For A Better Us

October 13, 2016

How You Can Help with Hurricane Matthew Relief

The United Way of Northeast FloridaSt. Johns County United WayThe Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, and Jewish Federation of Jacksonville have joined forces to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew and any future natural disasters in Northeast Florida. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund committed $250,000 to seed this effort and is matching donations up to another $250,000. 

Here’s How You Can Help: bit.ly/flfirstcoastrelief.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced the creation of the fund on Monday. Curry said “there are a lot of people in this city that are hurting right now, there are people in this city that struggle to make it every single day and now they have significant financial burden on them. The First Coast Relief Fund will help get those individuals throughout Northeast Florida who need assistance to get back on their feet,” Curry added. “A hundred percent of all gifts will go to relief effort and any unspent funds will be used to seed a permanent disaster relief fund for Northeast Florida.”

The United Way of Northeast Florida has also partnered with the American Red Cross Northeast Florida Chapter and HandsOn Jacksonville to provide information on the most critical volunteer needs. Please visit HandsOn Jacksonville’s website for the most updated information.

Some helpful tips for interested volunteers:

  1. It’s important for your safety and those around you to engage in safe volunteer opportunities and never arrive on a scene without proper training by an official disaster response organization.
  2. Please register your volunteer interest with local agencies.
  3. Please refrain from bringing donations such as clothing, food or supplies unless requested.

The United Way of Northeast Florida, St. Johns County United Way, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, and Jewish Federation of Jacksonville have joined forces to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew and any future natural disasters in Northeast Florida. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund committed $250,000 to seed this effort and is matching donations up to another $250,000.  Here’s How You Can Help: bit.ly/flfirstcoastrelief. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced the creation of the fund on Monday. Curry said “there are a lot of people in this city that are hurting right now, there are people in this city that struggle to make it every single day and now they have significant financial burden on them. The First Coast Relief Fund will help get those individuals throughout Northeast Florida who need assistance to get back on their feet,” Curry added. “A hundred percent of all gifts will go to relief effort and any unspent funds will be used to seed a permanent disaster relief…


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.™


September 30, 2016

SEEDifferently: Spinach Berry Salad

We know how difficult it can be to stick to eating healthy, but we want to make things a little easier by giving you this simple, easy-to-prepare recipe for Spinach Berry Salad. It’s a summertime favorite that can be enjoyed year round!

Spinach Berry Salad

Serves 4 | Prep time: 10 min.

Ingredients

  • 4 packed cups torn fresh spinach
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Salad dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (can be omitted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preparation

  • In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries, onion and pecans.
  • In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

 

Nutrition
Calories: 158
Fat: 5g
Carbohydrate: 25g
Protein: 4g

 

For more information on the SEEDifferently initiative, contact Sara Glenn by email at sglenn@firstcoastymca.org.

We know how difficult it can be to stick to eating healthy, but we want to make things a little easier by giving you this simple, easy-to-prepare recipe for Spinach Berry Salad. It’s a summertime favorite that can be enjoyed year round! Spinach Berry Salad Serves 4 | Prep time: 10 min. Ingredients 4 packed cups torn fresh spinach 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries 1 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries 1 small sweet onion, sliced 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted Salad dressing: 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons honey 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon curry powder (can be omitted) 1/8 teaspoon pepper Preparation In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries, onion and pecans. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.   Nutrition Calories: 158 Fat: 5g Carbohydrate: 25g Protein:…


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…


September 14, 2016

CVS Health Announces National Support

CVS Health today announced that it has partnered with the YMCA of theUSA (Y-USA) to help expand two programs that provide critical support to people across the country: the Diabetes Prevention Program and the nationally recognized LIVESTRONG® Foundation at the YMCA program.

 

“At CVS Health, we’re focused on providing resources and services that empower patients to manage their health in more affordable and effective ways,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at CVS Health. “We’re proud to partner with Y-USA to help both cancer survivors and those at risk of diabetes on their path to better health – whether it’s helping them learn healthy eating habits or improving their physical and emotional well-being.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a group-based lifestyle intervention for adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Through a 12-month evidence-based plan, the program has been successful in reducing the number of new cases of diabetes by 58 percent overall and by 71 percent in adults over 60.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week evidence-based program that focuses on best practices for physical activity and well-being initiatives for cancer survivors. The program empowers adult cancer survivors to improve functional capacity and to increase their quality of life through an organized program of fitness and strength offered in a supportive, small-group setting.

“As a leading community-based organization committed to improving America’s health, our goal is to provide everyone access to initiatives like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program and the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program,” said Dr. Matt Longjohn, National Health Officer, Y-USA. “Through the generosity of CVS Health, local YMCAs will be able to provide free access to services for diabetes patients and cancer survivors, who may not otherwise be able to participate in these valuable support programs.”

To read more, click here.

For more information about the First Coast YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, click here.

CVS Health today announced that it has partnered with the YMCA of theUSA (Y-USA) to help expand two programs that provide critical support to people across the country: the Diabetes Prevention Program and the nationally recognized LIVESTRONG® Foundation at the YMCA program.   “At CVS Health, we’re focused on providing resources and services that empower patients to manage their health in more affordable and effective ways,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at CVS Health. “We’re proud to partner with Y-USA to help both cancer survivors and those at risk of diabetes on their path to better health – whether it’s helping them learn healthy eating habits or improving their physical and emotional well-being.” The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a group-based lifestyle intervention for adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Through a 12-month evidence-based plan, the program has been successful in reducing the number of new cases…


August 30, 2016

The Wait for Winston is Over!

By Beth Reese Cravey

James H. Winston, a Jacksonville civic leader, real estate developer and philanthropist, has been a YMCA devotee for 50 years.

The Y, he said, was “what we used to call gym and swim.”

But Friday he helped cut the ribbon to open the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast’s new flagship branch bearing his family name, which offers far more than a gym and a pool. The $21 million, 72,000-square-foot Riverside showplace will have programming for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility and be a hub for the area Y’s efforts to reduce chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes, in a partnership with Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation and Florida Blue.

“It’s going to have everything you can think of,” said Winston, 82, who has served the First Coast Y in various leadership roles, including chairman of the corporate board. “It’s probably not duplicated anywhere in the U.S. It is an honor to share my family name with this fabulous facility.”

To continue reading, click here.

By Beth Reese Cravey James H. Winston, a Jacksonville civic leader, real estate developer and philanthropist, has been a YMCA devotee for 50 years. The Y, he said, was “what we used to call gym and swim.” But Friday he helped cut the ribbon to open the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast’s new flagship branch bearing his family name, which offers far more than a gym and a pool. The $21 million, 72,000-square-foot Riverside showplace will have programming for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility and be a hub for the area Y’s efforts to reduce chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes, in a partnership with Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation and Florida Blue. “It’s going to have everything you can think of,” said Winston, 82, who has served the First Coast Y in various leadership roles, including chairman of the corporate board. “It’s probably not duplicated anywhere in the U.S….


August 23, 2016

Lets Move! Outside Engages Youth in Over 50 Cities!

By David Jayo, Senior Adviser to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell 

In 51 cities across the country from Anchorage to San Juan, young people are charting their own paths in America’s great outdoors. They are cleaning beaches in San Diego, planting gardens in Houston, paddling rivers in Minneapolis and dissecting invasive lionfish in Miami.

Through the Department of the Interior’s Partnership with the YMCA of the USA, American Express, local governments and hundreds of nonprofit organizations, Let’s Move! Outside is getting millions of kids to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. Through hard work, strong partners, leadership and vision, we have not only met our ambitious goals – we have exceeded many of them.

To Read More, Click Here.

By David Jayo, Senior Adviser to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell  In 51 cities across the country from Anchorage to San Juan, young people are charting their own paths in America’s great outdoors. They are cleaning beaches in San Diego, planting gardens in Houston, paddling rivers in Minneapolis and dissecting invasive lionfish in Miami. Through the Department of the Interior’s Partnership with the YMCA of the USA, American Express, local governments and hundreds of nonprofit organizations, Let’s Move! Outside is getting millions of kids to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. Through hard work, strong partners, leadership and vision, we have not only met our ambitious goals – we have exceeded many of them. To Read More, Click Here.


August 22, 2016

Thingamajig 2016

Cheers rang out in the halls of Edward Waters College, as 700 YMCA campers from across the First Coast sat awaiting the start of Thingamajig. First Coast YMCA puts on the Thingamijig convention in hopes of educating youth aged 7-15 about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through a hands on approach.

This year’s second annual Thingamajig was sponsored by Vystar and featured activity booths from Florida Public Archaeology Network, JEA, Mathnasium, Johnson Teens, VyStar, Claim It App, Baptist Health, Safe Kids Coalition, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Chick fil A of Mandarin, Firehouse Subs, Sratchwerks, Enviroscapes by AmeriCorp, SeeDifferently, Edward Waters College, Florida IT Network, and UNF School of Computing, Engineering, and Robotics.

Thingamajig 2016.mp4.00_01_14_19.Still002

Children spent the day in 16 hands on workshops, and they participated in challenges that allowed them to build marble roller coasters, create their own inventions and even launch off their own bottle rockets.

Although a great opportunity for summer fun, these activities also help to open the doors to strategic thinking, creative expression and great careers. At the Y, young people have numerous opportunities to learn, play and be inspired through STEM. Thingamajig is just one example of how we’re opening children’s eyes to the wonders of science, and how we’ve worked to make a difference in the lives of the children of our community this summer.

To view more photos of Thingamajig fun, click here.

Cheers rang out in the halls of Edward Waters College, as 700 YMCA campers from across the First Coast sat awaiting the start of Thingamajig. First Coast YMCA puts on the Thingamijig convention in hopes of educating youth aged 7-15 about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through a hands on approach. This year’s second annual Thingamajig was sponsored by Vystar and featured activity booths from Florida Public Archaeology Network, JEA, Mathnasium, Johnson Teens, VyStar, Claim It App, Baptist Health, Safe Kids Coalition, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Chick fil A of Mandarin, Firehouse Subs, Sratchwerks, Enviroscapes by AmeriCorp, SeeDifferently, Edward Waters College, Florida IT Network, and UNF School of Computing, Engineering, and Robotics. Children spent the day in 16 hands on workshops, and they participated in challenges that allowed them to build marble roller coasters, create their own inventions and even launch off their own bottle rockets. Although a great opportunity for summer fun, these activities…


August 19, 2016

Summer Fun at Camp Immokalee

by Lauren Crawford

Summer camp is often thought of as a place of fun- where lifelong friendships are made and kids have a chance to learn new things. That’s exactly what I found when visiting Camp Immokalee this summer. Immediately I was greeted with a sense of community, and I could tell that the kids shared a special bond with one another as they worked together with teammates in their daily activities.

Camp Immokalee is a First Coast YMCA resident camp where kids can participate in physical, social and educational activities such as fishing, canoeing, talent shows, archery, arts and crafts, and other teambuilding activities designed for personal enrichment.

 

Camp Immokalee Lifeguards

Camp Immokalee Lifeguards

YMCA of Florida’s First Coast also partners with the Bridge of Northeast Florida in order to provide Camp Immokalee stays for Bridge program participants. The partnership is annually funded by the Deerwood Rotary Club and makes it possible for kids of diverse backgrounds to have opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to.

 

Camp Immokalee is one of the ways that the Y hopes to impact kids of our community, teaching them self-reliance, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the development of attitudes and practices that build character and leadership, and meaningful relationships.

 

For more information about camp Immokalee or other camp programs, click here.

 

by Lauren Crawford Summer camp is often thought of as a place of fun- where lifelong friendships are made and kids have a chance to learn new things. That’s exactly what I found when visiting Camp Immokalee this summer. Immediately I was greeted with a sense of community, and I could tell that the kids shared a special bond with one another as they worked together with teammates in their daily activities. Camp Immokalee is a First Coast YMCA resident camp where kids can participate in physical, social and educational activities such as fishing, canoeing, talent shows, archery, arts and crafts, and other teambuilding activities designed for personal enrichment.   YMCA of Florida’s First Coast also partners with the Bridge of Northeast Florida in order to provide Camp Immokalee stays for Bridge program participants. The partnership is annually funded by the Deerwood Rotary Club and makes it possible for kids of diverse backgrounds to have…


July 21, 2016

Camp Immokalee Alumnus Helps in Haiti

Submitted by Jim Austin / Camp Immokalee Alumni Association

This is a story about how the YMCA and Camp Immokalee can make a difference in the world and save lives. It does this with our young people. Through the impact of resident camping the “Y” can influence youths to embrace values our world societies desperately need. I have benefited from what the camping experience has done for me.  Over a good portion of my lifetime I have seen what Camp Immokalee has done for others and how it added success to their lives. This is a story about one of those kids, Tom Parsons, now a grown man. I last saw Tom at the Camp Immokalee 100-year Anniversary and Reunion. Also attending the anniversary celebration with us was Tom’s other mentor and long-time Immokalean, Charlie Pitchford.

Tom Parsons has just arrived back to his temporary home in the Dominican Republic from leading a relief and rescue mission into Haiti. The devastation in Haiti from the 7.1 and subsequent earthquakes is well known via the media. The media struggles to report the real effects on Haiti’s population due to the limitations of sound and video bytes. Tom led a team of approximately 30 volunteers composed of doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs and support personnel. However, the story doesn’t begin here; it begins in the 1970s.

Tom Parsons came to Camp Immokalee as a youth in 1973. He wanted to learn to sail boats and selected sailing as his primary hobby. I was the sailing instructor and noticed an impressionable and enthusiastic boy. The first week of camp that year we were under the wrath of a hurricane. We spent all week doing ground training not being able to sail on the lake. On the last day we hadn’t sailed but conditions were improving slightly. I learned he was a good swimmer and asked him if he was brave enough to try some heavy weather sailing. He eagerly replied, “Yes” and I chose a small sturdy Optimist Pram for its small sail area. We filled the boat with safety gear and donned our life jackets. The lake was like being on the sea and very rough. I was impressed with Tom’s even mental state in the rough going. Soon I found out someone had substituted a cheaper wooden beam for a true quality mast section.  We were dismasted and in an emergency situation with the boat filling with wave water. Tom was cool headed and bailed while I managed the boat. We finally made it back to shore at camp and Tom noticed I had stayed upwind of camp in case of emergency. You don’t really know how someone, even a kid, is going to handle adversity. That was Tom’s first test and I knew he was leader material.

Tom kept coming to camp year after year. He became a staff member and the sailing instructor. He was one of the best counselors and honed his leadership skills. As Tom moved on in life he married Naomi Noyes, and joined The Air National Guard as aircrew on USAF C-130s. He has two older children, Chris and Nichole. He is a professional firefighter trained in many specialties such as aircraft fires and HAZMAT. Tom went to Saudi Arabia to work as a civilian contract firefighter. Then he went to Iraq and worked in the “Green Zone” for a year. It was during his time in Iraq that Tom flew all the way back to Keystone Heights just to be with his fellow Immokaleans for the 100-year Anniversary Celebration. He wanted to see his friends and meet the new people there. Tom has never known a stranger.

If you look back on Tom’s work at Immokalee and how he leads one can see he has the heart of a missionary. He cares very much about people, their well-being and respects all life as a Christian. These were values we taught at Camp Immokalee as promoted by the Y under the leadership of Charlie Pitchford and later me as Immokalee Assistant Directors.

As soon as I heard about the earthquake in Haiti and knowing Tom was on the same island I knew he was going to help and nothing was going to change that. It didn’t take long before I saw his pleas on Facebook for a large cargo aircraft to ferry supplies down from the US. I spoke to Tom’s concerned family and decided to write him with the best advice I could give. Haiti has special dangers and concerns due to its extreme poverty and massive population. People will do about anything when starving. Tom took all the necessary precautions and organized a military type convoy with a pathfinder team and military escort. The Dominican Republic government was so impressed with his preparations he was given credentials that gave him government authority as their representative.

Tom called me personally after his 8-day ordeal and I could hear in his voice he was fatigued. Despite his exhaustion he wasn’t resting but trying to gather information to start a non-profit organization to get shelter to the masses of people at risk from exposure. In the hour-long conversation he told me they treated hundreds of people every day for injuries in the earthquake. For most Haitians it was their first treatment for injuries that were of an extreme nature – lacerations, amputations, etc. They fed thousands of hungry people, many of them starving to death. He knows they saved hundreds from dying but one story stood out. On a forced break from work Tom climbed up the mountainside to survey a poverty stricken shantytown settlement he heard about. When he found the settlement it was rubble. He walked around and found a young woman in her early 20s laying in the mud with her little brother standing over her. Tom assessed she had a broken back in the L5 vertebrae area and was paralyzed from the waist down. Being paralyzed meant she could not control her bowels and was in danger of dying from septicemia – it had been 8 days since her injury. The little boy spoke English and Tom told him that he would be back no matter how long it took. Remember, she was hours up the side of a mountain and Tom needed a backboard and a team to get her down safely.

When Tom got back to base camp he had to reenter his responsible role and was kept busy while he located a backboard. It took him three days but he found one and went back up the mountain with his team on the fourth day. When he got there he couldn’t find the injured woman in the place he had left her. Tom did not give up and two hours later found her on a door in the mud near a clearing. Her little brother came out from under some makeshift shelter shouting, “I knew you come back, you promised!” It took four grueling hours to get her down the mountain and to the medical facility. Then the worst surprise happened.

Tom and his team brought the young woman into the treatment tent and explained her injuries to the doctor. The doctor told him that they could not take her – she had a spinal injury. As Tom was narrating this part to me, the horror of that relived moment brought him to tears. What Tom had been up against was medical triage. There were too many severe injuries and she was being judged to die and save the resources for those who have a chance at recovery with more quality of life. Tom simply could not take “No” for an answer and explained to the doctor in a “clear” voice what effort has been done to save this young woman and what she had been through. He instructed his team to place her in the treatment area off in the corner and commanded the doctor to fulfill his duties. An emergency colostomy was suggested. Tom rarely gets forceful or adamant with people but when he does they are looking up at someone about 6’5”.

That is where this particular part of the story ends. She had zero chance up on the mountain under the care of an adolescent brother. She had zero chance entering the medical tent on her own. With Tom Parsons helping her she had some sort of hope for life.

At this time Tom doesn’t know whether she lived or has died. She is one of millions suffering; one of thousands that his team helped to live another day. As he pressed on with his stories I could hear Tom’s fatigue and I suggested we continue later after he rested. He wasn’t going to rest, he was going to try and find a way to bring in shelter for the masses. “If it rains, millions will die,” he said. And, he wasn’t even thinking of cholera at this point – a common dark companion to disaster and poverty.

And so, the story will continue, as does life itself. It is but one example about compassion and making a difference. You never know what that young kid will grow up to become. Opportunity and effort makes a difference. As long as there is need in the world and people like Tom Parsons are growing up and learning in places like Camp Immokalee the world can be a better place.  Tom’s son, Chris, accompanied him on this quest – the “light” will spread to others. People from Camp Immokalee’s first 85 years know what this “light” means from our Candlelight Service. I couldn’t be prouder as someone, one of many that helped Tom along the way. Rarely do I see such pure dedication and effort from people benefiting others. Thus, the lessons learned are not just about compassion, but also about how to act responsibly and as a better human being.

Jim Austin
Camp Immokalee
1964-1979
1985-1990
Camp Immokalee Alumni Association, Past Chairman

Submitted by Jim Austin / Camp Immokalee Alumni Association This is a story about how the YMCA and Camp Immokalee can make a difference in the world and save lives. It does this with our young people. Through the impact of resident camping the “Y” can influence youths to embrace values our world societies desperately need. I have benefited from what the camping experience has done for me.  Over a good portion of my lifetime I have seen what Camp Immokalee has done for others and how it added success to their lives. This is a story about one of those kids, Tom Parsons, now a grown man. I last saw Tom at the Camp Immokalee 100-year Anniversary and Reunion. Also attending the anniversary celebration with us was Tom’s other mentor and long-time Immokalean, Charlie Pitchford. Tom Parsons has just arrived back to his temporary home in the Dominican Republic from leading a relief and rescue…


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