A Village With a Lasting Impact
Madison Painter, Y Chipmunks Preschool
Madison Painter attended the Y Chipmunks Preschool in Finksburg over 20 years ago. Madison grew up in a multi-generational household with a working single mother. Her mother’s parents helped raise their granddaughter. With no siblings, her family placed Madison in the Chipmunks program at the Y for socialization at age two. Her grandfather, lovingly known as Poppy, dressed as Santa for the Chipmunks. Her grandmother, Mimi, retired so she could be involved in raising Madison.
Today, Madison is an aspiring nurse who studies and works hard to provide for her four-year-old daughter, Averi. Now, Averi is a Chipmunk, just like her mom. Madison’s grandparents have chosen to be her support system and be involved in helping to raise Averi as well. They attend every school event and recently brought Averi to an event at the Hill Y in Westminster for Trick or Treating.
Through the Chipmunks program, Madison’s mom became friends with a mom of twins, and to this day, Madison remains friends with those twins.
She says, “Friendships made there really can be everlasting.” Teachers who taught Madison now teach Averi, including Cheryl Rosendahl, Director of the Chipmunks program.
Madison says, “I never have to worry for Averi’s safety. I am confident her teachers care about her development because that was my experience. It was a no-brainer to send her to the Y. There was no question.”
Madison says she and Averi have a small village. Still, she knows the Y has come alongside her to offer support during this crucial time in Averi’s development. Averi has flourished by interacting with other children and adults. She loves imaginary play and looks forward to all the events the Y has for her preschool.
Madison points out, “The Chipmunks program is not a daycare. It’s a place where I can have peace of mind that my daughter is thriving in knowledge and play.”
The Y was a core part of Madison’s social and academic development and now can be for Averi. A village does not have to be large but rather strong to make a lasting impact.
Making A Splash
The Babbsies, The Y in Catonsville
A wonderful example of how Y membership contributes to a greater sense of community is the organic formation of a group of Water Fit class participants at the Y in Catonsville who call themselves, of all things, The Babbsies (short for Bad Ass Bathing Beauties)!
Prior to joining Water Fit, these women were complete strangers, from different pockets of their local community, and likely would not have come into contact with one another if not for the Y in Catonsville. But over the course of the past four years, by engaging with one another and discovering a real sense of shared humanity, they have formed an inclusive and tight-knit community.
“Outside of water fitness, they go to movies, dinner, happy hour, play Boujee Bag BINGO and hold an annual holiday party. When times are more difficult, they support and pray for each other during sorrow and loss, illness, and injury,” shares Jessica Chiaramonte, Executive Director at the Y in Catonsville.
In addition to looking after one another, every year The Babbsies give a special gift to their incredible water aerobics instructor, Roberta Caggiano. This year, in lieu of a present, Roberta asked them to consider supporting the Y.
The Babbsies immediately thought of the Y Leaders Club, a program which helps teens develop the habit of community service through projects they design and carry out together. For years, The Babbsies had seen Y Leaders Club participants in action at the Y in Catonsville and they could see just how meaningful their work is in their community.
Shortly after Roberta made her request, The Babbsies delivered a surprise check for $400 to Jessica Chiaramonte to support the Catonsville Y’s Leaders Club. Thanks to The Babbsies for their generous support and contagious energy!
Jack's Tour De Force Rally Efforts
Jack Floyd, The Greater Annapolis Y in Arnold
With 236 miles cycled and over $800 raised, there’s no slowing down Y member Jack Floyd and his epic Rally for the Y efforts! For those of you new to the Y, the Rally is an annual fundraiser where individuals ride as many miles as possible in February on an Expresso Bike. Funds raised help children who would otherwise miss out attend Y summer camp.
Suffice to say, Jack is crushing it! A Y member for 15 years, Jack’s connection to the Y dates back to when he was a teenager tutoring kids in english and math at the Hagerstown Y.
Now retired, Jack shares, “I was in business for many, many years and I never had time to volunteer. Now retired, my plan is to put my sweat equity into helping others!”
Jack heard about the Rally from his Y personal trainer, AJ Garay. AJ shares, “Jack isn’t one to shy away from a challenge! Sometimes I find that people around Jack’s age are reluctant to try new movements but fortunately we have a great relationship and he trusts me.”
When Jack is asked what he has enjoyed the most about the Rally, he shares,
“I guess I’m just trying to beat everybody else! Also, throughout my personal and professional career, I’ve always believed that if you give once, you’ll receive back ten times and that holds true.”
Thank you Jack and AJ for your incredible efforts to help kids in our community enjoy safe, happy summer experiences.
More than a Gym
Nicole Maddock, The Greater Annapolis Y in Arnold
Y member Nicole Maddock is no stranger to the Y. In fact, the Greater Annapolis Y in Arnold is the fifth Y her family has been members of over the last ten years.
Nicole shares, “We joined the Y in Arnold in the summer of 2020. We think it’s so valuable to be a part of a community that values health.”
From participating in family fun days to taking advantage of Parents’ Night Out (“It’s our one guaranteed date night!”), it's safe to say that her whole family loves the Y! Both children, Sam (age 10) and Robert (age 6), are also currently enrolled in Y swim lessons.
Nicole shares, “My oldest, Sam, learned to swim at the Y and is now a really independent swimmer. Watching him go from doggy paddling to confidently swimming with other kids has been so much fun! It’s also been really cool watching him discover that swimming is ABSOLUTELY his sport!”
However, what Nicole values the most about her Y membership is the sense of community it offers.
“The thing I love about the Y is that the associates want you to do well. They are on your team. The Y is more than a gym. It’s a community that is focused on well-being. The associates are incredible people who want to serve the community well. We get so much value out of our membership!”
Diving In With Frank
Frank Gambino, The Y in Pasadena
If you swim laps regularly at the Y in Pasadena, you have probably noticed Frank Gambino. Often described as a “one of a kind” guy, Frank has the type of energy and spunk you wish you could bottle.
One of the Y in Pasadena’s longest members, Frank joined the Y because he wanted a place where he could go swimming. Now 11 years later, he swims every chance he can get.
Along with his infectious personality, Frank often catches people’s attention, not because of how much he swims but rather, how he swims.
Frank explains, “I often do backstroke one-handed with an eight or 10 pound weight! I actually learned this from a Y associate back in the day as it was part of their lifeguard training. They encouraged me to give it a go. A lot of people know me because of this!”
When Frank isn’t doing laps, you’ll find him chatting with off-duty lifeguards and members about history and geography. Frank quips: “I like to give them questions to think about!”
It isn’t just about swimming for Frank though.
“I appreciate the company down at the pool and I like that I have people that look for me so they can swim with me. There’s one guy in particular that I’ve been swimming with for years. We do laps together and talk.”
Frank adds, “One of the things that I want to say about the people who work at the Y is that when I was going through cancer and treatment, they were very, very helpful for me. It meant a lot.”
"We're Practically at the Y Six Days a Week!"
Marissa Hart, The Ward Y in Abingdon
Baltimore County teacher Marissa Hart became a member at the Ward Y in Abingdon as soon as she became a mom.
Marissa shares, “I knew I needed a place where I could easily bring my children that had a great sense of community.”
Six years later, Marissa hasn’t looked back. Along with her two energetic young boys, the family enjoys practically everything the Y offers, from sports, crafts, and swimming to working up a sweat on the fitness floor!
“That’s the thing for me about the Y… both my boys love going there. I get my time. They get their time. It’s a great place for children to grow socially and make friends. I’ve made some of my closest friends at the Y, too! We’re practically at the Y six days a week!”
As well as enjoying the various activities and classes, one of the things Marissa loves the most about the Y is its warm and welcoming environment.
Marissa says, “I’m really into working out; that’s my thing. You’ll usually find me on the fitness floor, where I do weights and cardio. As someone who has taken their fitness journey a long way, I have never felt any judgment. I was given help every step of the way.”
Marissa adds, “It’s a great place for kids, and anything the Y offers, we will do for the most part! I love the Parents’ Night Out and the associates are wonderful. My kids love them all! There really is something for everybody!”
Movement is the Name of the Game
Steve Heeman, The Orokawa Y in Towson
When managing his Parkinson’s disease symptoms, Y member Steve Heeman believes the secret is to keep moving. In his words, “Movement is the name of the game.”
Steve joined the Orokawa Y in Towson in the fall of 2020 to participate in Rock Steady Boxing, a rigorous, non-contact exercise program that the Y runs in partnership with Rock Steady Boxing.
The program aims to improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s disease through a non-contact, boxing-based fitness curriculum. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative movement disorder which can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function.
It’s a good thing Steve likes movement because the program offers something new every day. In fact, that’s one of the first things that Steve noticed about the program. From boxing to biking to squatting and stretching, Steve enjoys that no two days are the same.
Steve shares, “You don’t just come in and do the same thing. We do warm-ups and then we have what I call eighth-grade recess where we play basketball and volleyball or go outside and exercise. It’s a lot of fun.”
Rock Steady doesn’t just focus on the physical side of things, it also helps to strengthen the mind too.
“Parkinson’s is a movement disorder but can cause cognitive failure. We often do different kinds of puzzles and building activities to exercise our minds. A good example is that when we do a relay race, you have to walk it AND balance a balloon on your head at the same time.”
As well as exercising, Stephen believes that the group has served a strong social purpose in his life. He adds, “I’ve known some of the people for years. It’s a great support group and we do things outside of the Y. We go to baseball games and go out to lunch. To me, it’s much more than just an exercise class!”
The Mighty Y Trio
Billie Partlow, Bettie Williams and Linda Thomas: The Y in Druid Hill
Proving that fitness is more fun when shared with friends, Bettie Williams, Linda Thomas and Billie Partlow have been working out at the Y together for years.
Billie explains, ”The thing is, we’re a team and we’re trying to stay on top of the green grass because we don’t want the grass growing on us!"
When they aren’t busy organizing Y potluck lunches, you’ll find this dynamic trio every Monday and Wednesday working up a sweat in the Flexibility class at the Y in Druid Hill. This particular class works to increase individuals’ range of motion while releasing muscular stress. Bettie, Linda and Billie adore the class and the instructor who leads it, Linda Smith.
Bettie shares, “Linda Smith is our force, she’s the one who motivates us. She knows our strengths, our weaknesses and when to push us a little more. Her motto is that there’s no silver in our sneakers!”
Linda Thomas adds, “Ever since starting Linda’s class, we’ve all gotten so much stronger. In fact, we can all hold planks on the floor for 75 seconds!”
This mighty team understands the importance of being a Y member and the critical value it brings to each of their lives, especially since they are seniors.
Linda Thomas shares, “I had a heart attack a few years ago and fortunately I was physically in good shape. My doctor told me that’s what helped me be a survivor. My cardiologist tells me what you are doing, keep doing it!”
Becoming Closer as a Family
Katie Megredy, The Dancel Y in Ellicott City
Y member Katie Megredy embodies the kind of optimism and can-do spirit that’s always helpful in life, but absolutely mission critical in a crisis. For Katie, the crisis came when her husband walked out on her and their four children ranging in age from six to ten.
Katie maintained their Y membership at the Dancel Y in Ellicott City as long as she could, but at a certain point, she thought that it was no longer feasible. She hadn’t realized that the Y’s Open Doors program was designed for people just like her. As she put it, “the only reason we could rejoin was through the program the Y has for those that are going through financial hardship. Through the generosity of the Y, we have been able to create fun memories and become closer as a family, even through the most challenging years we’ve ever experienced.
I knew that I couldn’t afford to take the kids on vacation or to fun places, but the Y provided a vacation place for us without that huge cost. My kids enjoy having down time and bonding time. That's super important. My kids always make friends at the Y."
And for Katie, the Y is a "nice place to be able to take a breath for an hour. It’s my outlet; the only place where I can get a break.”
"The Kids Love It All!"
Rianna Matthews-Brown, The Weinberg Y in Waverly
From the moment Y member Rianna Matthews-Brown stepped through the doors of the Weinberg Y in Waverly she knew she was in the right place.
Rianna shares, “I like that the Y is not a private gym. It's where our neighbors are. From the Farmers Market to the Y to Wyman Park. It's a community. All those things we love.”
It seems that Rianna isn’t the only huge fan of the Y in her household. Rianna, and her wife, Kibibi’s two children, Solomon (age 7) and Selah (age 2), have been involved in everything from soccer to Fun Days to Mommy & Me swim lessons to Y camp.
Rianna adds, “The kids love it all! They get the opportunity to be physical. They get the opportunity to move. They are learning how to play on a team. The social part is so beneficial to the children.”
With Selah in preschool at the Y Sherman Early Childhood Center, Rianna and her family feel right at home at the Y.
“The associates are incredible and really know my kids. They’ve really embraced us. Anything we needed or wanted to do or have the kids do, we found it all at the Y."
A Perfect Fit
Ashley Fritch, The Hill Y in Westminster
With two boys ages four and seven, Ashley Fritch knew the Y was a perfect fit for her family. This confidence stemmed from the fact that she had previously worked as a part-time Y associate and only left to pursue a job as a High School teacher in the Carroll County public school system.
After becoming a member at the Hill Y in Westminster in 2022, it wasn’t long before Ashley’s kids were enrolled in everything from camp, to swim lessons to soccer leagues.
Ashley says “I wanted my family to be able to bond over activities that model leading a healthy lifestyle. The Y is also an opportunity to expose our kids to a diverse community. We value that as a family.”
Ashley adds “the splash pad is also a big part of our summer.”
As well as enjoying the ever-changing activities and programs, Ashley was in the lobby one day watching swim lessons and noticed something happening- it was a Familyhood event and they got involved.
“The kids loved all the activities. From crafts to games, it’s the perfect excuse to get everyone out of the house and do something together that’s meaningful.”
In addition to the kids having fun, Ashley loves meeting new friends and taking advantage of all the family offerings that the Y has to offer like Parents Night Out (free "date night") and Stay & Play.
"The Y is such a positive experience that we recommend it to anyone we talk to."
Each One. Reach One. Teach One.
Anita Walker, The Y Swim Center in Randallstown
After retiring from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Anita Walker was looking for a meaningful way to spend her time that would help strengthen her mind, body and soul.
With the Y in Randallstown less than 10 minutes from home, she figured she would check it out. That was four months ago and she hasn’t looked back since.
“After meeting with Y Membership Sales Manager, Ms. Tawanda Ford, I joined that day! She is so good at what she does. She’s my number one lady!”
From water aerobics to yoga to walking the track, Anita tries to go to the Y daily. As well as loving the energy and passion of the instructors, she connects deeply with the mission of the Y.
“What I like about the Y is that it unites people and gives people a safe haven. Everyone is there for a reason, whatever that may be. I love that the Y brings people together.”
As well as working out at the center, Anita’s jewelry business - Anita’s Harmony - was also a vendor at Randallstown’s Juneteenth celebration earlier this year. Proceeds from her business go back into the community to help support young people.
Anita adds, “I believe in each one, reach one, teach one. I feel it’s very important to support and be involved in organizations that make a positive change in the community. I love the Y!”
Climbing High, Together
Sarah, The Y in Catonsville
It’s not every day you see a family rock climbing together but for Y member Sarah and her two daughters, it’s just another Saturday!
This family’s joint love for the sport was discovered when Sarah’s daughters, first tried it at Y summer camp in 2020. The kids enjoyed it so much that Sarah decided to give it a go and immediately loved it!
As Sarah puts it, “I started rock climbing because my daughters were so good at it and I wanted us to do it all together. It’s really fun to learn a new sport! The cool part is that anyone can do it!”
As well as scaling the walls at the Y in Catonsville, her daughters both learned to swim at the Y and thoroughly enjoy attending Y Camp every summer while Sarah works.
“It’s nice to know my daughters are getting exposed to different things at camp and that they are also getting to be kids at the same time. They do so many great activities like swimming and archery.”
When asked what makes the Y special, Sarah shares, “the Y is such a warm and welcoming place, with a feeling of community that is hard to find at other places.
The Rock Wall associates have been supportive and helpful to my children and myself, facilitating an opportunity to have a blast while learning a sport together. Thank you!”
The Parkville Mayor
Roy Marsh, The Y in Parkville
Dubbed playfully by the Y in Parkville team as the ‘Parkville Y Mayor,’ Roy Marsh has been an active Y member for 15 years. In the words of Membership Sales Manager Carol Beecher, “Roy is always so welcoming to everyone. He carries such a positive, inviting and warm energy - we just love him!”
A lifelong weight-lifter, Roy originally became a member of the Y because it had everything he needed to build muscle.
Roy shares, “I’ve been a bodybuilder since I was 26 years old and I used to compete in contests. Now at 76, I’m more focused on maintaining muscle. The Y helps me do that!”
Alongside his wife, Deborah, Roy frequents the Y in Parkville three to four times a week. As well as enjoying the various exercise machines, he also enjoys the social aspect of working out. Roy has a close-knit group of friends that he works out with every time he’s in the center.
“There’s about five or six of us who work out together every morning and we communicate. We like each other! We’ve been friends for eight years!”
Roy adds, “I believe it’s important to have Ys in the community because the crowd you get is more close-knit. To me, the Y in Parkville is more than a gym, it’s a community.”