Competition is for All Ages

Gold Medal Winners

Former Redwood City Mayor Georgi LaBerge, and her husband, Warren Dale, pastor at the Woodside Road United Methodist Church, share a deep love for one another and for Redwood City. They’re the perfect pair who constantly give. They give to one another and they have a long, rich history of giving back to Redwood City, the community they love and have called home for many years.

Georgi and Warren have been members at Sequoia YMCA for over 10 years. They have both been active in our EnhanceFitness class for the last year and a half. Georgi also leads the weekly power walking group on Tuesday mornings. Last month they both participated in the Huntsman World Senior Games bringing home gold medals! Georgi received gold medals in power walking in the 3K and 5K race and a silver medal in the 1500 meter race in the 80 – 84 age category. Warren received a gold medal in volleyball in the 76 and over age category and silver in the 73 and over volleyball competition. Both give credit to EnhanceFitness.

At the senior games they have health screenings for all the athletes, this year the screenings showed that Georgi’s balance was much improved. She gives credit to the class for this improvement and wants to continue to work on it this year. She plans to continue EnhanceFitness to help with her balance and overall fitness. “One of the greatest benefits of the exercises in the class is that it helps with all parts of the body including wrists ankles, neck – many of the areas you don’t think about. It really helps to loosen and strengthen all parts of my body.”

Warren describes volleyball as a sport where you are constantly moving and reacting to where the ball is, so you never know what muscles you will be using. It requires great eye-hand coordination. The class has helped him tone and strengthen almost all the muscles in the body. He has found himself able to react to the ball and set up for offensive and defensive positions. “The class also helps me maintain my defensive and offensive ‘squats’. You have to be low – the lower you can go, the better you can make the play and move the ball to the proper place, or cover someone else’s strategic move.”

For Warren he has been able to take some of the stretches and make use of them during the week of the games and particularly at tournament play. In addition, the chair exercises help him stay loose when he is helping courtside as umpire for the other volleyball games.

Power Walking

Impressed? Come join Georgi and learn power walking on Tuesdays at 8:00 at Woodside High track, or join them on Mondays and Wednesday at EnhanceFitness at 7:45 a.m. here at Sequoia Y. If you see them in the halls, say congrats on their medals at the Huntsman Games.

“A safe environment to grow.” – Summer Learning Program

Ava’s Story, Del Roble Elementary

“The South Valley Family YMCA Summer Learning Program at Del Roble Elementary was a godsend to our family. Our daughter Ava enjoyed every minute. I have never seen a child so happy to be attending a program during her summer vacation,” the Lopez family marveled. “She had nothing but great things to say about her leaders and teacher.”

Del Roble Elementary, Summer Learning Program

Del Roble Elementary, Summer Learning Program

At the Y, we know that the greatest academic losses can be seen during the summer months, when numerous children – particularly those from low-income families – lack access to regular educational activities. Studies confirm that locally, almost half of all children are currently performing below grade level, and with each year that passes, these struggling students are more likely to fall even further behind their peers.

Ava had the chance to use educational apps and programs like Lexia, Dreambox, and Raz-kidz with devices such as Google Chrome Books, iPads, and Apple desktops. Tools like these keep children engaged and eager to learn. Technology-based learning supports the development of 21st Century skills, which includes collaboration, critical thinking, creative development, and communication.

For the Lopez family, they immediately heard and saw the impact the program was having on Ava. “We couldn’t wait to pick up Ava every day to hear about she did.”

The stats are compelling. An evaluation conducted in 2015 found that first grade students who participated in the program gained an average of 5 months in their reading assessments and first grade students gained 3 months. Even more telling, every single participant reported that the program helped them become more excited to learn.

“We will be forever thankful for the wonderful educational and recreational opportunities the Y provides for our family. Ava has developed socially, mentally and physically since being enrolled with the Y. Her STEM/Literacy post test scores reflected this firsthand after finishing the Summer Learning Program,” says the Lopez family. “Thank you for giving our daughter a safe environment to grow and learn.”

“What an opportunity! What a gift!” – Living Strong, Living Well

Mary Ho’s Story

Mary Ho had been diagnosed with breast cancer years ago which resulted in a double mastectomy. During her two-year cancer-free check-up, her oncologist told her she would live the rest of her life with chronic pain.

The oncologist was talking about Mary’s neuropathy (nerve damage due to chemotherapy) and her increased pains from her arthritis and fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain and fatigue). As Mary and her husband John left the office, the oncologist handed them a Living Strong, Living Well (LSLW) pamphlet. When she got home, she fell into an emotional black hole.

John looked into LSLW, the free 12-week strength and fitness program sponsored by The Stanford Health Improvement Program and the YMCA. He encouraged Mary to attend. John had been with Mary through all the appointments and treatments. He took two years off to fully care and look after her. John kept her going. “I’ve never had to worry about a thing,” Mary remarked. LSLW understands how important the support person is and includes them in the program.

Mary on aTreadmill

Mary on aTreadmill, LSLW Program

Mary had never been to a gym in her life. She’d never even been on a treadmill. She hadn’t worn a swim suit since she was in her thirties and she was going to be 70 next March! “But,” Mary said, “I knew I needed to do this program. What an opportunity! What a gift!”

Mary and John have six grandchildren, ranging from ages one to sixteen. Mary mentioned she wanted to participate in the program not only for herself, but for them as well. She felt as if it were her last chance to make a difference in her life. “I figured I might not get rid of the pain, but I could get stronger. Just learning about this program made me feel heard. It seemed to me that someone out there was listening and understood the damage chemo ravaged on the body and mind. I was so excited to get the program’s acceptance call. I committed right away.”

During the first class Mary was very nervous, especially since she wasn’t expecting so many other participants there. However, Mary mentioned that the staff—Sherry, Leanne, and Martha—made everyone feel at ease with plenty of encouragement and smiles.

Mary doesn’t remember exactly what reason she gave for being there, except for the fact she needed to get stronger. “I was so weak and in so much pain my husband had to help me walk in and sit,” she recalled.

Each class started in “The Wellness Center” where participants learned all about the strengthening machines that would help them achieve their goals. Mary first started on a treadmill at the .5 speed setting for five minutes and didn’t fly off as she always thought she would! The participants ended that first session and each continuing session with balancing and stretching exercises. Mary didn’t realize how much she needed that—even her husband John improved!

What continued to bring the pair back to each session was meeting people who had gone through similar experiences. Each had their own story of how chemo affected them and those around them, and everyone was willing to share. Making friends and realizing that they weren’t alone was the best part for Mary.

By the end of the program Mary could get up from a chair on her own and walk on her own. She now walks for 20 minutes at 1.6 speed on the treadmill.

“I now have hope. I have goals: I want to address unwanted weight changes, get up off the floor on my own, and work up the nerve to try the pool. I know these accomplishments will come as we continue with the Y. We can do this because of the generosity of donors to the Y. I won’t quit. I want to keep going.”

Meet Seema – a devoted member, volunteer and staff

“When I started my career at the Y back in January 2010, I had no idea at all what was in store for me.  But I can safely say that the last 7 years as a group exercise instructor have been simply wonderful.

I have always been an avid exerciser for as far back as I can remember.  I immigrated to the US in 2001, joined the Northwest Y right away and have been connected with the Y ever since.

Back then as a member, I enjoyed all the wonderful and various classes that were offered to us.  It was during this time, that I met Eda Butts, a group exercise instructor.  Eda would occasionally ask a few of the members to “lead” class for up to 2 minutes, and that’s when I realized I really enjoyed telling people what to do (my husband can also attest to this!) . Upon Eda’s encouragement and support, back in November 2009, I decided to embark on a career in the fitness industry, and it’s been a roller coaster ride.  It felt so right to do what I love, and also to get paid for it.

Once certified as a cycling instructor, I got a break and began to apply what I had learned in training when in January 2010 a cycling class became available for me to teach, and a few months later, another class.  Under the new leadership of Lida Xhindi, I was offered a boot camp class that I continue to teach even today.

The Y means so much to me.  It has given me a structure.  It has given me a routine.  It has given me a place I feel safe and secure.  It has been a place where I have been able to grow and develop a side of me that even I didn’t know it existed.  The Y has introduced me to a diverse group people, some whom I can now call friends.  My daily interaction at the Y will range from people with similar outlooks and also to those who are completely different.  I interact with people of all ages and abilities and for that I am so thankful and grateful. Being an instructor at the Y has allowed me to tap into my potential and to be what I am today: happy, confident and secure in the knowledge that in my small ways, I do make a difference in people’s lives.

Being at the Y has allowed me to tap into a group of people who were “exercise contemplators”. These are the people who liked the idea of exercising, but were unsure how to start.  And that is when I stepped in.  I was able to gain the trust and confidence of many of my current members, and gently introduced them to the idea of exercise in general and to attending group classes more specifically.  I still make it a point to get to know all my class attendees, listen to their stories, and engage with them at the Y and outside the Y. I also encourage members to get to know each other and within the greater community of the Y, we have created a smaller and more intimate community in my classes.  Over the years, I have had several people come up to tell me how exercise has helped them clear their mind, get off blood pressure medication, have their diabetes under control, and generally, how they feel fitter, stronger and leaner.  Now that in its own is the best validation anyone can get. It truly is very rewarding and satisfying to know that this was made possible, in some part, by their trust in me.

Bringing people together is also an import part of being at the Y, in particular, when we host the annual celebration of the festival of Diwali.  The last 5 years, the Y has very generously donated funds to this event, and the result is a table heavily laden with delicious foods, for all the members to share. The feast goes on all day during which time we provide light entertainment for the members, with some of the members being a part of this entertainment; looking forward to this year’s celebration on Tuesday, October 10 from 9am – 5pm.

Being as diverse as we are here at the Northwest Y , I have lots of folks from different cultures helping me run this all day long event, and some even come dressed up in the proper attire.  So, when it comes to the Lunar New Year celebration, I too do the same to honor this holiday. What fun that is! 🙂

Most recently, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate how to cook Indian food in the kitchen at the Y. This was an event for staff only, but maybe going forwards, we can open this up to members.

So, as you can see, being an instructor at the Y has many layers to it.  I have loved every minute of teaching here, being offered the opportunity to help people make better life choices, and also to give back to my community with celebrating various cultures such as with Diwali, Lunar New Year and the Indian cooking event.

Thank you to all for your continued support, trust and love.

Yours Sincerely,

Seema Bhardwaj”

YMCA Camp – Forming Tomorrow’s Leaders

Jordan Sanchez, Sequoia YMCA Staff

Jordan Sanchez, 17, is a Leader’s Aide at Sequoia YMCA Summer Camp program where he helps implement games and activities for the campers in a small group setting. In addition, he is responsible for the general safety and development, growth and skill achievement for the campers in his group. Jordan grew up in the Palm Park area of Redwood City attending Hawes Elementary School and McKinley Middle School. He currently is getting ready to start his junior year of high school at Summit. Jordan has been a part of the Y family since he attended our SPLASH Safety Around Water program when he was in grade school. Through this community program, his mother signed him and his sisters up for swim lessons. Jordan loved swim lessons and still talks about the influence CJ, Angelica and Alfonzo had on him. When summer came around, he begged his family to sign him up for summer camp. When he was in the 6th Grade, his parents enrolled him in Explorer Camp. His sisters attended High Five and Discovery Camp. His camp leader, Jesus Rivas (Jesse) was his role model. “Jesse was really cool, he put himself in our shoes, understood our point of view and made me want to be like him.”

Jordan returned to the Y this summer putting the leadership skills he learned in Leaders in Training to the test. He is placed with younger campers to help assist the directors, lead games, lead arts and crafts and sing camp songs. Jesse Rivas recommended him for this position. He’s working with our High Five Camp and says ‘”working with 5 year olds can be a little stressful. It’s the first time some have been away outside their home.” This 17 year old really likes working at the Y because the Y had such a positive impact on his life growing up. “Jesse was my leader and Matt was his assistant. Both are really good people who treated me well.” He and friend Tyler, who he met at Y Summer Camp came back together to work this summer. His future plans include returning to work at the Y when he graduates from high school and becoming an ‘actual leader’, “Ahorrar su salario para ir a la universidad” (saving his salary to go to university).

Y programs – creating tomorrow’s leaders.

Small Town Community in the Heart of Tech Land

How could you resist this smile?

While Stacy Olson’s Y story starts with her learning to swim at Sequoia YMCA as a child, it certainly doesn’t end there. Stacy started working at the Y as a Swim Instructor and Lifeguard when she was a teenager and made the Y a career upon graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2006 when she became the Aquatics Director. She valued all that the Y taught her and how it provided financial support for those who might otherwise not been able to afford opportunities available through Y programs. She still cherishes the memories of the children who learned to swim through swim lessons and the SPLASH program and takes pride in knowing the Y offers lifesaving skills to everyone. You could see what a role model she was when the kids in her swim lessons dressed up as Stacy for Halloween.

Later, Stacy decided to pursue her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. While in school earning her Master’s degree from USC, Stacy continued working for the Y as a Youth Sports Instructor and Summer Camp Director. When she started teaching full time, she decided to shift from working at the Y to volunteering so she could remain a part of the community and give back some of what the Y gave to her. Seven years later, she can still be seen in the pool filling in as a swim instructor and a water aerobics instructor.

Stacy and family

When asked why she chooses to volunteer for the Y, Stacy said: “I love that the Y represents all of Redwood City. At any given time, there are people from a vast array of cultural, socioeconomic, and political backgrounds gathered together in one space, one community. The Y has provided a social group for my octogenarian grandmother with whom she exercises in the morning. These women are willing to provide her with transportation, call to check on her when they see she has missed a few days, and offer a lovely friendship. Likewise, the Y also provides me with a place to exercise and see old friends, and for my kids to be exposed a diverse group of kind, welcoming people. Plus, the Y has a small town community feel in the heart of tech land and is just a fun place to be!” If you see Stacy at Sequoia YMCA, her husband Jerome, or their two kids, Charlotte and Ryan, be sure to say hello and share your Y story.

My daughter is safe at the Y

When it was time for Camila to start Kindergarten, Yanira was in need for after school care for her daughter. After researching  every available option in Cupertino she found herself in despair. There was nothing available that she could afford, and none of the options was open long enough to cover her work hours.

Yanira called the Cupertino School District and asked them for advice. “What do I do, I can’t bring my daughter with me to work, and the services provided in our community doesn’t fit my needs and budget. The advice I got from the school district was to call the YMCA, they told me they’d be my best option.”

Life as a single mother can be very challenging. After a difficult divorce, Yanira was left with almost nothing. She was lucky that she could move in with the family she currently worked for. They provided Yanira and Camila with a roof over their heads, and a car for Yanira to use so she could drive to work and take Camila to school. “With no family in the area, they became our new family. Camila relates to the children in the family as her siblings, and she loves their grandmother as if she was her own.”

“I suffer from Fibromyalgia. I think it is stress that makes it worse. But I’m hopeful and I count my blessings. The Y is definitely one of them. Thanks to their scholarship I can afford to have Camila in a safe and caring environment every day after school. The summers are filled with fun summer camps and I am amazed how much Camila has developed during her time with the Y. I remember the first year Camila went to camp. She didn’t know how to swim, she didn’t know how to swing on the monkey bars and she came home sad and frustrated during the first week of camp.

Now, two years later, I have a confident swimmer, I watch her swing on the monkey bars on the playground, and every day I am amazed by how much she has developed. I took her to Santa Cruz board walk last summer. When I brought her to the rides for the youngest children she looked at me and started laughing… ‘Mom, I do the big rides now! Take me to the roller coaster!’ My little girl has grown so much and developed into a confident 2nd grader that loves life. For that I am so thankful. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who donates to the YMCA, it makes a big difference in my life. I hope my story can inspire others in need to seek help and assistance from the Y. You’ll be glad you did!”

Northwest Y
By: Ursula H

Meet Chuck – the luckiest guy at Northwest Y!

Not only does Chuck have the joy of working out with his wife, Jean, every week; oftentimes, he’s the only gentleman in the Aqua Arthritis class. “It would be great if the ladies would bring their husbands or boyfriends once in a while…” says Chuck. “Other than that, my life at the Y is pretty much perfect!”

Chuck was already a Y-member when he was injured in a car accident. After spending 3 months in the hospital, 3 months in rehab, and another 3 months in assisted living, Chuck knew the Y would be a great place for him to gain his strength back after a difficult year. He started out with the Aqua Arthritis class, and a few months later, felt strong enough to add in Personal Training.

“I value the Y, and especially the social aspect of it. It’s always great to see groups of people talking over coffee before and after Y-classes. After personal training class, I enjoy having coffee and speaking with friends who walk by after sessions in the pool. “The best part with Northwest Y is that this Y is small enough to maintain a social atmosphere. I don’t want to belong to a big gym. I feel at home at the Y, because the people I meet here are just like me. I like that when I come to the Y, I’m not the only person who’s 50+. “

Is there anything you’d like to share with our members? “If anything, it would be to ask other members to be considerate of people with limited mobility. We really need access to the 2 shower rooms in the pool area, and it’s difficult for us to wait a long time. Just keep in mind that we don’t have any other options, so if you can use the locker rooms instead, it would be very helpful for us!”

Pickleball – It Really is a Big Dill to Sequoia YMCA Member Chris Fromm

Goofy and Chris

Chris and Goofy before joining the Y

Late for a class, Chris Fromm was racing across campus finishing a blueberry scone. His second one of the day. As he walked into class, he caught a glimpse of himself in the window, and was not happy. Chris thought “What happened to me? I was 170 pounds, I couldn’t button my jacket, and I looked much older than my actual age of 42. I needed a change.”

Too much time on the road, too many late night dinners, and too many excuses to not exercise had taken their toll on him. For months, his wife had been begging him to do a cleanse with her. He decided he could hold out no longer. He had come to a turning point. It was now or never. The money was paid, the boxes arrived, the juice was in the refrigerator, it was go time. But Chris knew diet alone was not the answer. He had always been active, playing basketball, lifting weights, even long walks with the dogs, but somehow other things got in the way.

He was determined to get back to the gym. He joined Sequoia YMCA five months ago and has only missed a handful of days since then, and those days he was traveling. Sequoia YMCA was tailor-made for his transformation. He had been a member at a variety of gym clubs in the past and knew how intimidating and impersonal a gym could be; especially for someone who wants to hide under some baggy clothes. However, he felt immediately welcomed when he entered the Y in Redwood City. The staff were warm, friendly, and personable. The weight room was never crowded and had everything he needed. The pool temperature was perfect, and there are enough machines to meet everyone’s fitness needs.

He knew he needed cardio exercise, but didn’t enjoy standing or sitting on a machine and watching TV or listening to music. He was looking for something different. And he found it in the strangest of places.Pickleball.


Pickleball with Ralph, Spike, Neal and Chris

“Pickleball? Pickleball! At first I thought what in the world is this? Then I decided to play. Hands down, this is the most addictive game I’ve ever played. I’m not sure if it is because of the nonstop action, or the competition, or the people who play, but I find myself looking forward to, no, longing for, Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30. My first game was against Spike and Bill, whose average age is close to 75. They beat me. Bad. I love this game.”

Chris loves this gym. But it’s not so much the game, or the quality of the machines, or the size of the pool, or even the proximity to his house. It’s the people. “This is the “Cheers” of gyms. Everyone does know your name, and I know everyone’s, too. And not just the folks who work there. Yes, Diana and Janet were the “charmers” I first met who introduced me to the game, but I soon met the rest of the staff. They make it a point to know you, not just your name, but to truly know you. I recently returned from a trip and someone said, “So how was New York?” They actually remembered where I was. They care, and it shows in each new staff member they hire.”

Chris Playing Pickleball

Chris Playing Pickleball

Chris had been a member of a lot of gyms, social clubs, and groups but says without hesitation that Sequoia YMCA is the best organization he has ever been a part of. He feels at home there, and truly believes that without it, he would still be avoiding mirrors. He’s now exercising every day, working out with weights five days a week, and has maintained a healthy diet and lifestyle since joining. He has lost 30 pounds in those 150 days, and hearing people take notice of that never gets old!

“To anyone who wants to change, who wants to get active, who wants to improve their mind, body and spirit, there is no better time than now, and no better place than Sequoia YMCA.“

Chemo is not a poison, it’s a blessing.


There is a glow of love, compassion and happiness when you see Gulshan greet members in the lobby at Northwest YMCA. She’s not only a Member Associate at the Y, she is also a cancer survivor… with a lot to be grateful for.

Gulshan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. At her annual mammogram they discovered a small tumor, and she was left with the choice of doing a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. Her lymph nodes were not affected and chemo therapy was optional.

“Don’t be afraid to change your oncologist. I was mortified that I had to make the decision to do chemo or not, and also choose between mastectomy and lumpectomy. I needed an oncologist who was assertive and who could tell me what needed to be done.”

During this difficult time, Gulshan and her husband decided to quit working and focus on her recovery. Exercise and diet became a priority and Gulshan signed up for the Living Strong Living Well™ program at the Y. A strict macrobiotic diet followed by exercise and mindfulness helped her recover. Before she knew it, she was back to work and cancer free.

The years went by and during a month long vacation in Europe, Gulshan noticed that she had a constant low fever. It didn’t worry her much but she decided to see her Doctor when she returned from her vacation. After her checkup she was told she had lung cancer. Just like that. Without any signs,  the cancer had returned. She found her self sitting in the Doctor’s office crying in the arms of her husband. This time Gulshan was convinced she was going to die.

After more tests, they discovered that she did not have lung cancer; instead she had cancer in her lungs. It was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Chemo was not an alternative this time, it was a must.

“Chemo is not a poison. Chemo is a blessing.” This was the mantra that Gulshan kept telling herself every day. She sat for 6 hours at the time during chemo, once per week for 9 long months. A positive attitude is important when you go through difficult times in life. “I am blessed to have a very supportive family; I felt their love and support every minute and it kept me alive.”

If you were to give advice to someone battling cancer, we asked Gulshan, what would that be?

– “Watch your diet. Cancer loves meat and sugar.
– Do not stress. Don’t stress over small things. Deal with the stress, and then move on.
– Exercise!
– Don’t ask God why. God will test you in life, and make you a better person.
– Life is beautiful. Be nice to everyone. No one is mean, everyone has God within them.
– And last, but not least… Pray.”