide a sense of reliability and help transform the gym into something more desirable – an active social gathering. For example, busy mothers would benefit from having someone else who is going through similar life changes. They can provide motivation and support, and it also gives them a chance to socialize away from the family.

5. It Saves You Money

Because we know how beneficial it is to have a workout partner, we reward you when you refer a family or friend to the Y. You can save up to 40% off your membership with our YMCA member referral program. 

Roughly 36% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by week 3. Don’t be one of them! While choosing a resolution is easy, sticking to it can be impossible. Having a workout partner may be just the thing you need to keep you going. Here are the top 5 benefits of exercising with a friend:   1. Accountability Arguably the most worthwhile reason to have a workout partner is accountability. Workout partners hold each other responsible for going to the gym because they keep each other on track and always reaching for their goals. If both go regularly, they will know whether a workout has been missed. 2. Sharing goals and progress A workout buddy offers companionship, but also creates a competition that can be extremely helpful when someone needs to push through that extra mile or squat. They also give each other someone to celebrate milestones with. Both members can go out…


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