West Cook YMCA

April 2016 CEO Message

Published 03.31.16


It’s always good to double check if you’re on the right path toward achieving one’s goal.

I had a fine opportunity to experience that very perspective when I was a guest of Patrick Maloney, Chief Executive Officer of West Suburban Medical Center and Westlake Hospital, at a recent Infant Welfare Society’s Children’s Clinic event.

The speaker, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States and an internationally respected public health professional, made a very solid presentation on the state of health care in the U.S. today and then took questions from an interested audience.

“What is the greatest challenge facing the Surgeon General office today?” was the very first question asked.

Without missing a beat, the speaker, responded: “chronic disease prevention.”

For me, Admiral Trent-Adams’ prompt response was a real confirmation of all that we do and are striving to accomplish here at the West Cook YMCA—to have a true impact on the health of our members and the vitality of the residents of the ten communities we serve.

Our mission to address diabetes is reinforced in a timely New York Times article on “The Unsung Success of a Diabetes Prevention Program.”

We too, are concerned about addressing the prevention of chronic disease through a large portfolio of programs throughout the community.

We’re pleased to work collaboratively with numerous partners--other not-for profit organizations, health care providers and schools--to address the health literacy of our members and all the while impacting the well being of the entire community.

For example, the second cohort of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, the only Chicagoland YMCA to offer this evidence based program, is well underway. Participants in this year-long initiative focused on making lasting healthy lifestyle changes are making steady progress toward their goal of preventing type 2 diabetes.

The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program’s (DPP) Community Advisory Board committed to organizing several initiatives to alert residents of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park to the dangers of undiagnosed and untreated diabetes.

The Y took the lead in designing and managing a modest local public awareness campaign in both the Wednesday Journal and Oak Leaves on a paid and public service basis. We’re very grateful for the cooperation and assistance of the two publications in alerting area residents to the fact that small, measurable lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and help live a happier, healthier life.

There are many other partners and participants in this enterprise. Among programs being mounted by members of the DPP’s Community Advisory Board are:

  • Rush Oak Park Hospital is offering a series of year-long programs—“Project Lifestyle Change—that focuses on healthy eating, exercise and making lifestyle changes. An extra bonus of this program is that a free three-month membership in the West Cook YMCA is part of it.
  • AgeOptions, is a licensed provider of “Take Charge of Your Diabetes,” a six-week evidence based program developed by Stanford University. It is being offered by AgeOptions’ Oak Park and will soon also be offered by the West Cook YMCA as a supliement to our Diabetes Prevention Program unit.
  • Jewel-Osco is offering free “Eating Healthy With Diabetes” grocery store tours with a registered dietitian.

We’ve also launched LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a new program for adult cancer survivors.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a partnership between the LIVESTRONG Foundation and YMCA of the USA that has helped more than 29,000 cancer survivors reclaim their health in a safe and supportive environment.

Ours is a small group program for any adult, 18 and over, who has ever been diagnosed with cancer. The group welcomes those who have been in remission from cancer for years as well persons who are currently in treatment and who find themselves in transition between completing treatment and shifting to feeling physically and emotionally strong enough to return to their normal lives or what is often termed, a “new normal.”

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is all about health, not disease.

The goals of this research-based program are to improve strength and endurance, increase flexibility and day-to-day activities, reduce therapy side effects, prevent unwanted weight fluctuations and improve self-esteem and energy levels.

This is a FREE 12-week program which also comes with a one-year complimentary West Cook YMCA Household Membership so participants may bring a family member who can accompany them and participate in a class or in an individual workout in any facility at the Y.

We’re also working with several other community partners in addressing childhood obesity and wellness issues. They include the Oak Park Health Department, Proviso Partners for Health and the Health Impact Collaborative of Central Cook County.

One of the accepted strategies to address childhood obesity is to encourage young people to reduce screen time and become more active. The Y’s Summer Day Camp offers a safe, friendly and enjoyable way to spend time away from school and screens.

Early Bird Registration for our Summer Day Camp for youth ages 5-17 continues through the end of April and regular registration until the Camp begins on June 13. The Camp will run through August 26 with extended care available before and after camp. Plans are afoot to use a nearby site where campers will have all the space they need to enjoy their summer—rain or shine.

New this year is a series of elective programs called summer BOOSTS for a modest additional fee that includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering , Mathematics) as well as visual arts, cooking, dance and drama and Strong4Life, a healthy living program conducted by a personal trainer.

As part of the West Cook Y’s continuing commitment to the YMCA’s international service learning exchange program, we plan to begin a three-year program of leadership training for older Summer Day Campers, ages 12-13.

Organized along the lines of becoming “counselors in training,” the program will first focus on developing volunteer leadership service.

Next, the campers will have an opportunity to participate as YMCA Global Ambassadors through active service with local volunteer organizations. In year two, they may take their skills to a national level through participation with an organization such as the Sioux Nation YMCA in North Dakota and finally in year three there may be an opportunity to engage on an international basis, with Y’s around the world.

Soon we’ll be calling for volunteers to help us ready the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center pool in Maywood that will open on or about Memorial Day.

The Fred Hampton Pool preparation is a good example of how Y members can participate in one of the YMCA’s signature programs for social responsibility, called “Togetherhood.” This program invites Y members to lead and participate in volunteer projects that benefit the communities in which they live, such as the pool cleanup project. 

Other examples of how Y members can participate in the Togetherhood program would be undertaking such projects as building a playground, serving the homeless or senior citizens, cleaning up a community eyesore, building a Habitat for Humanity house, staffing a health care screening event and many more.

We also have an exciting opportunity to offer our Y family long-distance runners: entrance into the Chicago Marathon this coming October! Running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an exclusive opportunity. Entries are usually reserved for legacy runners who have run for a minimum number of years, or for time-qualifiers who will finish the race quickly. However, we are pleased to partner with our neighbors at the PAV YMCA of Berwyn & Cicero to offer entrance into the race this year by joining their Charity Team. All you need to do sign up and raise a minimum of $1,000 to compete. Funds raised will go directly to the PAV YMCA. For more information, contact Mark Olson, Financial Development Director, at molson@westcookymca.org.

Finally, hats off to the TOPS swim team for all that they have accomplished in the recent season. They’re now focused on diving into a strong summer season, including the annual Father’s Day Classic on Sunday, June 18.

2015/2016 Highlights:

  • Qualified swimmers for every highest level YMCA & Illinois Swimming Inc. championship meet offered.
  • Had swimmers qualify for YMCA Nationals & National Club Swimming Association Jr. Nationals.
  • Finished the championship season with 130 individual medalist, 15 relay medalist, 18 individual champions, and 3 relay champions at championship meets.

Spring Stroke Clinic registration is open now and Summer LC season registration will open on April 11.  Anyone interested in either program can register by going on the team website and following the registration tab.

Phillip Jiménez
President & CEO

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