Why the Y

  • Y Ninja Fit—It’s a Hit!

    Mar 02, 2020

    Warped Wall 2

    Friday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. are a blast for 13 boys enrolled in Y Ninja Fit for Teens at the Madison Area YMCA. The Gymnastics Center is abuzz with the boys running, climbing and jumping over and under obstacles. (Where are you, girls? This is open to you too!)

    Teens experience the best of both worlds in this one-hour combination class of obstacle course training and fitness training. The first 30 minutes takes teens through a classic Y Ninja class—climbing towers of mats, scaling the warped wall, dropping down to hit the ground running to race through courses that build coordination and motor control, test physical strength, instill discipline and push agility to new heights. In the second half hour, teens hit the circuits and learn fitness skills that enhance their Ninja skills and start them on the path to life-long healthy living. 

    “I like Y Ninja Fit because it's fun and I get to hang out with my friends,” says Dylan Gregory, 13, of Madison. The equipment is really cool—the foam pit is my favorite—and the teachers are really nice.”

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  • Civics Programs for Teens at the Madison Area Y? Yes, and Lots More…

    Feb 07, 2020

    Teens Youth and Govt MT

    “The best thing that comes out of the Y’s Youth & Government and Mock Trial programs is that kids learn to think critically, practice their research and presentation skills and get used to speaking in front of other people. They overcome being shy,” says Kiana Cunningham, the Madison Area YMCA’s associate teen director who teaches both 10-week classes that provide hands-on learning experiences about leadership opportunities in civics.

    Kiana shares the excitement that teens in the Mock Trial program experience. “They become really passionate about their topics,” she says, noting that the class takes work. “They learn the necessary skills—and learn what is expected of them—and they deliver.”

    “Mock Trial really helped me a lot with being persuasive in my arguments and with public speaking,” says 12-year-old Helen Kilman who participated in the program last fall. “I practiced research skills and learned about reputable sources and not reputable sources,” says the Madison Junior School 7th grader who is a regular Washington Post reader and NPR listener. “I love doing debates. It’s really cool to be part of it and see it all in action,” she says, adding that Kiana had a big part in making the program “awesome.”

    In session now through April the Youth & Government program for 6th-12th graders helps teens develop research and critical thinking skills needed for bill writing and debate and provides opportunities to take on roles such as plaintiff, defendant and witness. The class culminates in a Presentation Day where families and friends will be invited to attend an oral and visual presentation of the bills the teens worked on. The bills are then hung up at the Y’s Boszhardt Family Teen Center located at the Y.

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  • At 95, Here Comes Reith Gordon: Exercising, Socializing and Laughing All the Way!

    Dec 24, 2019

    Reith Gordon

    Reith Gordon, a very funny lady, who turned 95 this month has been exercising at the Madison Area YMCA for 18 years where she has met many good friends at her Monday and Wednesday senior classes.

    “For a long time, I had been hiding my age,” Reith says, chatting after her chair yoga class recently in December. “Then I heard someone in class say she was 99, so I decided to tell people how old I was. My daughter said: ‘Believe me—they all knew your age anyway,’” Reith says with a laugh.

    “Exercise has been really good for me,” Reith says. “I think it has kept me alive. I think if I was home doing nothing, I wouldn’t be here anymore. Using the body and brain—it does help,” she says, adding “My workout friends at the Y have been instrumental in keeping me going. I’m thankful for their friendship and support.”

    Reith also shares friendships with members of the Y’s Welcome Center. With a grin, her wry sense of humor on full display, Reith says, “You know, they love me at the desk. I bring them cookies every Christmas!” Turning serious, she then says, “I’m really good friends with some of them at the desk—especially Cathy Landolfi.”

    Cathy, the Y’s Welcome Center supervisor agrees, noting that she and Reith have a great friendship and always look forward to seeing each other as they share fun banter.

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  • Mom Joins Daughters in Learning to Swim at the Y

    Nov 19, 2019

    Silvia Swims

    Silvia now swims with her family. That might not sound like big news—but it is. The wife and mother of two didn’t know how to swim and was afraid of the water. One thing Silvia was determined to make sure of as a result? Her daughters Lupe and Luci would learn how to swim. And they did. From the age of 4, both girls took swim lessons at the Madison Area YMCA when they were in preschool at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Y. 

    Silvia’s learning-how-to-swim story began one day when she had a free morning and decided to watch Luci at her swim lesson. “She was doing so great,” says Silvia, of the now 5-year-old kindergartner who can swim a length of the pool. “I was talking to my 9 year old about how well her younger sister was doing in the water and then Lupe said to me, ‘Mom, it’s your turn now.’”  

    As Silvia contemplated the idea, she wondered if she could learn to swim at her age. Lisa Shannon, the Y’s aquatics director, assured her that she could and that it would be life-changing. “We all make sure our kids are safe and do all we can for them, but Silvia knew she had to learn to swim and do this for herself,” says Lisa. 

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  • A Journey to U.S. Citizenship; A Madison Employee is Grateful For The Community She Considers Family

    Nov 05, 2019


    A teacher of toddlers at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA, Soony Jo is now a U.S. Citizen. Although a well-loved member of the Kirby Center, she was taken by surprise when her colleagues celebrated her U.S. citizenship with a party that included a homemade American flag cake adorned with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream depicting the flag’s stars and stripes. She is truly grateful for the community that she considers family at the Kirby Center.

    “As a foreigner, it was not easy. The Kirby Center raised me up,” says Soony. “They brought me in, gave me community and included me as family. The staff and families helped me so much. I was able to find stability.” 

    The Center also embraced her two sons, now grown, who attended the Kirby Center for after care and summer camp. “I learned how to raise my children and maintain an American life for us. Kirby also gave my sons the right grounding and prepared them for school and life,” she says.

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  • Young Taekwondo Extraordinaire Shares His Talents with the Y

    Sep 10, 2019

    Jake 1

    Fifteen-year-old Madison resident Jake De Guzman is a Y Ninja Gym assistant instructor at the Madison Area YMCA. The Y is pretty lucky to have him—he’s an accomplished, award-winning student of Taekwondo. A USA National Taekwondo Poomsae Team Member, Jake specializes in the discipline of Recognized and Freestyle Poomsae.

    Two years ago, Jake needed to add acrobatics to his skill set, so he began taking gymnastics classes at the Y. Recognizing his talent and discipline, the Y’s gymnastics department offered him a position to teach 3-9 year olds Y Ninja Gym, an obstacle course training methodology program that includes strength and conditioning drills, specialty skill development, tumbling and mindfulness/meditation practices. 

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  • The Cocco Family Finds a Partner in Project Community Pride

    Aug 07, 2019

    Cocco Family

    The Cocco family of Florham Park found a great partner in the Madison Area YMCA’s Project Community Pride counseling service at a time when they needed the support that the program was able to provide.

    As a guest speaker at the Y’s summertime annual Celebration of Impact barbecue, Beth Cocco shared her family’s experience with the program. “Our first introduction was when our now 17-year-old son was referred to Project Community Pride by the Ridgedale Middle School Resource Officer,” said Beth. “The officer knew my son was struggling with some challenges in school and at home, and he thought the program might be helpful for him.” 

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  • Finding the Perfect Camp Fit at the Y

    Jun 28, 2019

    Kara Dugan

    Fourteen years ago when Kara Dugan and her husband Mark Detgen joined the Madison Area YMCA, Kara said it was for one reason: “To get buff for our wedding.” 

    Shortly after, they started their family and “didn’t see the inside of that gym for a long time,” said Kara—but they did take advantage of other Y programs for their two young sons such as the sports offerings and hip hop classes in The School of Performing Arts at the Family Center and child care, preschool and summer day camp at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center. 

    Brandon, now 13, and Colin, 11, are still involved with the Y—the Madison Junior School rising 8th grader and 6th grader continue to attend the Y’s summer camp program. Kara said, “When I asked the boys why they liked the Y, Brandon said, ‘The counselors. They really care.’ Colin said, ‘Everything.’” 

    As a guest speaker during the dinner reception at the Y’s recent annual charity golf outing, which raises money to help send kids to camp whose families can’t afford it, Kara said, “When I grew up, my mom was home during the summer—so camp meant ‘Go play outside and come home when the street lights come on.’

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  • Jill Corea - National Child Care Teacher of the Year

    May 20, 2019
    Jill Corea with boy and girl

    Jill Corea, a preschool teacher at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA, has won the Helene Marks Award, which bestows on her the distinction of National Child Care Teacher of the Year. One of 50 national winners of a Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Award, Jill had been selected as a top 10 finalist for the award before learning she was awarded the top honor in the nation.

    Bringing art, science and purposeful play to the activities she does with her students, Jill’s classroom is also a wonderland of colorful rainbows, bright sunshines and showers of happiness—a reflection of her winning submission “Sunshine Day,” a weather-based project that will be spread out across the academic year. “Preschoolers love weather,” says Jill, using rain as an example. “They love to look at rain, jump in rain, play in rain and talk about how rain helps plants. We include the weather in lots of classroom activities. The children take turns being meteorologists. We talk about how different weather patterns are happening at the same time all over the country and the world.” 

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  • The Y Literally Saved My Life: Jon Siegel

    May 16, 2019

    Jon Siegel at pool

    Jon Siegel was born with a condition known as hyaline membrane, a serious infant respiratory ailment that required the assistance of a hyperbaric chamber to help him breathe. Thankfully, the hospital had the equipment to save him--making him part of the first generation of survivors of the condition. Experiencing frequent bouts of respiratory distress that inevitably would bring Jon to the hospital, doctors told his parents that if could learn to swim, it could greatly help his lungs.

    His parents took the advice, and Jon splashed into the Y at 6 months old to take swim classes, and never left—it was the nascent beginning of his 27-year YMCA career. Currently the competitive aquatics director and Mariners swim team head coach at the Madison Area YMCA, he is a beloved figure to scores of children and their parents.

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  • Delaying the Disease: Edward Duffy

    Apr 24, 2019
    Edward Duffy

    Edward Duffy, who attends the Parkinson’s disease class at the Madison Area YCMA, was diagnosed five months ago. “I’m working with Parkinson’s as best as I can,” says Edward who has tremors in his left hand and lip.

    “The Parkinson’s class here is very good,” says the retired marketing executive. “It’s all good stuff. The music is great, we have fun and we work hard.”

    He’s not kidding. Delay the Disease(TM) as it is called, is the Parkinson’s disease class at the Madison Area YMCA. And it’s not for the faint of heart. The class starts with everyone seated on a chair in a circle doing warm-up exercises—but don’t be fooled. In no time, everyone is on their feet, and every corner of the room is alive with fast-paced activity. The one-hour class is non-stop aerobic movement with quick transitions accompanied by invigorating, upbeat music. 

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  • Seeing His Future at the Y: It's More Than a Job

    Mar 27, 2019

    Aaron Goodwin

    Aaron Goodwin is celebrating his two-year anniversary as the Madison Area YMCA’s Associate Sports Director. He has lots to celebrate—the first being that he loves his job.

    Coaching the Lady Gators travel basketball teams U12 and U14 is a true highlight. This spring, he is welcoming the Y’s first Lady Gator U11 team. “The Lady Gators is what gets me up in the morning,” says Aaron, who has taught every sports class that the Y offers. He played an integral role in revamping the Y-Winners basketball program. Instead of games on Saturday only, players also have practice once during the week to improve their skills. Kids are returning to the program every year, and more are signing on. “We had 160 players last session. That’s up from 100 the year before,” he says.

    Another highlight was initiating last year’s visit by the Jr. NBA to the Madison Area YMCA. NBA rookie players took part in a clinic for 60 kids between 7 and 13 years old. “The big-name attendee was Kevin Knox of the NY Knicks,” says Aaron. “All the players were great with the kids. It was a positive experience for everyone involved. The beautiful part was that not everyone was a basketball player and they still had fun.”

    Aaron grew up in the Y starting as a 5-year-old camper at the South Mountain YMCA in Maplewood. “I did almost everything at the Y. I learned to swim and play my favorite sport, basketball,” he says, adding that he credits the Y with helping him transition from kindergarten in a private school to public school for first grade. “I had friends in public school because I had met them at camp—and I’m still friends with them. Aaron attended Y camp through 5thgrade and then transitioned to Teen Adventure Camp in middle school. He attended sleep-away camp at Fairview Lake YMCA during his preteen years. 

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  • TOGETHERHOOD®at the Y: Bringing the Community Together to Make a Change

    Mar 11, 2019

    Togetherhood Girl Scouts

    More than 50 people of all ages recently met at the Madison Area YMCA’s TOGETHERHOOD® event to sort through tons of soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash to fill more than 400 toiletry kits for the homeless. 

    An amazing part about the event was the level of community engagement it brought. Along with Y members and volunteers, several local organizations and nonprofit groups became involved. The items were donated through drives held at the Madison Area Y, Grace Episcopal Church, M&T Bank, Holy Family Church and local dentists’ offices. Groups that helped prepare the kits included Fairleigh Dickinson University students from the Pre-Health Society, Student Wish List Project, employees of the Madison office of HLW International, a design, architecture and planning firm, Junior League of Summit members and a Chatham Girl Scout troop. It was TOGETHERHOOD®at its finest.

    TOGETHERHOOD®, the Y’s signature program for social responsibility, empowers members to plan and lead volunteer service projects that address the needs of the community. Working side by side with neighbors and community partners, TOGETHERHOOD® volunteers make new friends, improve lives and contribute to a stronger and more inclusive society.

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  • What the Y Has Done For Me: Erin Holt

    Feb 22, 2019

    Erin and Kids

    “I came to the Y because I didn’t know anybody when we moved here 7 years ago from Colorado,” says Erin Holt, whose children were 5, 2 and 1 at the time. “I wanted to meet people and have a place to work that could offer a work/family balance. The Madison Area YMCA gave me both.” 

    Through the years, lots of babies, toddlers and preschoolers have come to know Erin’s friendly face because she manages Kids Central, the Y’s indoor playground—a place where parents and caregivers can drop off their children for some fun in a safe environment while they get a workout in. Erin started out working three morning shifts a week—and truly appreciated the ability to have employment where her kids could be with her. 

    “I loved the people I worked with and my kids loved being at the Y. At 12, 9 and 8, they still love coming here! They’ve met some of their best friends here,” she says.

    Within a year and a half, Erin took on a supervisory shift at Kids Central and her career grew from there. When her children started full-day school, she moved to a full-time position as Kids Central & Family Programming Manager that also included the coordination of birthday parties. “The Y has given me the chance to have a career with flexibility,” says Erin, noting that her children also have grown in many ways through the Y’s programming. 

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  • Talking YMCA Family History with Marion and Bill Williams

    Feb 06, 2019

    Marion and Bill Williams

    “I’m coming up on 88 years old and few people believe that,” says Bill Williams. Why don’t they? Because I have belonged to a Y somewhere since I was 12 years old.”

    Bill joined his first YMCA in 1943 in Hamilton, Ontario, where he grew up and went to college. “There was little entertainment—there was no TV really until after World War II—you joined the Y for things to do.”

    Sharing a funny anecdote, Bill says, “Years ago, girls didn’t belong to the Y.” Pointing out that the men didn’t care very much about their appearance, he followed it up with: “As soon as the Y started taking women as members, the men spruced up.”

    After coming to the U.S. for graduate school in the Midwest, Bill moved to New Jersey to take a job with Bell Labs. An avid handball player since college, he joined Y handball teams in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Plainfield and Summit. When the Madison Area YMCA started a handball team in the early 1960s, Bill joined the Madison Area YMCA. It was also closer to where he and his wife Marion lived in Chatham Township with their three children.

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  • Helping People Find Their Fire

    Dec 18, 2018

    Presley Chelsea

    Chelsea Sacher forms a special bond with clients she works with at the Madison Area YMCA. Most of them live with conditions that are life-changing. Chelsea pours her heart and soul into helping them overcome a negative life-change to make it as positive an experience as possible.

    As the health & wellness coordinator, Chelsea coaches cancer survivors in the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program, conducts Delay the Disease classes to help Parkinson’s disease patients, works with the Multiple Sclerosis population and trains people in the special needs community which includes Down syndrome and autism.     

    It’s not uncommon for people who have had the good fortune to work with Chelsea to note how grateful they are for her expertise, knowledge, dedication and compassion.

    “When I hear the nice words that people say about me, I say to myself—this is right where I need to be,” says Chelsea. “This is part of my life’s mission. It comes from the heart. I understand when I’ve made an impact for someone. That’s a really warm feeling.”

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  • Beautiful Beth: A Why the Y Story

    Oct 16, 2018

    Jim Jane Chelsea

    Being out on the bocce court at the Madison Area YMCA’s annual charity bocce tournament this fall had a special significance for Jim Patterson. The tournament, which raises funds for the Y’s paths to wellness programming, includes LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. Jim knows LIVESTRONG well. “Beautiful Beth” as Jim describes his late wife and best friend of 35 years and mother of their 16-year-old daughter Janie, who has Down syndrome, was a graduate of the December 2016 LIVESTRONG at the YMCA class. Beth had bravely battled ovarian cancer twice over two years, for the last time this past summer.

    “Beth enjoyed her LIVESTRONG experience,” says Jim. “It gave back her energy, strength, balance and hope. Most importantly, it gave us more quality time with Beth and allowed her to have a ‘bucket list’ dream ski vacation with me, Janie and friends. Beth skied circles around me! That certainly made her proud,” he reminisces.

    Jim points out how everyone at the Y, whether they were staff members or Y members, just embraced his daughter from the start. The bocce team, Great Balls of Fire, also made Janie an honorary captain. “We are so happy to be part of the Y community,” says Jim. “The Y staff always knew what to say to Janie to make her feel better about her mom.”

    To show his gratitude to the Y, Jim plans to share Beth’s story at the banquet next week that closes the 17th annual bocce tournament. “I have to make sure I deliver the message that Beth would want,” says Jim, noting Beth’s eloquence and gift for writing.

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  • Tony Ottino: Finding Wellness through LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA

    Sep 10, 2018

    Tony Ottino

    Tony Ottino is a cancer survivor. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for sarcoma, a rare cancer, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Tony’s oncologist recommended the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program.

    At first, Tony didn’t want to do it—he had been through so much; but, he recognized that his doctors were right about everything regarding his cancer treatment, so he trusted them. Tony enrolled in the Madison Area YMCA’s LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. He says he’s grateful he did.

    “LIVESTRONG can’t be publicized enough,” says Tony, a financial literacy teacher at Passaic Valley High School in Little Falls, NJ, and a college math instructor, who had retired from IBM in 2005 after a 25-year career.

    The journey with cancer began in March 2017 when Tony received his diagnosis. “Cancer is a family thing—family support is so important,” says the father of three adult children—two sons and a daughter. Everyone did what they could to help out, pointing out that his wife of 39 years, Dawn, went with him for treatments and constantly took care of him. Tony notes the part of the marriage vow “In sickness and in health” with a slight shake of his head.

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  • LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Made Pam Cucco See Herself Whole Again

    Jun 29, 2018

    Pam Cucco

    “LIVESTRONG at the YMCA made me see my power,” says cancer survivor Pam Cucco. “It was a game changer. I immediately made use of the program at the Madison Area YMCA in order to work out—not only to physically rehabilitate but to ‘work out’ all that disappointment, hesitancy and apprehension.” Pam says that the way she sees it, “LIVESTRONG helped me to get my face on—literally!”

    Three years ago, the Madison resident was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer that is usually diagnosed in children. The tumor had slid down her nasal passage and settled in her maxillary sinus. By the time her surgeries were completed, cancer had taken away most of her orbital floor, hard palate, left septum and teeth.

    “My plastic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering told me, ‘I can’t make you look like God made you, but I will try my best,’” remembers Pam, who also felt empowered spiritually through the support of her church community at St. Vincent Martyr and pastor, Fr. George.

    Pam’s doctors recreated the left side of her face with titanium mesh. “It was amazing what they did,” says Pam. After successive radiation retreatments, though, Pam’s face was left asymmetrical. “Though my physical scars were minimal, my emotional ones were massive,” says the former elementary school teacher who received hundreds of letters from her students during treatments.

    Pam learned about the LIVESTRONG program at the Madison Area YMCA from fellow cancer survivors. With the support of her husband and two adult daughters, she embraced the 12-week, data-driven program, taking all the classes she could—including the integrative therapy offerings such as nutrition, balance, yoga, reiki and relaxation exercises.

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  • Meet 6-year-old Emma Khoury, a Ballerina in Training

    Jun 19, 2018

    Emma K

    Six-year-old Emma Khoury is a dancer. She recently performed with her class at the Madison Area YMCA’s School of Performing Arts Year-End performance, “When I Grow Up” that took place at The College of St. Elizabeth’s Annunciation Center.

    The first grader, who began her journey with dance at the Madison Area YMCA, auditioned and was accepted this spring to The School of American Ballet (SAB) at Lincoln Center, which is a classical ballet school and is the associate ballet school of the New York City Ballet. The Harding resident was one of about 100 children who was selected from thousands of children who auditioned in the 6-10 years of age category, the youngest age group that the school accepts.

    “We look at this as such a gift and an accomplishment that she got this far,” says Emma’s mother, Rebecca. “She didn’t even know she was auditioning. We didn’t want to teach her about being competitive. We told her she would go in and show others how beautiful she could move,” says Rebecca, explaining that movement and body awareness is an important aspect at this age. “She went in and danced her little heart out.”

    Rebecca explains that her daughter has a natural ability for ballet since she can point her foot almost to the ground which is special and rare. She also explains the remarkable circumstances in which Emma lives and dances. Emma is 80% deaf in her right ear and 40% deaf in the other. Seven months ago, she received her first set of hearing aids. They’re a bubble gum shade of pink.

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  • “The Gym that Sue Built” – Remembering Sue Ellyn Pagano Huizing

    May 24, 2018

    Sue Ellyn

    Sue Ellyn Pagano Huizing, a former Madison Area YMCA gymnastics director who retired from the Y in 2001 was fondly remembered after her passing at a gathering of former Rosettes and coaches at the Madison Area YMCA.

    Women who had been Rosettes during the 1980s and 90s and coaches came from near and far including California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to celebrate Sue Ellyn’s life and talk about how she touched their lives as a coach, colleague, mentor, mother figure and friend in “the gym that Sue built.”

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  • Yoga Instructor Connected to the YMCA Since Childhood

    Apr 16, 2018

    Maryanne Mecca

    Maryanne Mecca, a yoga instructor who has been part of the Madison Area YMCA staff for the past three years, has had the YMCA in her life since childhood. The Y was also part of her children’s lives growing up and now her grandchildren’s lives.

    “I love teaching here,” says Maryanne, noting the variety of people that take her yoga class who have become regulars. “People want to stay fit at all different ages and they come regardless of their ability level. That’s what I like. We do modifications for lots of different issues, no problem,” she says.

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  • My Hands Say Hello to the World

    Mar 27, 2018

    Stephanie Ford Class- Why the Y

    Communication of any kind is crucial for thriving in the world and creating valuable connections with a wide array of people. Through sign language, children can form bonds with adults and other children despite their ability to verbalize at the same developmental level.”—
    Stephanie Ford

    Stephanie Ford is a preschool lead teacher at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA where she works with children who are 3 to 5 years old. Her extraordinary effort in the classroom, with parents and and fellow staff members has earned her a Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care teacher award. Stephanie will travel to Philadelphia in the spring to attend an award ceremony and reception.

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  • When Joining a Club Means Giving Back

    Jan 29, 2018

    Hourly Club

    The Madison Area YMCA has an Hourly Club for staff members. It’s a pretty admirable membership.

    “Through the Hourly Club, staff members live the Y mission,” says Madison Area YMCA Associate Development Director Leigh Anne Soroka who is the Annual Campaign director. Funds raised during the campaign are put toward the Annual Fund, the Y’s financial assistance program. “It’s truly a symbol of commitment to the cause,” she says.

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  • It’s All About Joy: Irene Mead

    Jan 09, 2018

    Irene Mead

    Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are days of “joy” each week for Irene Mead. A Madison Area YMCA member for six years, Irene takes the Joy Dance Aerobics class where she comes for an hour and 15 minutes to work out in a place where she feels welcomed and inspired.

    “Joy is a very focused, structured class with coordinated movement in an intimate setting,” says Irene. “We work out to the most current music, which is uplifting.” She explains that different movement patterns are taught every few weeks so that once a pattern is called out, everyone knows what their next step is. The class also dances to some classics like the Charleston and the Cha-cha.

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  • Sharing Her Love of the YMCA

    Nov 03, 2017

    Carole and Ed Soder

    Carole Soder is one of those people that you meet and instantly feel the warmth. You walk away feeling like you’ve known her forever. And, a lot of people in the area probably do know her. She’s been a school counselor in the Chatham public schools for 21 years. Everyone at the Madison Area YMCA knows Carole, too. She regularly works out in the Fitness Center and takes group exercise classes.

    “I feel so strongly about the Madison Area YMCA,” says Carole. “The staff is fantastic. Everyone is so welcoming—this Y has a real community feel. Instructors are helpful, supportive and encouraging. They make you want to take a class even if it seems like it might be daunting.”

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  • LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Coaches Katie and Erin

    Oct 19, 2017

    Katie and Erin BlWh

    For cancer survivors and people going through cancer, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA can be a vital program for them to get started back on their paths to health and wellness and embrace their new “normal.” Katie Worden and Erin Long, whose families were affected by cancer, understand this concept and wanted to be part of helping people on their journey. Both in their 20s, they are LIVESTRONG at the YMCA coaches.

    Erin’s father, Tim, who lost his battle with cancer, was a LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participant. “My dad’s life was completely altered. He went from being independent and capable of everything to having that taken away,” says Erin. “Everyone involved in the program made him feel great. He was fully supported, which made him look forward to coming back each week. I knew I wanted to do that for someone’s family,” she says.

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  • Girls Learn More than Just the Sport as a Madison Area YMCA Gymnastics Team Rosette

    Oct 03, 2017

    Gymnastics Pennant

    When girls become Rosettes at the Madison Area YMCA they not only become part of the Y’s competitive gymnastics team, they become part of a second family. And when they go off to college and out into the world, they bring with them the skills from the life lessons that they learned through experiences in the gym. College pennants hang in the Madison Area Gymnastics Center that represent where Rosettes have attended college.

    “The dynamics of family life at the gym is just like what they have with their families at home,” said Madison Area YMCA Gymnastics Director Ellen Gavin, who notes that the girls talk about things going on at school and in friendships—the struggle to do the right thing when it might not be the “cool” thing, about standing up for other kids, about having patience, making decisions and navigating other difficult predicaments.

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  • First Job at the YMCA: Thumbs Up

    Sep 22, 2017

    Chris Landolfi - First Jobs at YHannah Goad - First Jobs at Y

    “I’ve been a Y kid forever,” says Julia Brzozowski, who has assisted teachers in classrooms at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA since she was 15. Julia knows what the Y and the Kirby Center are about and she loves it. “I attended Kirby for preschool, kindergarten, the after-school program and summer camp. I took swimming, dancing and gymnastics at the Family Center—and Kirby is still a big part of my life,” she says, acknowledging that she is very lucky to have loved her first job.

    A hub in the community, the Madison Area YMCA has enjoyed the privilege of offering first-time employment opportunities to many young people. Currently, 14% of the Madison Area YMCA workforce is under the age of 18.

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  • Learning Leadership Through the Y’s Leader in Training Program

    Aug 16, 2017

    While the customer service floor at Provident Bank on Main Street is buzzing with business on a Friday morning, there’s non-banking activity happening in the basement. Six teenagers who are Madison Area YMCA Leader in Training (LIT) are snaking through stacks of cardboard boxes. “Do you think this would be appropriate for business casual?” is heard from behind a box. The teens are sorting through clothing that was donated to Dress 4 Success, a nonprofit organization that helps women get into the workforce.

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  • Cathy Quinn Finds a Place to Exercise, Socialize and Make Best Friends

    Aug 01, 2017

    “When you don’t work anymore, you need familiar faces,” says Cathy Quinn, a retired nursing home worker, sitting in the Madison Area YMCA’s lobby athletically dressed in black leggings and a beautiful bright coral tank top that matches her lipstick. “I treat the Y like a country club,” says the fit and trim Harding resident. “From a social aspect, at this point in my life, it’s probably more important than exercise.”

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  • Good for the Body, Good for the Mind, Good for the Community

    Jul 13, 2017

    Good for the body

    “There are really kids that can’t afford to learn how to swim?” was the response from 8-year-old Colin Szonyi when his mother, Erin, explained the purpose of the Madison Area YMCA’s Swim for a Cause. That was it. He was in.

    The Florham Park Briarwood School student, who takes swim lessons at the Y, swam 120 freestyle laps in 90 minutes. “I had to keep making him take little breaks. He just wanted to keep going,” laughs Erin, who reinforces that swimming is a life skill that everyone should learn even if they can’t afford it. The Y couldn’t agree more. That’s why the Y’s Annual Campaign raises funds to ensure that everyone who wants to learn how to swim can. Providing health and wellness opportunities for everyone in the community is the Y’s mission.

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  • A Joke, a Laugh, a Smile, a Big Heart: Paul Meany

    Jun 28, 2017

    Paul Meany 1

    Looking above the wire rims of his glasses, Paul Meany makes eye contact with a man who has just come in from the rain holding up his Madison Area YMCA membership card for Paul to scan. A friendly face at the Welcome Center that people look forward to seeing, Paul is always quick with a smile or a joke. “How are you?” asks Paul. “A little wet,” the man replies. “Well, if you weren’t, I’d want to know your secret,” quips Paul. The man breaks into a smile.

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  • Bridging Worlds Home and Abroad with One Mission: Helping Communities

    Jun 13, 2017

    Three hundred people came from hours away, some on foot others by bus, in the rural area of Intibuca, Honduras, part of the Central American Dry Corridor, for medical attention by a surgical brigade of volunteer American doctors and nurses as well as volunteers like Maggie Claudio. Maggie is the Madison Area YMCA’s financial assistance coordinator. She participated in the medical mission with Atlantic Health System as an English/Spanish translator and helped put patients at ease. Maggie has a desire to help people—so holding her position at the Y is a natural fit. 

    Click here to read on.
  • Teens Helping Kids in Need Live a More Active and Healthy Lifestyle Through Sports

    May 31, 2017
    Teens Helping Kids in Need Live a More Active

    When Gianna Latorre and her friend, Sarah Delaney, embarked on the journey to earn their Girl Scout Silver Awards, the Chatham Middle School 8th graders each did about 50 hours of community service and chose to have their final project help less fortunate kids live a more active and healthy lifestyle and experience the joy of sports. The girls partnered with the Madison Area YMCA to set up collection bins for new and gently used sports equipment and Let’s Play It Forward, a not-for-profit organization in Westchester, NY, that donates used and new sports equipment to children in need.

    At the Madison Area YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day where the girls had a table to spread awareness about the collection, they spoke about having the ability to play sports because their families could afford to pay for the equipment.

    Click here to read on.
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

    Apr 05, 2017

    “Drew, you are the best at that!” Nicole McLaughlin says in a muffled voice. As 1-year-old Drew releases his bear-hug hold on Nicole’s face, she kisses the top of his head. “The face hug!”

    Now her voice is audible—pretty and bright as a bell. If voices could be colors, Nicole’s would be rainbow—which is perfect for being an infant/toddler teacher at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA where she works with children who are 6 weeks through 20 months old. Her extraordinary effort in the classroom, with parents and with her fellow staff members has earned her a Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care teacher award. Nicole will travel to Philadelphia in May to attend an award ceremony and reception. Part of her winnings will include money to implement her classroom project submission, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.”

    Click here
    to read on.

  • Grace Nolan Dances and Dances and Dances

    Mar 14, 2017

    A group of dance students dressed in pink leotards eagerly await entrance into the room where they will tap, flap and dig their tap shoes and walk delicately on the tips of their ballerina-slipper toes. 

    It’s 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Madison Area YMCA’s School of Performing Arts. When 6-year-old Grace Nolan arrives, all the girls gather around Gracie, as she is known, while she sits on the floor talking to them and her mom, Kris, ties the ribbons of her shiny, black tap shoes into bows. Gracie, wearing her signature hot pink gloves, and her fellow dancers, clickety-clack onto the hardwood floor to begin warming up with their teacher Miss Ashley.

    Click here to read on.
  • Swimming at the Madison Area YMCA is a Family Affair

    Mar 02, 2017

    8 and under boys champs swimmers

    When Tirian Chang was a baby he would float around in his mother’s arms at the Madison Area YMCA pool when he took “Mommy and Me” swim classes with his mother, Paige. Imagine the thrill when the Mariners swim team member, now 8, butterflied his way to 1st place at the N.J.Y.M.C.A. 8 & Under State Championships hosted by the Somerset Hills YMCA Swim Team at Raritan Valley Community College. He also placed 6th in the 50-yard Freestyle and 8th in the 100-yard Individual Medley. A modest Tirian says he’s just having fun and enjoys being with his friends at practices and meets.

    All the Chang kids learned to swim at the Y. Even their mom, Paige, took swimming lessons at the Y a few years ago—by the same teacher, Carmen, who taught her three sons, and currently, her 4-year-old daughter, Cordelia.

    Click here to read on.

  • Three Y Centers Serve Three Generations

    Feb 15, 2017

    The Kirby bus, as it is affectionately called, pulls up to the Madison Area YMCA’s Family Center. The kids on the bus have just taken a short ride from the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center on East Street to do their sports, swimming, gymnastics, performing arts or enrichment classes. Five-year-old John Patrick Connolly, who is in the Young 5s program, hops off the bus and follows a line of classmates. As he expects, his grandmother, Cathy Rooney, greets him in the lobby with a big hug and kiss. It’s a moment.

    John Patrick rejoins the group and heads to class. His grandmother heads to her Y activity too. Mrs. Rooney takes fitness classes, participates in the Y’s shawl-knitting group and is member of the Y’s book club. She is also involved in other programs dedicated to the active older adult like socials and holiday luncheons.

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  • Part of his family….the Madison Area YMCA

    Jan 27, 2017

    Michael Harris

    Michael Harris comes from a big family—he has six siblings. Incredibly, his heart has room for more. “The Madison Area YMCA staff and members are part of my family,” says the soft-spoken 23-year-old who works as a member services representative at the Madison Area YMCA. 

    “Michael has a heart of gold,” says Senior Member Services Representative Cathy Landolfi. Ask anyone who works with Michael and inevitably, Michael’s heart will be mentioned. “Michael has the biggest heart!” says colleague, Melissa Kull. “He’s like a security blanket—he keeps everyone calm.”

    “The Y is home. It’s not like home—it is home,” says the East Orange resident as he checks in a member. Handing the card back to the man, Michael smiles. Turning back to the conversation, he says, “I don’t really feel like I’m coming to work when I come here. It’s imperative that I stay working here at the Y. I’m happy here—even if it’s the closing 11 o’clock shift or waking up at 4:30 a.m. to open the Y.”

    Click here to read on.

  • A Mother and Daughter Find Community

    Jan 11, 2017
    Reshmee and Leah

    “My mom works here at the Y,” says 9-year-old Leah Rajnarain, looking out from under her cat face-shaped sleeping mask that’s pushed up above her big brown eyes. It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and she’s in Kids Central, the Madison Area YMCA’s indoor playground, snuggled up in comfy pajamas because it had been pajama day at Torey J. Sabatini School in Madison where she is a fourth grader.

    “And I know which posters she designs. I recognize her creativity and style,” Leah says looking at her mom, Reshmee Bissundyal, and waving her hand in the air. Ms. Bissundyal is a graphic artist at the Y. “My mom works in marketing—AND she helps raise money for kids to come here that wouldn’t be able to afford it.” This little 9-year-old gets it. As a nonprofit organization, everything the Y does is for the betterment of the community so that everyone gets a chance to be part of the Y.

    Click here to read on.

  • Emma Einhorn: Being Herself and Finding a Place to Belong

    Nov 21, 2016

    Emma Einhorn Volunteer Youth Award

    Emma Einhorn is still in disbelief of the honor bestowed on her. “Amazing,” says the vivacious, chatty 18 year old, describing how she felt when she attended the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance dinner to accept the Madison Area YMCA’s 2016 Youth Volunteer of the Year award. “To do good for people makes me feel good,” she says.

    Sitting behind her handiwork of freshly cut paper yaks, the mascot of the Madison Area YMCA’s Annual Campaign, Emma exudes joy. She is visibly excited about the volunteer work she does at the Y. “I love making things easier for people,” says Emma, her eyes lighting up behind the dark rim of her glasses. “I always encourage people with positivity.”

    Click here to read on.

  • A New Lease on Life for Greg Maulbeck

    Oct 17, 2016

    IMG_7515 - Copy

    Rolling a large silver cart filled with tools to fix a faucet in the women’s bathroom of the Family Center, it’s a typical evening for Greg Maulbeck at the Madison Area YMCA. He’s one of the magicians in the maintenance department who ensures that things run smoothly at the Family Center and the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center. A signature accompaniment for Greg, people had thought that he relied on the cart to help his 300-pound frame get around---which could have been a reasonable assumption; but, after shedding 70 pounds, he still uses it. “It’s actually a safety measure recommended in the Y’s maintenance handbook,” chuckles Greg.

    Eight months ago, after a health scare landed him in the hospital, Greg immediately embarked on an odyssey to find a healthier lifestyle. Perks happened along the way too—he reduced his cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure to healthy levels and no longer takes medication to keep it all in check. His A1C, a test that provides a 3-month snapshot of his average blood sugar for his Type 2 diabetes, is in a healthy range. His waistline has decreased by 10 inches.

    Click here to read on.

  • Taking Control Through the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program

    Sep 20, 2016


    “Week 11,” says a smiling Daniela Chieffo. “How’s everyone doing?” She scans the seven faces in a Madison Area YMCA conference room on a recent Thursday evening. “We’re here.” It’s an affirmation to the group. “I know there were lots of social events, time with family and friends...how did our weekends go?”

    Ms. Chieffo is opening a conversation for how food choices went. No, this isn’t a Weight Watchers meeting. She is a trained YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle coach for the Madison Area Y. And the people in this room are serious about preventing type 2 diabetes.

    Click here to read on.

  • Small Acts of Kindness that Make a Lasting Impact

    Aug 22, 2016


    “Matt, Matt! Look!” said a small group of 5- and 6-year-old Camp Wantago campers as they jockeyed for position to push their paper ice skates suspended on pipe cleaners toward Matt’s face. “That’s beautiful. Good job!” said Matt.

    After handing over their “Winter in Summer” projects, the children start moving to the play area. Matt stays with a boy who is still cutting out his ice skates and encourages him by saying that he is happy to see him stay seated and focused on his project.

    Click here to read on.

  • Finding Community

    Aug 08, 2016

    Ann and Betty

    On a recent Friday morning at the Madison Area YMCA, Betty Dickson Dudderar has finished her workout in the Fitness Center. She now peers out the windows of the lobby to see if her friend Ann Cascino is driving into the parking lot.

    At about 9:15 a.m., she recognizes Ann’s silver Avalon pulling into a handicapped-accessible parking space. Ann has arthritis and has difficulty walking. Betty exits the sliding doors, walks the short distance and opens the door. A smiling Ann maneuvers out of the driver’s seat and steadies herself with a cane. Betty links her arm into Ann’s and slowly they make their way into the building so that Ann can do a 20-minute workout in the Fitness Center and an hour-long Senior Fitness class at 11 a.m.

    Click here to read on.
  • Who Spreads Sunshine at the Kirby Center? Sarah Johnson

    Jun 14, 2016

    Laura Cluff holds up half a hardboiled egg for her pre-K 4 students to see. She explains the parts of it and puts it into the small hands of a child who inspects it and passes it along to the next set of open hands. Miss Laura conducts the STEAM-based lesson that is a lead-up to the grand finale—an incubator on a table next to Miss Laura cradles a dozen eggs that are days away from hatching. Excitement is in the air.

    “Sarah shares love and kindness in our classroom,” says Miss Laura. “It’s so wonderful to have her here to help. She plays, reads and dances with the children, helps with craft projects and provides lots of TLC when the preschoolers need it. The kids see her as a teacher.”

    Click here to read on.
  • Togetherness: Making a Difference Large and Small

    May 27, 2016

    When Gwen Riddick comes to her job each day at the Madison Area YMCA, among the many items in her purse is a small compact from Korea tucked away in a side pocket that reminds her of the good work that the Y does in the community that she lives and works in.

    “A little girl from Korea who didn’t speak any English was in an enrichment class that I taught several years ago,” said Gwen, who is the Y’s community and member engagement manager. “When the family moved back to Korea, I received a letter from her parents expressing their gratitude for being kind, helpful and welcoming to their daughter…and this mirror,” she said, slipping the round compact with the floral motif out of a velvet bag and onto her desk. “It’s moments like this that remind me that I’m working for a great cause.”

    Click here to read on.
  • One Stretch and One Step at a Time

    Apr 04, 2016

    Dave Carver

    It’s Wednesday afternoon at the Madison Area YMCA. On schedule, right before noon, Dave Carver whizzes through the Family Center’s lobby in his motorized wheelchair wearing a Madison softball cap and headphones that connect him to his cellphone. He greets staff members at the Welcome Center with a big smile, deftly navigates the walkway between the wall and the staircase railing and continues to the Fitness Center. Susan Sheeley, a personal trainer at the Madison Area YMCA, begins Dave’s exercise regimen for his upper body at the lateral machine. Planting her foot on the wheel of the wheelchair for stability and taking Dave’s arm in her hand, she stretches it above his head and back as far as it can go. She massages his shoulder with her other hand. It takes every bit of strength for the diminutive Susan to move his arm.

    Dave has spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal cord, a diagnosis he received almost three years ago after he collapsed and hit his head leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. The arm that Susan stretches used to be locked to the side of his body.  

    CLICK HERE to read on.

  • Nurturing, Loving and Caring for Children…and Winning Awards

    Mar 16, 2016

    “Mix her cereal with two ounces of formula—her mom said she likes it soupy,” says Ashley Hendricks to Kathy, her assistant lead teacher in Infant 2 at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA. She slides 10-month old Blake into the highchair between Will and Christopher who have already started on their meals. It’s lunchtime. Today’s menu is breaded chicken, a mixture of peas, carrots and corn with diced pears for dessert, all prepared by the kitchen staff at the Kirby Center. Ms. Hendricks then turns her attention to Daniella, who is pointing at her belly. “Is your belly OK? Let me see,” says Ms. Hendricks. Daniella pulls up her shirt just enough to see her belly button, laughs and toddles back to her chair at the table where assistant teacher Rachel is helping feed the toddlers. The seven children in attendance today have already worked on their finger painting masterpieces and have played outside.

    Click here to read on. 
  • The Madison Area YMCA Assists Local Families In Need

    Jan 28, 2016


    When Maggie Claudio comes to the Y for work, it is a highlight in her week. As the Madison Area YMCA’s member assistance coordinator, Maggie is a ray of sunshine and a harbinger of hope for people in need who live or work in Madison, Chatham and Florham Park.

    “You never know who is going to come through the door,” said Maggie. “Divorced parents, families with serious illnesses, people who have lost their jobs,” she trails off and then looks pensive. “And the Latin population. It has grown immensely. I hear a lot—Señora Maggie!”

    Click here to read on.

  • On the Road to Recovery, LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Joins Tim Long’s Journey

    Jan 04, 2016

    As Tim Long carefully eases himself into a chair and rests his cane against a desk in the Madison Area YMCA’s fitness office, it is easy to see the physical limitations caused by the effects of cancer. Words are not necessary. Within moments, the physical maladies blur. A kind, determined and positive man comes into focus.

    Click here to read on.
  • Madison Area YMCA Makes Big Impact On High School Senior

    Dec 10, 2015
    1873 Schaenans and Diane

    Our inaugural story in TAP's "WHY THE Y" column features a Madison High School senior whose experience as a volunteer at the Madison Area YMCA has been as impactful on her life as much as she has made an impact on the lives of others.
    Before she entered high school, Claire Schaenen knew that she wanted community service to be part of her life. After volunteering for two years at a hospital in Peapack during her freshman and sophomore years, she decided she wanted to make a difference in the community she lived in. Knowing that her younger brother, Malcolm, volunteered at the Madison Area YMCA, she began asking him about the kinds of things he did as a volunteer. She then jumped onto the Madison Area YMCA’s website and filled out a volunteer application which led to an interview with the Y’s volunteer coordinator, Melissa DeSalvo.

    Click here to read on.

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