Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Middlesex YMCA: We're more than a Gym

Youth Activities Facebook AlbumYou’ve heard it before: we’re more than a gym, we’re a cause. What does that mean; especially if many of our classes take part in the gym? It means we offer more than just games...while playing games. The Y is for youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living. These three concepts can be found in all of our programs. Youth Sports are more than dribbling, kicking, or throwing. We teach social skills: how to greet peers and share commonalities, how to work together with a partner, and how to be comfortable sharing achievements and interests. Children learn that healthy living can be fun. It shouldn’t be a chore to work up a sweat in youth classes, and it isn’t at the Y. Our activities are participation based, exciting, and all inclusive! We also introduce community involvement by donating to local food banks and supporting our camp scholarship fund by contributing to the Polar Plunge at YMCA Camp Ingersoll.

That’s right; our first Polar Plunge at YMCA Camp Ingersoll! Every year thousands of children come to Camp Ingersoll to make friends, learn skills, create memories and have fun. We believe this invaluable experience should be accessible to every child, and we are working our hardest to bring more children to camp. If you would like to help change a child’s life please consider joining our Polar Plunge, coming to the event on the 17th, or supporting one of our jumpers! Click here to learn more about our Plunge.

We hope to see you soon!

Contact Benjamin Silliman, Assistant Youth and Camp Ingersoll Director, with questions. / 860-343-6239

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Y Story: Jordan Tragash

I started my Y career 16 years ago at the very same YMCA that I now work for.  At the age of 2, I took Mommy and Me swim lessons in Middletown and stayed a member at various YMCA's across Connecticut through high school. In the summer of my junior year I began working for the Wheeler YMCA in Plainville and have been with the Y ever since.  I took the job in Middletown because I knew that with my transition to school I would be losing a Y family who had always been so great to me.  Luckily, I managed to find a new one here!  

Over the years, the YMCA has helped make me who I am. Whether it was a tightly knit community full of kind coworkers or a facility full of staff members who welcomed me with open arms the Y has always been a constant in my life.  As I continue my career here I hope that I can be that kind coworker and welcoming staff member to all who enter our doors. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Citizens Bank Donates Backpacks Full of School Supplies at Middlesex YMCA

(Left to Right): Citizens Bank Volunteers Jeff Roy, Chris Migliaro, Kailani Gadlin, and Glenn Taylor and Michele Rulnick, Middlesex YMCA CEO smile with preschoolers from the Phelps Ingersoll for Children at Middlesex YMCA after they received their new backpacks.
Smiles went across the faces of new kindergarten students as they received backpacks filled with school supplies on August 18 donated by Citizens Bank. The backpacks were donated as part of the Great for Grades program, which collects school supplies for elementary school students that might otherwise not have the needed supplies.

“At Citizens Bank we always try our best to work with youth because they are an essential part of our community,” said Glenn A. Taylor, Site Manager at Citizens Bank in Main Street Middletown. “It always a bright spot when you see a child smile"

In addition to the supplies donated by Citizens Bank, supplies were collected in the lobbies of Middlesex YMCA, and were collected outside of Walmart in Cromwell, CT. The supplies were first given to preschoolers at the Phelps Ingersoll Center for Children at Middlesex YMCA who are entering kindergarten, and then will be given to elementary schools throughout the greater Middletown area.

“My wife was a kindergarten teacher for years, and knows that budgets are tight for schools and for families so it means a lot to give children a fresh start before the head off to the classroom,” said Taylor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

2014 Kid's Korner Talent Show a Success

The sounds of minions, wild things, and other creative performers boomed from the stage of Middletown's Woodrow Wilson Middle School as students from the Middlesex YMCA Kid's Korner program performed in their annual talent show on Wednesday evening. 

"We loved it, this is the first talent show we've been to, and we really liked the effort all the school put into it," said Barbara Humble, whose daughter Camille attends the Macdonough School Kid's Korner program. Macdonough performed a Beyonce-inspired medley called "Return of the MAC." 

 "I think Kid's Korner is a lifesaver and a work saver," said Humble on what the childcare program means to her family.

"What I love about this talent show is that it helps kids boost their self esteem," said Melanie Carfora, School Age Child Care Director at Middlesex YMCA, adding; "It backs up what we talk about all the time about positive youth development."

Other acts in the show included an informative skit on bullying by Snow School and a beauty and talent pageant by Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell.

"It was great, the kids had a lot of heart," said Jason Hinners, a Cromwell parent whose daughter Olivia strutted her stuff in Woodsides' pageant.

"What makes this Kid's Korner program so special is the support of the families, because without their support we couldn't have events like tonight," said Carfora.

Hinners also praises the staff involved in the program noting the growth his daughter has seen by being in the program; "She loves it, she's grown, she's made great friends. We are very happy she is in the program."

"Tonight you could see how much the staff really do love the kids and want them to do well. That's what makes our program so unique, " said Carfora. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Started at the Y & Continues Every Day at Middlesex YMCA

More than a century ago, the first Father's Day was celebrated at the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Sonora Louis Smart Dodd, the daughter of a single father and Civil War veteran, was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon and wondered why there was no holiday for fathers. 

After receiving support from Spokane ministers, the YMCA celebrated the first Father's Day 104 years ago.

On Sunday, June 15, the Middlesex YMCA joins the nation in celebrating Father’s Day and recognizing the impact fathers and adult male role models make in children’s lives. A leading nonprofit in fostering positive youth development, the Y remains dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for fathers to further involve themselves in the well-being and development of their children.

The Middlesex YMCA offers a variety of programs that foster understanding and companionship between children and their caregivers such as Parent/Child Dance,Sports and Movement, Octoberfest Open Camp, and Parent/Child Aquatics. In communities across the country, the Y is committed to ensuring that the 9 million children and teens in YMCA programs reach their full potential by helping them grow—physically, mentally and socially—from young children into active, engaged members of their communities. To learn more about programs and activities available at the Middlesex YMCA view our Summer 2014 Program Guide or visit

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Y Participates in World Book Night

On Wednesday April 23rd, Kids' Korner at Macdonough School hosted the fourth Family Night Event of the 2013/2014 school year: Kn-'OWL'-edge is Power Family Fun Night: A World Book Night Event with Sandbox Arts and A Hope for Raptors.
 Kids' Korner site director Chaelyn Lombardo put in an application for World Book Night which was approved and her request for the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen was accepted!  She quickly began planning for an owl-themed literacy event. The event was held on April 23rd, following our after school program for the day. A group of our fifth grade participants assisted in setting up the room for the event beforehand. The first 25 families to arrive received the WBN copy of Hoot. The first 30 children who arrived were given a card-stock owl crown which boasted, “Look Whooo's Great!” Each family was provided with a KIP Passport and an ink owl stamp to keep. Over a pizza and salad dinner, Chaelyn and staff explained to the families that they were going to travel around the cafeteria, completing a variety of owl-themed centers and challenges. Families were instructed to independently explore the centers and stamp the corresponding space on their passport as they completed each activity. We urged families to return their completed passports for a chance to win some owl-themed prizes that we had purchased (mugs, water bottles, stuffed animals, books, etc.). Each center featured a correlating FUN FACT about owls and a detailed explanation of the center's activities, with explicit directions. 
Our WBN Kn-OWL-edge is Power Centers were as follows:
  • World Book Night Welcome Center: Create a customized owl book mark for your new copy of Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot using provided bookmarks and colored pencils.
  • “Owl” Do Some Math Center “Create an Owl” Dice Game: Each roll of the dice earns a owl body part. Head, Wing, Talon, etc. A complete owl wins.
  • “Owl” Do Some Math Center 2-“Color an Owl” Dice Game: Each roll of the dice earns another crayon color for a color-by-number owl picture provided. A complete owl wins.
  • Super Science Center 1-Owl Puke: Owl Pellet Dissection Station, with bone charts and explanation sheets. Explore sterile owl pellets and decipher the bones within.
  • Super Science Center 2-Owl Eyes: Owl Eyes-Spy Books and Eye-Spy Game to test visual acuity in comparison to an owl’s eyesight.
  • Super Science Center 3-Owl Friends: Meet a REAL Owl (A Hope for Raptors, a raptor rescue organization with 2 live owls to share: One Barn Owl. One Great Horned Owl).
  • NEST-le Up in the Owl Book Nook: Choose from a variety of Owl-themed fiction and non-fiction picture books and completed a FAMILY MINI-REVIEW Book Report.
  • “Owl” Make Some Music Center: Sing some Owl Finger-Puppet Plays and Songs with plastic owl finger puppets and take-home song sheets provided.
  • Sandbox Arts Movable Mural Art Center: Paint the Movable Mural with Sandbox Arts (a local art co-op that brings a large movable canvas to paint our owl theme upon). Follow the Owl/Knowledge is Power theme.

  • Owl Arts and Crafts Center: Great Horned Owl Toilet Paper Roll Craft. Create an owl using recycled toilet paper tubes, designer paper cuts and craft eyes.
  • Origami Owl Center: Owl Origami. Fold a square piece of paper into an origami owl using the take-home directions provided.
  • Barn Owl’s Dinner-A Literal Scavenger Hunt: Barn owls eat 12 mice a night. Spot the 12 mystery mice hidden around the room before the WBN Family Night is over.
  • Owl Art Gallery: Famous Owl Art Pictures from around the world/history, set up behind the food station. Enjoy some artistic owl pictures.
  • Owl Celebrity Search: Spot the 10 “famous” owls around the room from movies, television, books, and more (Woodsy, Hedwig, Jareth, Soren, and more).
  • “Owl-ing” Photo Booth: Pose for the camera based on the Internet sensation of “owling.” Though we aren’t sure if these are legit owl poses...

    Our World Book Night event hosted 94 people, with 28 of our program’s families in attendance. It was our biggest Family Night Event turnout of the school year (of many years, actually). At the end of the night, every copy of Hoot was distributed. Each owl crown was atop a child’s head. Families were enthusiastically involved in the centers; thumbing through their free copies of Hoot, basking in the natural wonder of our live owl exhibit, painting an artistic owl rendering on the 8 foot mural, breaking apart owl pellets and marveling over the interesting discoveries within.  A fun time was had by owl!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

NBA Star Returns to Middlesex YMCA

Recently, Andre Drummond, starting center of the Detroit Pistons, stopped in at the Middlesex YMCA for some pick-up basketball. The 20-year-old NBA player is well on his path to stardom, but it all started for him on the courts of the Middlesex Y. He started as a camper at YMCA Camp Ingersoll and later instructed basketball camp at the Y. Drummond recalls growing up playing ball with the older kids at the Y who took him under their wing. Drummond’s cousin and several childhood friends many of whom were Y members, arrived to join in the memories. Several games of pick-up ensued as many of the current young Y members looked on in aspiration. At 6’10”, Drummond towered over everyone else on the court that night. With all of his success in such a short period of time, Andre is still the same guy said his cousin.

 He is very modest and is not afraid to credit the Y, “I owe a lot to the YMCA, for letting me come in to play ball day in and day out.”  Andre stayed for nearly 2 hours that night playing ball and he was sure to give time towards the end of the night to get all of the younger kids on the court for the chance to go one on one with a rising NBA star who was once in the same shoes as them. Andre Drummond is truly a shining example of a Y success story.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Once a Member, Always a Member

Since 1886, the Middlesex Y has been a gathering place for people in Middletown and the surrounding areas. For 76 of those years, Leo Kania has been a member here at the Y.

                “This has been like a second home to me for many, many years. I will always belong to the Y,” says Leo. He has seen the Y go through many changes over the years. He was around during the time when a bowling alley was a part of the facility and pin boys were paid a nickel by the bowlers to set up pins. Leo started coming to the Y to use the swimming pool after finishing grammar school. He talks about his early years at the Y, during the time of the great depression.

“Everybody was poor back then during the depression time. Mr. Hubbard helped us out, gave the Y a few dollars to pay for us kids that didn’t have money; kept us off the streets and we had a good time.” Leo and his peers formed the Hubbard club to show their appreciation of the prominent businessman. They would meet twice a month and hold raffles and other events.

When Leo graduated from high school and turned 18, he got a letter from Roosevelt to get a physical and join the army. He reminisces how over 5,000 people lined the streets to send off the 5 buses of local young men to the service.

“I still kept in touch with the Y while I was in the service. I would just drop a line…” Upon returning from the service, Leo continued his active lifestyle at the Y along with his young family. His three boys took swimming lessons here. His youngest son went on to become an All-American high school swimmer.

“I know when I have friends, I tell them to line their kids up for swim lessons,” exclaims Leo. He talks about the smile it puts on a parent’s face to see their kids swim, “and before you know it they’re on the freshman team in high school.”

Leo’s lifetime of exercise at the Y has had its benefits. “I can thank the YMCA because when I go for a physical the doctor says, ‘I have never seen anybody your age like you. Perfect Heartbeat.’ ” He mentions how walking in the pool was the best therapy when he had his new hip put in. Several of Leo’s good friends here at the Y enjoy our aquatics programs regularly and never miss a water exercise class.

                The Middlesex Y is proud to have been a part of the local community for over 100 years and is proud to serve long-time members such as Leo Kania. We continue to dedicate ourselves to providing services in the areas of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What better way to get ready for the summer than taking some swim lessons?

Swimming helps saves lives by teaching everyone both safety and swimming techniques that help to make our summers as safe and fun as possible. Registration is now available for our upcoming Spring 2 and Spring 3 sessions. Space is limited and spots are filling up fast.

Visit our website to register online with our new and improved registration system!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The Middlesex Y held the 2014 Community Support Campaign Kickoff this past Thursday at Jackson Chevrolet in Middletown. The Y has raised $71,000 already for their 2014 campaign, a first in Middlesex YMCA Campaign history.

Kelly Smith, Campaign Chairperson, said, “I fully believe in our mission at the Y. I exercise there and my kids learned how to swim there and went to camp at YMCA Camp Ingersoll.”

In attendance were Y program directors,  Kids Korner Director, Melanie Carfora, YMCA Camp Ingersoll Director, Tony Sharillo,  Aquatics Director, Bill Evison, Director of Member Services, Sue Dionne, and others. Many volunteers of the Middlesex Y were in attendance as well as major donors and business partners including May, Bonee & Walsh; Comcast; A&A Office Systems; and TJ, General Manager at Jackson Chevrolet, who hosted the event. Michele Rulnick, President and CEO of the Middlesex Y, thanked donors, board members, volunteers and staff for their efforts in raising funds to provide community access to the Y. David Flood, whose son, Jackson, was able to attend YMCA Camp Ingersoll thanks to the My Time scholarship fund, told the story of how helpful that assistance was to his family. The My Time fund is made possible by donations to the Annual Campaign and helps families who have been affected by cancer. Overall, the event was a huge success, with over $9,000 in donations pledged just that night. The Y gives away over $300,000 in scholarships each year.
The Middlesex Y offers a variety of programming including swim lessons, swim team, therapeutic mentoring, active older adult exercise programs, YMCA Camp Ingersoll day camp, and a variety of group exercise programs including yoga, zumba, hip hop, and cycling. The YMCA also offers a full time preschool program, which recently earned the Middlesex United Way Community Impact Award for 2014. The money raised through the Annual Campaign allows the Y to offer tiered pricing for YMCA Camp Ingersoll as well as scholarships for memberships and swim lessons. There is plenty of opportunity to donate. You can give today by visiting

Friday, February 14, 2014

Growing with Experience

Volunteering at a migrant school in Suzhou, China
New experiences can be a formidable obstacle; especially for young children. Young children have less prior knowledge on which to draw information from. They may have difficulty predicting an outcome and that can result in a perceived, or very real, loss of control. The inability to control or influence a situation can be frightening for a person at any age; but imagine a child who lacks the beneficial assurance of "surviving" similar circumstances in the past. Every first swim class, first ride on the bus, or first new friend can be a dramatic adventure into the unknown. I'm sure as parents you're much more qualified and prepared to deal with these unpredictable situations than I am. However, as a provider of many of these new experiences for children in Kazakhstan, China, and the Middletown YMCA I feel I can be a qualified advocate for providing new experiences for children.

Some of my students in Baltabai, Kazakhstan

Everyone develops differently. Some children are comfortable in new situations, while others take time to adjust. However your child develops, there are theories of cognitive development that lend some insight into the process influencing a child's behavior. Jean Piaget's stage theory (1932) implies there are four stages of development in children. You can take a look at the four stages in this simple chart. Since 1932, criticisms of this theory included the rather streamlined focus of overall development. This is known as "domain general", which means learning is developed consistently over all the domains, or intelligences. There is a belief that these domains develop independently of each other and everyone develops these intelligences uniquely. This theory has also been criticized as of late, as do things amongst progression of technology and more information.

Visiting some of the Horseback Campers

Although the Stage Theory has been debated, Piaget's thoughts on how children process and internalize outside stimulus (assimilation and accommodation) are still utilized. Assimilation describes a situation in which a person receives new information and inserts it into previously identified knowledge (schema). This new information might not be consistent with reality because it is made to fit into the current knowledge of the child. This can be observed when a young child learns the word for dog. That child might call all animals dogs because his/her current schema does not differentiate between specific animals. Accommodation is the process of adjusting the current schema appropriately based on new external information. Using the prior example: the child now recognizes that the duck in front of him/her has very different characteristics than a dog and thus, cannot be called a dog. Ideally, both processes are working concurrently. Children are first accommodating new information using their senses, and then assimilating this new information into their current knowledge.

Most of us know that new experiences are beneficial to child development. Understanding the processes involved in this growth are essential in creating appropriate opportunities for your child to develop. It is difficult to watch a person struggle to accommodate new information and then discover how to assimilate that information into their existing perceptions. How can we set up children to succeed in these new environments? Children should be encouraged to challenge themselves, but success should be achievable. They should be comfortable in their environment and encouraged to explore and discover for themselves. They should be given the necessary tools to start and create new relationships; whether being encouraged to give high fives or sharing similar interests in group activities.

Friends, teachers, parents, and coaches all offer different learning perspectives. As a youth sports instructor and an assistant camp director at YMCA Camp Ingersoll I see relationships form and children develop every day. Many campers are experiencing basketball, hockey, archery, ropes, the pond, and camp crafts for the very first time. At the YMCA, we intentionally create peer interaction and challenging but achievable goals for our participants. We work to provide a fun and inviting atmosphere children can become more comfortable in every day. We are also offering some brand new programs this Spring, which can help to prepare you child for camp, school, or just plan life. Visit the Middlesex YMCA's website to learn more about our programs.