CEO Blog | YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka - Part 4

MyY For Good, Celebrating Success

November 1st, 2013 by wptest

On October 29, the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka celebrated the success of the first year of its strategic plan, MyY For Good, and celebrated youth in our communities at the Annual General Meeting.

The Annual General Meeting is an opportunity to conduct the business required by our organization’s by-laws, but also an opportunity for celebration. We celebrate for many reasons; for the successes and learning’s of the past year, for the contributions of our (volunteer) board members, and celebrating the selfless commitment of staff and volunteers. It is a celebration of the spirit that connects us all to a larger communal sense of belonging and purpose.

MyY welcomes and fosters a sense of belonging for all

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka provides a place for families to have fun together, while getting healthy in body, mind and spirit. Connections are made and nurtured, through volunteering or participating in one of our many programs. When you are in any one of our buildings – child care, health and fitness centres, employment services, you can feel the connections between generations, social groups, or individuals, regardless of economic status. These relationships and sense of connectivity are because of the community the Y creates.

MyY builds healthy communities

As we continue to work towards the goals of our strategic plan, take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments and what we have achieved.

During the 2012/2013 fiscal year:

  • The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka provided assistance of over $1.3 million to families in our communities to access our programs and services.
  • 122 students earned secondary school credits through our programs
  • Over 54,000 volunteer hours were recorded throughout our Association!

MyY keeps it’s promise and does what it believes is right

The YMCA has been quietly changing peoples’ lives for the better for so long, that sometimes it feels like our impact goes unrecognized. As an organization, we have the diversity of talent, drive, and knowledge to continue to make those positive changes happen. Let’s share our stories of success and encourage others to participate through philanthropy and volunteerism.

The following was written by Jessica Rawn, Manager, Philanthropy & Association Advancement.

I’ve been wondering how I would handle it. If my situation suddenly changed.  If my pay cheque didn’t arrive. If my car stopped rolling. If my payments piled up.  If my spouse got sick and couldn’t work. Or my child was spinning out of control. Hopeless? Overwhelmed? Would I feel alone?

Celebrating Success!

SkidsCThis year, I take pride in the fact that my community said “We want to help” and donated over $419,000 to the Annual YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, so that no one needs to feel hopeless, alone or overwhelmed if faced with a struggle. Instead, my community chose to support the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, who is committed to enabling all people to grow and reach their full potential.

The goal of this year’s Annual Strong Kids Campaign was ambitious – we wanted to raise enough to help thousands living in Simcoe County and regions of Muskoka and Parry Sound. How could that possibly be done? First, Y Staff and board members led the way and gave generously, over $50,000 of their own money. Then I saw 280 volunteers come together when they learned what we were was doing. They made their own donations, asked their friends, family and colleagues to donate too. As I close off our fiscal year I see that over 4,100 of our neighbours, friends and fellow community members gave!

Volunteer Contributions

Marty who shared his story and volunteered with the Campaign said this to me:

I was overwhelmed by the willingness and generosity of my friends when I asked them to contribute to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. I’m proud of all of them and those who share with others.

The Impact of your Donations

Marilyn shares the impact volunteers and donations have had on her family:

Thank you to the hundreds of people that believe in the Strong Kids Campaign. Together we are strengthening our community.

Kicking off Healthy Kids Day!

May 29th, 2013 by wptest

YMCA Healthy Kids Day kicks off Healthy Me Week on Sunday, June 2, 2013. This event invites all members of the community, free of charge, to each of our centres, celebrating and promoting the healthy growth and development of children and families. Our goal is to build healthy communities by enabling physical activity and encouraging children and families to be more active together.

ceo healthy kids dayAcross Canada, most children do not meet the recommended levels of daily physical activity. Almost 1 in 3 Canadian children are overweight or obese and many are not getting enough exercise to ensure prolonged good health. Only 5% of five to 17 year olds meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (i.e. over 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intense physical activity daily). The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka offers a variety of opportunities to involve children in some form of play each day and help to build healthy relationships.

My Y is focused on supporting our communities in improving overall health, especially with our youth. Events like Healthy Kids Day are designed to support parents and other family members in learning, promoting and modeling these healthy habits within our communities. The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka welcomes everyone to join us at one of our 8 health and  fitness centres for a yoga class, register your children in one of our before and after school programs, or participate in one of our many community events spread across Simcoe County and Muskoka.

Please join us on Sunday, June 2, 2013 for a day of family fun. You’ll find a full list of activities throughout the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka here: Healthy Kids Day.

YMCA Board of Directors

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka is a charitable organization “…dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind and body, and to their sense of belonging to each other and the global community.” Supporting our values of caring, honesty, inclusiveness, respect and responsibility, we are looking for committed volunteers who are wishing to serve on our Board of Directors or as Committee Members.

The YMCA is a charitable organization governed by a Board of Directors consisting of 16 individuals who represent Simcoe, districts of Parry Sound and Muskoka. With 1,000 full and part-time staff and 750 community volunteers, the YMCA annually engages over 100,000 children, youth, adults and families through a variety of programs and services.

As a volunteer board, the directors determine the vision and strategy for the organization, set policy as well as provide guidance and direction for the association’s CEO. Members of the Board of Directors are expected to share the values of the YMCA, be willing to work in a team environment, attend monthly board meetings, play an active role on a board committee and support our annual giving campaign.

Successful candidates for our Board of Directors will be presented to the membership at the association’s Annual General Meeting in November. Directors will serve a three year term. Interested candidates should submit a letter/resume outline your interest no later than May 31, 2013.

Committee members’ roles and responsibilities include in depth reviews in major areas of discussion and making appropriate recommendations to the board for approval. The board operates through 4 main committees: Governance, Finance and Audit, Philanthropy, and Global Initiatives. Applications for committee members are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Interested candidates can submit their interest to:

YMCA Nominating Committee,

Administration Office

22 Grove St. West

Barrie, ON L4N 1M7



Rob Armstrong’s My Y Story

April 15th, 2013 by wptest

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka CEO, Rob Armstrong

Our Strategic Plan, My Y for Good, is dependent on its three strategic directions as pillars for success. My Y Opens Doors, My Y Inspires Youth, and My Y is Strong are the foundation for excellence within the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka over the next five years.

The impact My Y has had on my life can be shared with my story:

As a YMCA staff person for almost 33 years you can imagine that the YMCA is something I am very passionate about. Many people think I must have grown up in the YMCA. However, I did not really get exposed to the YMCA until I was hired for a part-time job in the late 70′s. From that point on, I began to realize that the YMCA is not just a job but a way of life that I believe in and am very passionate about. No other organization has the ability to bring such a diverse array of people together under one roof. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, the YMCA welcomes you. It provides a sense of community and place that I think we all need. To me this is very powerful and makes the YMCA, MyY every day.

Many people have shared their YMCA stories at They are all unique and born from different experiences. However, all of the stories involve someone opening a door, inspiring them or helping make our YMCA a stronger more relevant organization.

I welcome you to share your story by visiting You can also find a Y story that inspires you and share it with family and friends.

Our employment opportunities are open for anyone to apply and we do not discriminate in any way during the recruitment or selection process.  We hire the applicants who are the best qualified for the role. In general, applicants must be legally entitled to work in Canada for any employer – i.e. Canadian Citizens or Landed Immigrants with work authorization. It is only in extreme situations when we will recruit outside of Canada, and that is only when we can’t find a suitable applicant within Canada.

A Message from our CEO, Rob Armstrong

April 8th, 2013 by wptest

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka CEO, Rob ArmstrongSince unveiling the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Strategic Plan last year, we have been hard at work laying the foundation for the next few years. Most importantly, we have been working towards achieving all of our promises.

YMCA’s dedication to the youth of Simcoe County and Muskoka

Youth are a very important piece to the puzzle in the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. It is our goal to enable youth to have promising futures by opening our doors and providing access to youth programs and resources within the YMCA. By creating new initiatives and programs that allow their personal growth, we are influencing success individually and within the local school boards.

Keeping the spirit of Camp Kitchi alive

YMCA Camp Kitchikewana, located on Beausoleil Island, has been a gem in the area for over 90 years. It has been a place to create memories and grow in mind, body and spirit. Camp “Kitchi” will continue to provide all the great activities and skills that campers look forward to and for the second year in a row will be giving our leadership youth a chance to participant in yet another unique opportunity. Over 120 youth will earn a provincially-recognized high school credit through their leadership experience at YMCA Camp Kitchikewana. This program is delivered by YMCA staff in partnership with Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board teachers, and through this partnership youth will earn Grade 11 Healthy Living and Peer Leadership credits. These participants will earn an advanced waterfront certification or First Aid/CPR certificate.

Geneva Park partners with SCDSB & District of Muskoka

New this year, through a similar partnership with the Simcoe County District School Board and District of Muskoka, another 40 youth will have a similar opportunity at YMCA Geneva Park. If you have never joined us at Geneva Park, it’s a must see in the area. It’s located on over 150 acres and touts three kilometres of shoreline on Lake Couchiching just outside of Orillia.

Helping youth acquire high school credits in Simcoe and Muskoka

Our newest initiative in this area began this winter and allows youth to acquire a high school credit while working on their advanced aquatic certification. Fifteen youth have the opportunity to become a leader around the water by taking one of the many Lifesaving Society offerings at the Midland YMCA. This program not only allows students to earn credits towards graduation, but also to continue to be part of our YMCA family as a swim instructor and lifeguard.

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Youth Leadership Program

Over the next year we anticipate that over 200 youth will acquire high school credits through these initiatives, which are recognized throughout the Province of Ontario. It is our goal to inspire youth with a sense of belonging now and in the future as they grow into active and engaged members of our communities.  We are so pleased to be able to provide these programs through partnership with our local school boards. Working together provides us all with more opportunity to grow and prosper.

Want to know more about our youth initiatives? Leave a comment below and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The following blog post is part two in a series written by Fiona Cascagnette, Vice President of Child Development and Family Support Programs at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka.

Late in 2012 we shared the exciting CATCH program with you and news about the tremendous impact it is having within our Simcoe/Muskoka communities.YMCA March Break Camp 2012

CATCH: A ‘Coordinated Approach to Child Health’, brings families, schools and communities together to ensure that children are growing up in a healthy, active environment.

One of the integral components of the CATCH program is nutrition.  With childhood obesity, diabetes and many more healthy conditions reaching epidemic proportions within North America, the YMCA is committed to helping support families and young people make more positive choices for their health and overall well-being.  The CATCH program helps us fulfill this commitment.

The Canadian CATCH program developed the Nutritional component of the program in accordance with the Canadian Food Guide, in turn providing a consistent and easy to follow means for both children and caregivers to make healthier choices and positive change.

How the Nutritional Component of CATCH Works

A stop light system makes it easy to know what foods to choose and which ones to avoid:

  • Green means go: eat as many or as much of these foods as you like, yum!
  • Yellow means slow: these are every now and then foods to be eaten within moderation.
  • Red means whoa: Junk food to avoid as much as possible, keep these out of the shopping cart and therefore out of the cupboards!

As with the entire CATCH program, it is based out of schools and school programs, yet all of the resources and materials are designed to be shared with families in order to educate and encourage consistency and understanding throughout all areas of a child’s life.  Parents and caregivers are a huge influence on a child’s behavior and lifestyle choices.

In order for the CATCH Nutritional component to have a really impact, it is important that the whole community gets involved.

Success of the program is currently measured by the schools.

The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka’s Vision is to be the… ‘recognized leader in lifelong health and personal growth’; as a way of bringing this vision to life, the Y is working with community to increase public awareness of the CATCH nutrition program and the Red, Yellow and Green Light model with plans for nutritional product labeling as well as more community wide initiatives in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about this program and how to get your school and/or family involved please leave a comment below.

Happy New Year and welcome to 2013!

January 11th, 2013 by wptest

This is often a busy time of year in our Health, Fitness and Recreation centres as people across the country create resolutions to ‘get in shape’, diet, and be more active. We love to see people out and involved in the MyY experience, however we often see people come in with unrealistic goals and expectations only to burn out before the end of January, feeling defeated and losing their resolve.

Paving a new path for 2013

For 2013, rather than another resolution, we encourage you to make lifestyle changes.  Resolutions are built up in such a way that we can almost guarantee failure; with unrealistic and/or unspecified targets and goals, inadequate supports in place and pressure to set a resolution even if you don’t feel committed.

Yet, if you commit to changing your life for the better, regardless of what day of the year it is, if you feel committed and ready to start living your life in a healthier, more productive manner and incorporate small, manageable changes into your daily and weekly routine, you are much more apt to succeed, by setting yourself up for success.

Let the YMCA help you reach your goals

The YMCA is a part of your healthier lifestyle, no matter where you consider yourself to be on the spectrum of health.  We are here to support you every day through health, fitness, recreation and family services, all of which aim to create healthy, active and stress free individuals, families and communities.

Every day is a new day; a new opportunity to take responsibility for your life and take charge of your health and well-being.  All of us at the YMCA look forward to seeing you and supporting you as you create a lifestyle that you and your family can feel good about!

From all of us at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, Happy New Year.

A look at the year past & future…

December 28th, 2012 by wptest

YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka CEO, Rob Armstrong

December is already upon us and what a year it has been! I am so proud of the strides we are making in building healthy communities – the opening of more child care centres in 2012, the renewal of some of our health and recreation centres and the launch of our five year strategic plan, My Y For Good, are just a few of our accomplishments. I believe our plan gives us a clear mandate and focus that will bring our new vision statement to life:

My Y inspires people to reach their full potential.

It’s now time to turn the page to 2013 – a year that I feel will be a time for discovery, as we connect the dots on many key elements.

Here are some highlights of my priorities for the year ahead:

  • A ‘Centre of Community’ for Barrie: This is the year for us to firm up our renewal strategy for the YMCA in Barrie. More than just a new Y, this initiative will result in the development of a unique “Centre of Community” that will bring a much needed and valued facility to Barrie.
  • Connecting with our natural environment: Continue to make infrastructure investments to YMCA Geneva Park, which will allow families and conference attendees to get even more out of this beautiful retreat.
  • A Focus on youth: Build upon our youth engagement initiatives and increase our understanding of their needs.
  • Building Healthy Communities: Determine a common framework strategy in support of community health – we will learn how we can have a meaningful impact on children and community health in Simcoe County, Muskoka and Parry Sound.

By the end of the year, I am confident that the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka will be further positioned as leaders and experts in community health, creating conversations in the right places, with the right people.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Y’s success and growth in 2012. I look forward to having you along for the ride in 2013.