CEO Blog | YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka - Part 2

How to Develop Yourself as a Non-Profit Leader

June 28th, 2016 by Rob Armstrong

Professional development in the non-profit sector is a vital tool for strengthening organizational effectiveness in the face of continuous change. In most cases, community needs are many, resources are few and both funding and policy parameters are continuously in flux. Leaders who intentionally focus on becoming good managers and who align their approach with their evolving roles position themselves for success.

Non-profits face increased demands for service, expectations to partner and pressure to improve efficiency and demonstrate outcomes. Many people who are working within the ranks of nonprofit organizations could become great senior nonprofit leaders. However, in part because of budget constraints, few organizations in the sector have formal professional development programs to prepare mid-level managers for senior roles.

A recent ProInspire survey of nonprofit managers revealed that, despite demand for professional development programs, such offerings are scarce and access is limited in the sector. Nine out of ten nonprofit managers indicated interest in leadership or managerial training, and believe that it will make them more effective in their roles, yet only half of them have received such training since assuming a role managing direct reports. What’s more, only 39 percent of respondents said their organizations pay for leadership or managerial training.

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s Not-For-Profit Professional Development Certificate Program

That’s why the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, in partnership with Lakehead University have made it a priority to offer new leadership training opportunities to the community leaders of Simcoe County. While business and community leaders may have access to skills-based leadership training, the YMCA’s Not-For-Profit Professional Development Certificate program focuses on the leadership capacity of the individual. The program explores what it takes to be an effective leader using academically sound and research supported content. The YMCA/Lakehead program provides quality, cost-effective training that is distinctly suited to the needs of our leaders in the area.

Since the launch of the partnership in 2014, the Professional Development Certificate Program has certainly made an impact in the not-for profit world – “Participating in Level 1 of the program really helped me reframe my personality traits in a positive light and helped me understand my leadership qualities,” said Nathan Sykes, Coalition Member, Youth Haven. “The speakers offered a great deal of insight into many pertinent issues, such as employer and donor relations, time management, group development, conflict resolution, mission based prioritization and many other topics. I would recommend the course to anyone.”

Over 70 participants have completed Level 1 of the program from such organizations as – Children’s Treatment Network, Canadian Red Cross, Barrie Public Library, County of Simcoe, Breaking Down Barriers, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Ontario Provincial Police and more.

Level 2 of the certificate program is being offered from November 23-26, 2016 and will focus on emotional intelligence & leadership, resiliency, change management, volunteer management, conflict resolution, and the art of persuasion. Level 3 is being offered from March 29-31, 2017 and will focus on collaboration, succession planning, governance, philanthropic leadership, and cultural diversity. The faculty and panelists combine academic rigor with real world experience and infuse the curriculum with fresh perspectives. Level 2 faculty include:

  • Kathi Wallace, Director of Education, Simcoe County District School Board
  • Jill Tettman CEO, North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN
  • Dale Biddell, CEO, United Way

Let’s keep the conversation going about nonprofit professional development, and raise the standard of offering for our sector. After all, nothing catalyzes change like focus.

For more information about the YMCA Professional Development Certificate Program, please visit http://ymcaofsimcoemuskoka.ca/not-for-profit-leadership-institute/.

Rob

Did you know that Canadian kids spend just under 8 hours a day in front of a screen?  That’s almost the same time parents spend at work! With a little over one month of school remaining, now is the time to start thinking about how your children will spend their summer.

Helping our kids lead healthy, active lifestyles can sometimes be challenging for families – especially during the summer months when kids may not benefit from programs they participate in during the school year.

YMCA Canada recently conducted an online survey among Canadian parents of children ages 18 and younger about their children’s development. Their insightful findings point to parents’ concerns and challenges in keeping their family on a healthy path.

According to the survey, Ontario parents acknowledge that there are barriers keeping them from leading a healthy active lifestyle, including: a lack of time (45%), work/life balance (39%) and energy or motivation (28%).

When it comes to their children’s healthy development, parents are most concerned about their children’s mental/emotional health (50%) followed by physical (28%) and social health (22%).  Time and money are the main barriers holding Canadian parents back from leading healthy, active lifestyles with their family.

We know that planning is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle, yet 75% of parents have not yet enrolled their children in programs for the summer. Even more alarming, 39% do not intend to sign their children up for programs over the summer, a time when the risk of learning loss, boredom and disengagement are high.

With more than 33% of Canadian children aged five to 17 being overweight, leading a healthy, active lifestyle should be a family priority driven by parents.

Your partner in nurturing healthy kids

The YMCA’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of Canadians, in body, mind and spirit. Our research has shown that there are many positive effects of belonging to the YMCA – people tell us they feel less alone, find it easier to make friends, and have better health.

We believe health is holistic and interconnected. It’s the power of community found through activity together and a supportive network that helps people achieve greater health in every way. For children, participation in organized, summer activities helps them make new friends, giving them a sense of belonging and confidence which boosts their energy levels and leads to more activity.

At the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, children are encouraged to take part in activities and camps that not only allow them to build skills in the arts, sports, leadership or recreation but to also learn soft skills such as listening, cooperation and team building. We offer summer programs that allow young people to excel in their area of interest while connecting them to caring adults who nurture their skills.

For many parents, the cost of sports and activities is holding them back from living a healthy active lifestyle. That’s why the YMCA is committed to making sure that a family’s financial situation is not a barrier to a child’s health by providing financial assistance to those who need it.

To learn more about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka summer camps and how to keep your kids active and healthy this summer, please visit www.ymcaofsimcoemuskoka.ca/kids-camp/day-camps/.

YMCA CEO Rob Armstrong talks about Peace Week at the Y

In response to changing healthcare needs, I’m pleased to announce that the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka has partnered with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) to deliver an innovative, community-based health and wellness service.

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Healthy Hearts Program

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Healthy Hearts program is currently located at the Barrie and Innisfil YMCAs, and is a community-based cardiac prevention, rehabilitation and maintenance program. RVH currently provides an intensive 12-week rehabilitation program for moderate- to high-risk heart patients.

The YMCA Healthy Hearts program will focus on low-risk patients who do not need to participate in a hospital-based program and for patients who have been transitioned from RVH’s rehabilitation program.

Heart Disease in Canada

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death and hospitalization in Canada, affecting over 1.3 million Canadians. Multiple studies have shown that people who do cardiac rehab live longer, have fewer heart attacks, and need repeat hospitalization less frequently.

That’s why we believe that community support like the YMCA Healthy Hearts program is crucial to recovery. It’s not just about learning how to exercise, it’s about learning how to eat well, learning how to stop smoking, controlling your stress factors, and ultimately, improving your quality of life.

Is YMCA Healthy Hearts Right for You?

The YMCA Healthy Hearts program offers a customized plan to help individuals regain their strength, prevent their condition from worsening and reduce the risk of future heart problems. Once the participant completes the Healthy Hearts program, they are transitioned to a YMCA Wellness Coach, who will continue with their existing program and work on improving all fitness levels.

Health isn’t just an individual thing, or limited to physical fitness. It’s about the holistic, positive development of people on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It’s about the connections between each person, family and community, over time. As a longtime leader in healthy living and prevention, we are so pleased to provide this community based program to embrace healthier lifestyles.

Together, we can have a greater impact on addressing preventative care and a better quality of life.

Learn More About YMCA Healthy Hearts

For more information about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Healthy Hearts Program, please contact the YMCA Healthy Hearts team at 705-726-6421 ext. 231 or healthyheartsteam@ymca.ca.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Here are some tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation to help you get physically active:

  • Try to make physical activity a part of every day. Walk to work, take a physical activity break at lunch time, or go for an after-dinner stroll. That way it’s easy and fun, not a time crunch.
  • If you’re just starting out, go slow and work up gradually. Make sure you have an action plan for each season, so that the weather doesn’t get in the way. Work physical activity into your daily life.
  • List the activities you like (swimming, bowling, biking) and the rewards you hope to gain (better heart health, reduced stress). Then plan how to make them part of your daily routine. At work, carve out 10 minutes to walk during lunch. If you have children, ask your family, friends or neighbours to pitch in to watch the kids while you take that fitness class you’ve always wanted to sign up for.
  • Involve family and friends in your physical activity program. You’ll gain support and companionship. You don’t need to do it alone!
  • Keep at it, and within three months or less, you’ll notice a big difference in your fitness level. You’ll feel better, have more energy, sleep more soundly and reduce your stress.

Looking Forward to an Exciting 2016

January 22nd, 2016 by Rob Armstrong

YMCA CEO Rob Armstrong.

January is almost over, and 2016 is in full swing. Looking back at 2015, we have come a long way in building healthy communities. It’s exciting to see the impact we continue to make through all of our programs and services. Looking forward to 2016, I know we will continue to open doors, inspire youth, and strengthen our association.

June 2015 marked the end of year three in our five year strategic plan. We are now over half way through our plan that focuses on three key elements:

  1. My Y Opens Doors by creating more opportunities for children, youth and families to learn, lead, work and play
  2. My Y Inspires Youth by engaging youth and young adults to feel a sense of belonging and community leadership
  3. My Y is Strong by investment in people, programs and places to impact community health

By following these goals over the past three years, we’ve made major headway in helping to make Simcoe, Muskoka and Parry Sound a better and healthier place to live.

Here are some highlights from 2015:

Facility Development

The opening of a new kitchen and renovated dining hall at Camp Kitchi marks the last piece of a renewal and refurbishing strategy that ensures our camp facilities are updated and in “as new” condition as possible. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the camp! A group of volunteers are working hard to raise a $1 million endowment to help secure the future needs of the camp.

Leadership

The fall of 2015 saw our Y take another step in our vision of establishing Geneva Park as a major leadership and learning centre for Central Ontario. With our partner, Lakehead University, we offered a second session of our Professional Development Certificate Program for the not-for profit sector. We believe that continuous professional development is essential to building a strong not-for-profit sector and ensuring that leaders in Simcoe County are provided with programs and services of the highest quality.

Child Protection

Since early 2013, Child Protection Protocols have been a major emphasis of all YMCA’s across Canada. Through strong local leadership, our association worked exceedingly hard to achieve a 97% compliance score on Child Protection in 2015. This is truly an association wide accomplishment and something we are all very proud of.

The Future of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

Our future is bright and our opportunities are endless. Throughout 2016, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka will continue to work hard to lead our community as experts in health, fitness and youth development. Please join me as we look ahead to a new year filled with exciting, new opportunities.

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s Year in Review

December 17th, 2015 by Rob Armstrong

YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka CEO Rob Armstrong.YMCA supporters from across Simcoe County, Muskoka and Parry Sound came together to celebrate the YMCA and raise vital funds at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s inaugural Spotlight Gala: Illuminating The Potential of Youth, on November 20th at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie. Through the generosity of the 140 guests in attendance, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka surpassed the fundraising goal for the evening to help support youth in our communities and highlight the resiliency that burns bright in youth overcoming barriers.

Reaching the YMCA’s Ultimate Goal… Together

The YMCA’s ultimate goal is to empower children and youth to develop the skills and support needed to become contributing members in our community. Through the YMCA financial assistance, the YMCA remains accessible to all. Last year, with the help of our donors and supporters, here’s what we accomplished together:

  • $1.2 million in YMCA financial assistance enabled 6,705 individuals and families to benefit from YMCA activities
  • $162,980 raised through YMCA fundraising sent 378 kids to camp
  • $156,064 in donations supported families with kids in YMCA Child Care
  • Helped youth launch 62 small businesses in Simcoe/Muskoka and helped 60 youth gain meaningful employment in Barrie and Orillia
  • YMCA Youth Justice Program served approximately 150 youth who were on probation, helping to decrease the likelihood of re-offense
  • Helped high school students in Simcoe County receive 245 high school credits through the YMCA aquatics and camp leadership programs
  • With 6.9% of youth between the ages of 18-24 in Ontario having a gambling problem (twice the amount among adults), the YMCA Youth Gambling Awareness Program provided gambling education and prevention to over 1000 youth

We are overwhelmed with the generosity of our Board, our gala sponsors and everyone who attended the Spotlight Gala. The YMCA is so much more than just a place to work out. Y programs are transforming lives of so many youth in our communities and the support of this event will enable the Y to continue to be a place where youth can learn valuable life and leadership skills, get the chance to meet new friends, build confidence and make memories that last a lifetime.

On behalf of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, I want to sincerely thank you for your continued support and send you best wishes for a safe holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year!

What does Peace Week Mean to Me?

November 6th, 2015 by Rob Armstrong

YMCA CEO Rob Armstrong talks about Peace Week at the Y

I have always regarded November as a month of reflection and gratitude. The sight of poppies and wreaths serve as a reminder of the brave men and women who have fought for peace and freedom.

YMCA Peace Week

The month of November also plays host to a nationwide YMCA initiative called Peace Week. This is a time when we can celebrate the presence of peace in our local and global communities. Peace Week offers activities and opportunities for people of all ages to explore peace from personal, community and global perspectives.

Peace means more than the absence of violence and conflict. Peace is an ongoing process of building fairness, equality, security and respect for diversity. Simple actions like sharing, being patient or smiling and saying hello can have a far greater impact than we think.

Peace Week at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

This year, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka celebrates Peace Week from November 14-21. As an advocate for peace, I invite everyone to be part of the conversation. Share something you do to foster peace in your home, school, workplace or community. Take a moment for yourself and join Yoga for Peace. Record your Acts of Peace on a leaf and help build the Peace Trees that will be present in all of our centres. You can view schedules and events taking place during Peace Week on our website.

What kinds of actions create PEACE?

P   Participation: getting involved and encouraging others to get involved in community-building activities
E   Empathy:  listening and understanding diverse perspectives to create a sense of belonging for all
A   Advocacy:  making the case for positive change in the community
C   Community:  building and strengthening community connections and capacity
E   Empowerment:  inspiring others to foster peace and helping them gain the skills and tools to succeed

Acts for peace tend to grow outward, creating ripples through the whole community.  An act for peace may affect only one person directly—but it may show many more people what is possible. Peacemakers challenge and inspire others to pursue acts for peace.

Building Peace in the Community

How can you “act for peace” daily? There are many ways that everyone can participate in peace-building:

  • Speak up when you or someone else is being mistreated
  • Get to know your neighbours and fellow community members
  • Stop when you see a demonstration, rally or walk. Ask a participant about the cause
  • Have a talent or skill? Donate it to a person, organization or cause
  • Find out when your municipality is holding community meetings and consultations and participate
  • Participate in peace-building activities at your local YMCA and in your community
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share your thoughts about peace building

Visit our website for more information about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka and Peace Week.

Engaging Our Communities

September 29th, 2015 by Rob Armstrong

More than a health and fitness centre, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka prides itself on developing a unique ‘Centre of Community.’

As a cornerstone of health in the community, we intend to continue to focus on engaging our community by working collaboratively with individuals, community groups and organizations to achieve mutually agreed goals that build capacity, improve wellbeing, and produce sustainable outcomes.

As always, our YMCA will continue to serve the whole community and welcome people of all ages. We believe that young people involved with the YMCA benefit not just from our programs and services, but from belonging to a community in which people of all ages participate, connect and find opportunities to grow.

YMCA Annual General Meeting

At this year’s Annual General Meeting, our keynote speaker, Paul Born, will touch on exactly that – how to deepen our community.

Paul Born is the cofounder and President of Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement, and a global leader on issues of place, collective impact, and community innovation. The author of four books, including two Canadian best sellers, Born is internationally recognized for his community-building activities that have won awards from the United Nations and as a senior fellow of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social innovators.

Paul Born Speaks About How Community Shapes Our Identity

A master storyteller, Paul Born will take this opportunity to speak about how community shapes our identity, quenches our thirst for belonging, and bolsters our physical, mental, emotional, and economic health. He will touch upon how the chaos of modern life can lead to the unraveling of communities, leaving many feeling afraid or alone in the crowd.

He will describe the four pillars of deep community and the tools needed to find joy together:

  • Sharing our stories
  • Taking the time to enjoy one another
  • Taking care of one another
  • Working together for a better world

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Continues To Build Strong Communities

It’s up to us to create and cultivate strong communities. At the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, we will continue to work hard to develop an organizational culture that understands and serves our communities. We will strive to make our YMCA leaders more visible and accessible within all of the diverse segments of the communities we serve. We will work hard to connect, adapt, communicate and grow our culture to build strong communities.

Please visit one of our health and fitness centres for more information about our Annual General Meeting being held in Barrie on October 21st.  

For more information about Paul Born, please visit www.paulborn.ca.

Recently, I had the privilege to read to the kids who attend our Child Care Program at the Barrie YMCA. It was an opportunity to experience the many things the Y does to provide early learning opportunities for our youngest members.Rob Armtrong Reading to Child Care

Collectively, YMCAs across Canada are the largest provider of child care in the country, dedicated to developing and operating the highest standard in children’s programming – and the YMCAs of Simcoe/Muskoka are no exception. With over 80 licensed Child Care facilities across our region, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka provides exceptional programs focused on children between the ages of birth and twelve years of age.

YMCA Playing To Learn Curriculum Lays Foundation For Future And Ongoing Achievement And Success

Through our nationally recognized YMCA Playing to Learn curriculum, the Y addresses the holistic development of young children by supporting brain development, early literacy, healthy habits development and strong parenting skills. Just as importantly, it lays a foundation for future and ongoing achievement and success.

We also integrate early learning techniques into other Y programs, such as our drop-in-child care service for members who are participating in programs and activities. Through this outreach, we’re able to meet the needs of families to include fun physical activity, positive relationships and enriching programs.

Learn More About YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s Commitment To Their Youngest Members

Our commitment to our youngest Y members stands firm in their preparation for future success.

As we start thinking ahead to the next school year, many parents ask us about the types of child care and curriculum the Y provides. We want to help answer some of your questions and make your search a little easier. For more information about YMCA Child Care curriculum and locations, please click here.

Summer Day Camp Programs for Kids

To many people, summer camp for kids might appear like nothing more than fun and games.

However, a study conducted in the past few years by the University of Waterloo supports what camp directors have been saying for decades – camp is a setting for positive youth development where invaluable life skills are acquired and nurtured.

“The major changes in campers’ growth speak tremendously of the summer camp experience,” says Troy Glover, the director of the University of Waterloo’s Healthy Communities Research Network.

Canadian Summer Camp Research Project Results

Glover spearheaded the Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, the first-ever nationwide and international research and evaluation project of its kind. Conducted in the summer of 2010, the study tracked 1,288 campers, aged three to 18, from 16 overnight and day camps across Canada.

The research stage was divided into two parts: one-on-one interviews with camp directors to gather anecdotal evidence, followed by camper surveys to measure behaviours, attitudes and values.

The results demonstrated that for “bubble-wrapped” youth who have been over-programmed and overprotected, camp provides a safe environment to freely learn, grow and develop their capabilities.

Summer camp, according to the study, fosters emotional intelligence (or EQ), self-confidence, independence, healthy living, environmental awareness, leadership and other skills that prove beneficial long into adulthood.

Life Skills Fostered At Summer Camp

Youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences in their lives to help them grow into healthy adolescents and adults. Here are five critical life skills that are fostered at summer camp:

  • How to Get Along With Others – Talk to any camp alumni and you’ll likely hear how some of their most meaningful friendships and lessons on how to get along with others came from camp.
  • How to Overcome Challenges – According to the recent ParticipACTION Report Card and Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, over-supervising kids or keeping them indoors to ensure they are safe limits their opportunities for physical activity, endangering their long-term health – read more here. Camp provides a safe environment, allowing children to freely learn how to overcome challenges and develop and grow their capabilities.
  • How to Get Fit – A recent Statistics Canada study found that only seven percent of youth aged six to 19 got the recommended hour a day of exercise they need. YMCA Canada released a study in May, 2015, reporting that 85 percent of parents say it takes effort to be a healthy role model for their kids. The survey also revealed that parents are more likely to cite outside influences as excellent role models for their child. Summer camp is a great way for kids to stay active all summer and ensure they are surrounded with great role models and supportive friends.
  • How to Love the Earth – According to Richard Louv, children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity. We know that when children are connected with their environment, they are healthier and happier. They also learn how to independently and cooperatively deal with whatever adversity they face through the year, be it a rain storm, winter winds, adversity in life, or disagreements with others.
  • How to Lead – When it comes to developing strong leaders, camp provides both implicit and explicit training including morals, ethics, problem solving, teamwork, and life skills.

So while our conveniences make life easier in so many ways, there are experiences missing that provide growth, strengthening of values, confidence, and development for times of adversity. Those experiences need to come from somewhere, and I encourage my own children to go to camp and absorb all the life benefits they’ll find there.

Learn more about YMCA Summer Camps

To learn more about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka summer camps, please click here.

Join Us for Healthy Kids Day on June 7th

June 1st, 2015 by Rob Armstrong

What does it take to raise a healthy child?

We know that children who start out strong, stay strong. The adults in their lives are committed, informed and connected. Their homes are nurturing and safe. Their parents, teachers and neighbours work together to ensure access to services, programs and experiences needed for optimal development from infancy to adulthood.

Parents as healthy examples for their children

On May 28, the YMCA released the 2015 YMCA Healthy Kids Report which unveiled that parents are finding it difficult to set a healthy example for their children with 85 percent stating that it takes effort to be a healthy role model. Nationally, 35 percent of parents do not think their 6-12 year old is getting enough physical activity per week.

To encourage families to get out and be active, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka will join YMCAs across Canada in celebrating YMCA Healthy Kids Day on June 7 – a national day dedicated to improving the health and well-being of kids across the country.

The study revealed that parents feel they are the most important influence on their young children; however only a few identify themselves as healthy role models:

  • 71% of parents who said they were a role model to their child state that they have a lot of influence on their child
  • Only 28% of parents who said they were a role model to their child identify themselves as ‘excellent’ role models for their children, ranking outside influences as higher including athletes (56%), coaches (51%) and teachers (38%)
  • Parents said that they find it difficult to lead healthy and active lives, with only half of those surveyed stating that they get more than the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise per week
  • Only four in ten parents across Canada (42%) say their child gets the recommended 7 hours of physical activity per week
  • 46% of parents cite lack of time as the biggest barrier to participating in activities with their children
  • In discussing peak activity levels for their child, 30% of parents said their child was most active at school or after school, 23% said during the summer and only 17% said weekends

The theme of this report focused on children aged 6-12 and the importance of role models in promoting their healthy development and activity levels. Additional findings from the report found that while parents know where to find programs and services that promote active and healthy living, 54 percent do not have the time or money to access them.

YMCA supports families raising healthy children

The YMCA gives children, no matter what their financial situation, the support and opportunity they need throughout the year to learn, play and grow in a safe and supportive environment.

YMCAs are important partners of families in raising healthy kids. As a leader in the development of children, the YMCA is committed to continually assessing the needs of families in our communities to understand how to serve them best.

Collectively, YMCAs in Canada serve more than 2 million people including 574,100 children and 239,500 youth up to the age of 17, in more than 1,000 communities across the province. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to grow and flourish in spirit, mind and body. And more than that, we believe that with the right support and opportunities, everyone can.

Celebrate YMCA Healthy Kids Day with us

We hope you’ll join us on June 7 when we celebrate YMCA Healthy Kids Day across Simcoe/Muskoka.

For complete schedules of what’s happening in each community, please visit click here.