Why the Y

  • 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
    LIT-1

    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
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    “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. 

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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    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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • A New Lease on Life for Greg Maulbeck

    Oct 17, 2016

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    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.

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  • Taking Control Through the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program

    Sep 20, 2016

    Daniela_DPP

    “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.

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  • Small Acts of Kindness that Make a Lasting Impact

    Aug 22, 2016

    Matt

    “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.

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  • 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.

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  • Who Spreads Sunshine at the Kirby Center? Sarah Johnson

    Jun 14, 2016
    Sarah






    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.”

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  • Togetherness: Making a Difference Large and Small

    May 27, 2016
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    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.”

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  • 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.  

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

    Mar 16, 2016
    Ashley

    “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.

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  • The Madison Area YMCA Assists Local Families In Need

    Jan 28, 2016

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    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!”

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

    Jan 04, 2016
    Tim_Long

    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.

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  • 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.


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