Love Holds Life’s annual toy drive will bring holiday joy and happiness to the families who need it the most.
In 2012, Richard Senato, then a volunteer with the Red Cross, was approached by a friend with the prospect of starting a foundation. A young boy, Michael Montana, was battling leukemia at just 11 and the family was struggling financially. The proposed foundation would help raise money to fund Michael’s treatments.
“I agreed to do it,” Senato recalled, “and that’s how Love Holds Life was formed.”
Through fundraisers, motorcycle rides, golf outings charitable donations and toy drives, Love Holds Life helped raise more than $70,000 for the Montana family and has gone on to help families throughout the region at an average of $25,000 per child.”
“Our mission is to financially assist families whose children are battling cancer,” said Senato. “We want to help to relieve the financial pressure that they’re facing.”
Senato feels that Love Holds Life stands apart from other organizations due to the immediacy of the work that they perform.
“We have a powerful message and mission,” he said. “We do something that most people don’t do, which is take care of people who are battling cancer now. I’m looking to help those that are sick right now – whether it be your brother, your sister, your father or your mother.
As the holiday season approaches, Senato is looking ahead to Love Holds Life’s annual Toy Drive, which will be held on Saturday, December 15th at Lewis Tompkins Hose Company #1 in Beacon, New York. The event, which is officially titled “Cookies & Cocoa with Santa” will feature holiday treats, an array of superheroes and princesses to meet, and plenty of photo ops with Santa himself.
The drive is held each year in memory of Leticia Dos Santos, the eighth child to be sponsored by Love Holds Life, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 15. “She and I started these toy drives about five years ago,” Senato said.
Recently, Senato, in need of a little extra help, has been reaching out to Club Fit for their involvement. A long time member of the Briarcliff location, Senato said that Club Fit’s charitable and family-driven approach make them the perfect ally for Love Holds Life.
“I think they’re great,” he said. “They’re family-run and family-oriented, and they’ve got great staff members who are always smiling and happy and there to help you. I think everything that they stand for is great.”
For Club Fit members and families who are looking to help out with the toy drive, Senato said that boxes will be available at the Briarcliff location. People who wish to donate have until December 7th to bring new and unwrapped gifts ranging from board games to stuffed animals, books, sports equipment and Legos. Senato says that, however little or much each family wants to give, he can guarantee that it will be worth it.
“The kids get so happy and the parents are so grateful,” he said. “It brings people together. And the holidays aren’t just about presents, it’s about coming together. It’s about being happy and joyful. What could be better than that?”
Nancy Brophy has been a member of Club Fit since its earliest days and shows no signs of slowing down!
When Nancy Brophy first came to Club Fit back in 1973, it was a very different place than what it is today. “There were just six tennis courts and you didn’t have to be a member,” she recalled.
As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, the trend of racquetball began to grow. Brophy, always eager to take on a new challenge, decided to give it a try. “I’d never heard of it, but I like to try anything new,” she said. “So I gave it a go and I’m still playing twice a week!”
Born and raised in Peekskill, Brophy says that she always had a high energy level, most likely inherited from her mother, and has remained active well into her adult years. “I play golf, tennis, and racquetball,” she says. “And I used to ski, although I don’t do that anymore.”
When she’s not playing hard on Club Fit’s racquetball courts (where she can still be found every Tuesday and Thursday), Brophy is working just as hard as the director, owner, and founder of the Tom Thumb Preschool in Mohegan Lake. Brophy founded the school 50 years ago in 1968 when her circumstances forced her to think outside the box.
“I was teaching at Copper Beech Middle School, and I was going to have a baby,” she recalls. “And the laws at that time were when women began to show, they had to take a year off. They couldn’t teach and be pregnant.”
Not wanting to stay idle, Brophy sought out a piece of land owned by her father and decided to start a school.
“I had a year off with nothing to do,” she says with a laugh. “And here I am today!”
During her half-century teaching the children in and around Mohegan Lake, Brophy has seen the kids she once taught grow up and come back to her school to enroll their own children.
“The special part of it is that every day the children are the challenge,” she says of the joys of teaching. “I have a wonderful staff, hundreds of people who’ve worked for me over the years. My teachers and staff make possible my dreams for children come true. I’ve had a great run and I’m still there every day!”
But, she says, “I don’t let anything interfere with racquetball!”
That commitment to her twice-weekly racquetball games is part of Brophy’s philosophy of staying active and keeping oneself in shape. In fact, she is so devoted to that philosophy that she makes physical education a key component of Tom Thumb’s curriculum.
“Even with my four and five-year-olds, I’m teaching them how to hold a racquet and hit the ball against the wall,” she says. “They love to do that. I also try and teach them how to putt. We have some artificial turf where we do putting. Kids should have physical education every day. And I’m afraid for this new generation because they’re not active enough.”
Brophy’s devotion to staying fit is part of what drew her to Club Fit, but it’s not the sole reason she’s remained a member for forty-five years. “It’s a great place to be,” she says simply. “They’re accommodating, the place is immaculate, and they throw wonderful parties for the members! They’ve got a lot of competition, as I do. And they’ve managed to stay afloat and keep getting better.”
Remembering the Fallen Mark Voeltz is on a mission to honor lost police officers, one name at a time.
By Jeremy Brown
When Mark Voeltz isn’t working as the owner of Mark’s Towing in Thornwood, he’s patrolling the streets of Fishkill as a member of the Duchess County town’s police department. It’s a difficult and demanding job, and one that Voeltz feels isn’t often given the respect and reverence it deserves. “People don’t realize what we do and the sacrifice we make when we go out every day,” he said. “They don’t know the amount of cops that are killed every year. On average in the United States, one cop gets killed every 53 hours.”
As Voeltz took note of the rising number of police officers killed in the line of duty, he knew that he had to act. “I thought, let me do something for these cops who are getting killed,” he said. “After they’re killed and the funeral is over, no one gives them recognition anymore. They’re making the ultimate sacrifice, so let me give some recognition to these guys.”
In 2016, Voeltz purchased a 2006 Crown Victoria formerly used by the Connecticut State Police and, with the help of volunteers, friends and family, had it decorated with the names of all the fallen police officers since 2015, along with an image of St. Michael, the Policeman’s Prayer, and images of the World Trade Center. Voeltz dubbed the project “Wheels of Honor,” and today the car makes regular appearances at law enforcement funerals, but also at parades, memorial services, and fundraising events. For Voeltz, Wheels of Honor is a way to keep the names and the memories of fallen officers in people’s minds long after the last honor guard shot has been fired. “When it’s all over, two days later, the family is on their own and the recognition is over,” he said. “So I think that, with this car, and having their names on the car, they’ll always be remembered.”
Unfortunately, the original Wheels of Honor car, although it has served Voeltz honorably and well, is growing a bit tired. Purchased used in 2006, the car already had 160,000 miles on it and that number has grown considerably in just two years. As such, with the help of Club Fit, a Casino Night fundraiser is planned at Club Fit Briarcliff on October 12th. Tickets can be purchased for a minimum donation of $25 and 100% of the ticket proceeds will go to the Wheels of Honor foundation to purchase a new car. This event is guaranteed to be filled with a night of fun, hours of “play” gambling, food samplings, music, and prizes! 350 tickets will be available for sale starting on September 1st at either the Reception Desk or Service Desk.
Having the fundraiser at Club Fit is fitting for Voeltz, as he is a long-time member of the club. In fact, he can be found there hitting the weights six days a week. “I’ve been going there for years, and it’s a great club. I usually do a lot of weights, although recently someone pushed me to try out some of the classes as well. But most of the time I’m just training with weights.” A former high school wrestler and football player, Voeltz knows the value of staying in shape. “It’s really important to stay healthy,” he noted. “Especially in my line of work. You can’t afford to be out of shape when you’re a police officer.” And, when it comes to staying healthy, Voeltz says that Club Fit fits all his needs. “It has everything you could want,” he said, “It’s clean, the staff are all professionals It’s just a great place.”
Taylor Lu Kowgios is our featured artist for July 2018 at Club Fit Jefferson Valley
Taylor grew up in Pleasant Valley, New York. Around the age of 12, she began taking pictures, and thus her love for photography was born. Currently a rising senior at Lafayette College, she is earning degrees in Photography, English Literature and Art History. Her work spans multiple facets of photography; her BA degree focuses on fine art photography, but she also photographs events, capturing Greek Life formals, weddings, and sports. After interning with world-renowned photographer John Isaac, her interest in wildlife photography blossomed, which is largely what you see in her work on display here. Her post-undergraduate plan is to earn her Ph.D. in Art History and become a college professor.
“My favorite photograph is titled Fractured Fish. It was taken at the Botanical Gardens in Bronx, NY when I was interning with photographer John Isaac. In this large outdoor pool of water I could see many koi fish swimming around, along with smaller orange fish. A corner of the pool was shooting bubbles into the water, and the orange fish were swarming around the bubbles. Occasionally, the fish would visibly suck air from the surface of the water — this was grabbing my attention! I took some shots closer to the bubble machine, eventually moving over a few inches and capturing this shot here. I was excited by it, but it was not until post-processing that I fell in love with it. In orange, the fish looked captivating, but it felt like the attention of the main fish, with his gaping mouth, was being divided amongst the surrounding fish. Putting the photograph in black and white, the scene changed dramatically. The fish became a grayish color, which balanced beautifully with the black water they were submerged in. What I particularly love is that when put in black and white, the fractured light on the water reflects onto the bodies of the fish, creating beautiful geometric patterns throughout the photograph.”
Club Fit Staff Spotlight: Clint Hodder, Director of Maintenance & Special Projects
By Lisa Olney
March Madness came early to the Hudson Valley as Mother Nature rained four nor’easters upon the Hudson Valley, backing up Punxsutawney Phil’s unpopular prediction of six more weeks of winter. Winter storm Riley hit the area on Friday, March 2, leaving communities from Briarcliff to Jefferson Valley without power – some for over eight days, including Club Fit Jefferson Valley. Club Fit’s Director of Maintenance and Special Projects, Clint Hodder, and his crew sprang into action assessing damage at both Clubs. Club Fit Jefferson Valley was forced to close while Clint tracked down an industrial strength generator in Connecticut, and his crew worked tirelessly to restore the club to functionality for its members. Down the Taconic, however, Club Fit Briarcliff seemingly dodged a weather bullet, remaining fully operational for members of both clubs – that is until 9:30 p.m., the next night.
On Saturday, Club Fit Briarcliff closed at 9:00 p.m., and the maintenance team – a few men down due to cleanup and repair efforts at Jefferson Valley – began their overnight shifts, readying the Club for the following day. At 9:30 p.m., one of the crew was grooming the courts in the tennis bubble when he heard a loud pop and the ominous sound of a steady rip followed by the sudden listing of the bubble due to a pressure imbalance. As it turned out, Club Fit Briarcliff did sustain a hit from the relentless 60-plus mph wind gusts, and the bubble absorbed a 60-foot tear when an anchor bolt gave way, cutting through the bubble.
Club Fit’s tennis bubbles are nearly indestructible, so the issue was not of the bubble collapsing, but of the growing pressure imbalance within and the still gusting winds which could topple the unbalanced bubble, taking out the fences and damaging the exterior of the Club. Clint, however, had a contingency plan in place, and the call was instantly and decisively made to take the bubble down and wait out the raging winds. The only X factor was time. Nor’easter #2 was due to arrive on Wednesday, promising over a foot of snow.
After the weather stabilized on Sunday, Clint’s hardworking team once again rose to the challenge, surpassing expectations by having the bubble repaired, restored, and cleaned with one court playable by Tuesday evening and the remaining six courts ready for play the following morning. This huge project with an extremely quick timeline included two men heat welding the tear while five others held the material in place, cleaning and drying the bubble and the fixtures within, resurfacing the courts, and checking the electrical and HVAC systems. The dedication and work ethic of Club Fit’s maintenance team is nothing new, but never had it been more on display then during this mad month of March.
“Never doubt the power to accomplish monstrous tasks when a thoughtful, committed group of people work together,” said Club Fit Tennis Director Rodrigo Schtscherbyna. “Getting our bubble fixed and all courts ready for play only a few days after the storm is a major accomplishment, and all parts of our Maintenance Team should be commended for it.”
21 years ago, when Club Fit first decided to install tennis bubbles, David Swope, the Club’s co-founder, did his research and hired Clint, who was an expert and respected professional in tennis court construction and bubble installation, to manage Club Fit’s tennis bubble project. Clint also had a background in exercise physiology, and while living in the City, he worked as a fitness director, helped with the building of the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club, and ran his own tennis bubble business. It wasn’t long before David and co-founder Beth Beck brought Clint on board as their full-time special projects manager.
“David and Beth gave me the freedom to learn and grow on my own,” Clint recalls of entering the area of health club maintenance and construction. “It wasn’t my field, so I was self-taught, I watched, learned, paid attention, did my own homework. And, I adapted it to this industry.”
David Swope and Beth Beck had an uncanny knack for finding employees who combined specialized expertise with tremendous growth potential. “Our members, particularly tennis players, probably don’t know how lucky they are to have Clint working on our courts and bubbles. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the country with regard to tennis court maintenance and bubble procedures,” says Club Fit President Bill Beck. “When other businesses in this industry need help, they are often directed to Clint for troubleshooting by the manufacturers and suppliers, themselves,” explains Bill. “Clint does a great job.”
So, when you are heading to Club Fit for your next tennis clinic or workout rest assured that Clint Hodder and the Club Fit maintenance crew are always hard at work, doing their part to make your Club Fit experience the best it can be.
The following is contributed by long time Club Fit member and friend of David, Geoff Thompson, along with David’s family. Here is an insightful look at the life of the pivotal figure in our community’s history.
David Swope of Ossining, a prominent Westchester environmentalist, philanthropist, community leader and business owner, died Wednesday. He was 76.
Among his many roles he served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Westchester Community College in Valhalla, the Teatown Lake Reservation Environmental Education Center in Ossining, and the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. As a co-founder of Club Fit health and fitness centers in Briarcliff Manor and Jefferson Valley, he was a pioneer in the development of full service health and fitness membership clubs. He was also the owner of Tappan Hill in Tarrytown, now Abagail Kirsch catering.
Born in Mount Kisco, NY, September 24, 1941, he was the son of David and Sarah (Sally) Porter Swope. He was the third generation of his family to live in the Ossining area. His grandfather, Gerard Swope Sr., was President of General Electric and owned The Croft, a large equestrian-oriented estate which was donated by the family to form the original part of Teatown Lake Reservation.
David, known as Dee to family and friends, graduated from the Scarborough School in Briarcliff Manor and the Loomis School in Connecticut. He was a graduate of Harvard University and earned a law degree from Columbia University.
In the early 1960s he answered President Kennedy’s call and joined the Peace Corps spending two and a half years in India. This proved to be a life-changing experience and forged his life-long interest and love of India and Indian art and culture. It also inspired him to form a legal aid society in Bombay (Mumbai.) Throughout his life he visited India and maintained an extensive network of Indian friends both at home and abroad.
After returning to the U.S., he worked as an attorney in Manhattan, first with the White & Case, and then the Davis Polk law firms. In the late 1970s his father became ill and David moved back to Ossining to assume his business interests which included the Briarcliff and Jefferson Valley Racquet Clubs and Tappan Hill. With his business partner, Beth Beck, they began adding exercise equipment and other facilities to what had been strictly tennis clubs. Over the ensuing decades they continued to expand and modernize the clubs making then among the first full-service clubs of their kind in the region and both clubs remain highly successful today.
As he entered his 60s, David gradually shifted away from his business interests and devoted his time to working with not-for-profit organizations. Throughout his adult life he played a major role in the evolution and growth of Teatown, and he also supported numerous other environmental organizations and programs including the Westchester Land Trust and the Pace University Environmental Center. He spent many years on the Westchester Community College Board including overseeing the search for a new president to succeed long-time president Dr. Joseph Hankin. The effort culminated in the hiring Dr. Belinda Miles, the current President.
He took an early interest in the creation of and growth of the Jacob Burns Film Center and as board chairman worked to support the major expansion and outreach of its educational programming. He also served on the boards of the Ossining Children’s Center and Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, and offered generous financial support to numerous other groups and organizations.
In addition to living in Westchester, from childhood David loved both short and long stays at his mother’s family’s ancestral cottage at Wauwinet on Nantucket where he welcomed guests and friends from back home as well as Nantucket. He supported land preservation efforts on the island and various non-profit organizations.
David traveled extensively having visited every continent and he had friends across the nation and the globe.
He is survived by his sister, Dorothea (Dorry) Swope, by many cousins and by hundreds of friends. Funeral services will be private. Those interested in making contributions in David’s memory are asked to consider Teatown Lake Reservation, Westchester Community College, the Jacob Burns Film Center or a worthy organization of their choice.
We are very proud of our Club Fit Flag Football team. Staff, members, family and friends joined forces to participate in a local football league, winning the trophy after only three seasons.
Their success story…
We started out as a group of friends just playing a pick-up two-hand touch game of football on Christmas Day, 2015. A few days later, Personal Trainer Russ Schum suggested playing in a Holiday Flag Football Tournament coming up the next month. Excited and ready to get started, we began to recruit more employees from Club Fit, as well as family and friends. Eventually, we changed leagues, and joined the Tappan Zee Flag Football League (TZFFL), entering in the Spring B Division.
Under the name “Squadd” we started the 2015 season with a well-deserved 7-6 victory. Throughout the season, we took our fair share of bumps and bruises – we struggled at times, but finished our season with a 2-6 record. Despite the losses, we were determined to improve and push ahead.
With one season of experience under our belts and a crop of new players on our team, we began the second season filled with hope and an expectation of winning more games. We won the first three of four games – and it was evident the changes we made were coming to fruition. Unfortunately our early success was short lived – we stumbled during the middle of our season, but managed to carry ourselves to the playoffs. Although we felt confident in our abilities to win, we were outmatched and ultimately lost.
Our third season brought renewed vigor and determination, under our new name – the Westchester Spartans. With the help of a few key players, we devised new strategies. We kicked off the season with an outstanding 19-0 victory. We went into our second game with renewed confidence, only to be quickly humbled by a 26-21 loss. Nevertheless, we won the last 6 games of the regular season and entered the playoffs with seven wins and one loss – ready to tackle the championship game. We fought hard and won!
After two seasons of accomplishments, and a few setbacks, we finally came out as the success story we were hoping to become. Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of this journey for us was that we started out simply as colleagues from around Club Fit, and ended as close friends and champions. Through the seasons, we got to know more about one another and learned how to play football successfully together as a team. We may have lost a few people along the way, and added some new players, but we’re all dedicated and determined to play more football and play it well into the future, as a team.
Our Winning Team:
Club Fit Staff
Brandon Brailsford — Team Captain (BR Fitness)
Bobby Drinks (BR Energy Center)
Jordan Archible (BR Reception)
Russ Schum (BR Fitness)
Jesse Drinks (BR Energy Center)
Tyler Hamberg (BR Fitness)
Sam Lacour (BR Energy Center)
Tommy Weingart (BR Fitness)
James Johnson (BR Energy Center)
Joe Riley (JV Fitness)
Jason Fancie (BR Energy Center)
Tarik Stovall (BR Energy Center)
Club Fit Members
Family and Friends
Our members inspire us every day. YOU are why we do what we do. Listen to what some Club Fit members had to say during last month’s Member Appreciation Weeks.
“Shortly after joining Club Fit 3 years ago, my husband suddenly passed away. Thanks to all of the club activities, and the friendship of the members, I was able to get through that difficult time. Club Fit was a wonderful lifesaver for me. I will be forever grateful!
Club Fit is more than a health club to me. It’s a place that enhances my life. I have made friendships and have improved my health. I feel that Club Fit is a place to enhance your physical and emotional health. I feel like the people that work here are my family and my friends. Thank you for being my health club. Everyone at Club Fit seems to be concerned about myself and all members.
Club Fit is an environment which houses a group of multi-ethnic, highly professional individuals focused on giving us a program of healthy, varied, motivating exercises for all. Special events and other surprises keep things exciting and inspire us.
Club Fit motivates me to stay young, stay fit and to keep going for my kids. Once day, when they are strong athletes I can keep up with them and not be old!
Hmmm…where do I begin? Many Group Fitness classes, like Zumba (with awesome instructors) Danceology (unique to Club Fit) and Barre! The M.E.L.T. class and Definitions class are amazing. And…drum roll…the incredible socialization and sense of community we bet. Some of my best friends are my “exercise mates”. I love the Energy Center — very reasonable and wow…lots of toys!
Club Fit motivates me to be as fit as I can get. I became a member with my daughter who was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis her freshman year in college. The water classes were suggested for her joints and it helped greatly. That was over 15 years ago and I’ve met wonderful friends here. Love it!
This last year, I lost 13 pounds. My best friend encouraged me to get strong and gave me her guest pass to go to Sunday’s Definitions class with Shelby. The class includes a lot of equipment for an hour — it absolutely challenged me. It also made me realize I needed to take back my health. It is never too late to make time for happiness.
Going to Club Fit and working out gave me emotional strength during a very difficult time in my life. I’ve been able to keep healthy and physical as well. It’s been a life-saver (and a life investment) for more than 25 years!
Club Fit is a great club. I Have been a member for the past 18 years. Always upgrading equipment… What keeps me motivated is that I will be 69 years old and don’t take any medication. Doctor tells me it’s all because of my exercise routine!
I like that there is something for the whole family to do at Club Fit!
Club Fit has helped me maintain my weight loss for the past 9 years. Your staff is an awesome group of people. Keep up the good work!
I enjoy the variety of equipment and classes that allow me to achieve a well-balanced level of fitness.
Was a Club Fit member years ago, and now I am motivated to get back in excellent condition.
Group Fitness classes motivate me! Cycle, 20/20/20 and BODYPUMP. Love seeing my successes through MYZONE!
The Chair Yoga class is great. Instructor, Lucy, is so good. She motivates me to get here!
Club Fit has healed me and keeps me healthy… physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. It is truly my second home. I love the classes, the instructors and the racquetball opportunities! I love that I can take the Yoga Teacher Training at Club Fit!
You may have noticed that we changed the design of the name tags that we proudly wear at work. And it’s all for a very good reason — Jason Needle — our colleague and friend. Jason passed away on December 4, 2015.The new name tags will serve to remember Jason, and to encourage us to be supportive of others. We have implemented Jason’s “I Can. I Will.” tag line on the new name tags as a reminder of who Jason was; a brave person who inspired others to live with a strong sense of community and commitment to live life to the fullest.
Jason Needle once described himself as an Iraq war veteran, a two-time cancer survivor, and a proud member of the Club Fit family. Beating cancer and defending our country are two things everyone can identify as substantial accomplishments. Although it may pale in comparison, Jay’s association with Club Fit would prove to be of paramount importance in his life story. Jay grew up coming to Club Fit and fell in love with the atmosphere. He enjoyed it so much that he went to college to pursue a degree in exercise sports science with the end goal of working at his favorite place.
Jay began working as a personal trainer in the fitness department in 2005. When he wasn’t working, he could still be found in the building working out, lifting weights, or playing basketball. Jay was outgoing, enthusiastic, friendly, and genuinely interested in other people. Because of this, it wasn’t long before everyone knew who Jay was – both staff and members alike. He was also one of the trainers who spearheaded the Parisi Speed School program when it was introduced. This is the area where Jay really shined. He had a passion for training young athletes; watching kids improve and achieve goals and, more importantly, gain confidence was everything to Jay. “Being able to help a child grow confident through fitness and performance is a beautiful thing to me,” he told the Briarcliff Daily Voice. He knew they looked up to him and never lost sight of that.
Jay was the picture of health and fitness when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in November 2010. He spent over 200 days in the hospital the first year of his treatment and achieved remission only to have the leukemia return less than a year later. He was then diagnosed with a rare gene mutation that made it difficult for treatments to be successful. During his five-year battle, he traveled all over New York City and Boston, spoke to countless doctors, went through over twenty different chemotherapy treatments, most of which were experimental trials, radiation and two bone marrow transplants.
Throughout his fight, Club Fit remained an important support system for him. A Facebook page was created entitled “Jason’s Army” which he posted on frequently to stay in touch with everyone. He used his Parisi clients as motivation for himself: “The excitement they show when they reach a new goal or do something they thought couldn’t be done is what drives me day in and day out. If these kids can do it, then so can I!”
And so Jay’s tagline was born. Jay coined the motto “I Can. I Will.” and believed with all of his heart that he would beat the odds against his disease. Again, Jay’s energy and sense of purpose was infectious. His positive and energetic posts more often than not served as motivation for its readers to work to make the world a caring, supportive place. His “I Can. I Will.” attitude exploded and the support was phenomenal as the page grew to over 1,100 followers.
Jay was able to use this following to help other people fighting against cancer as well. By hosting an annual 5k run/walk in 2013, 2014, and 2015, Jason’s Army raised over $40,000 for local charities that support cancer patients. For someone who was going through so much, all he wanted to do was give back and recognize others. He was so thankful for the support of staff, members, and clients from Club Fit that he wanted to help those who didn’t have the same support.
Jay died on December 4, 2015. As the legendary ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” He continued by saying, “So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” The best way to honor Jason’s life and to keep his memory alive is to adopt his “I Can. I Will.” attitude and employ it in your own life.
For the last twenty years, Mahopac resident Lisa Coffman has helped the greater Club Fit community to reach their goals and overcome life’s challenges both in and out of the water. An aquatic exercise instructor, swim instructor and one of the assistant coaches for Club Fit’s swim team, Lisa has helped many members to strike back against potentially sidelining injuries and arthritis through aquatic exercise classes like H20 Waterwalking and Cardio Splash. She has helped members of all ages master the life skill of swimming both recreationally and competitively. Perhaps most impactful, she has also helped members overcome their fears of the water and learn to swim.
Lisa’s passion and loyalty to the Club Fit aquatics program has been a steadfast anchor over the years. These same qualities have also colored the pages of Lisa’s life from her childhood in the Dakotas and Minnesota to her career as a standout collegiate swimmer at Division III Cornell of Iowa where she swam the 50 meter butterfly at the NCAA Championships and then as a walk-on member of the Division I University of Minnesota Golden Gophers team. While in college she had her first taste of teaching people to swim, a feeling of reward and purpose that remains with her today. “One of the most rewarding aspects of what I do,” says Lisa, “is when I’m teaching somebody, and it just clicks.” Whether it’s in a class, in a swim lesson or on the swim team, Lisa has made a real difference to countless members of Club Fit.
Lisa brings this same passion and loyalty to her volunteer work as a member of the Yorktown Heights chapter of P.E.O. Founded in 1869, P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization. An international organization, P.E.O. has over 6,000 chapters in the U.S. and Canada and over 250,000 members. P.E.O. strives to increase women’s opportunities for higher education through scholarships, low-interest loans, grants, emergency funds and the Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. In addition to supporting P.E.O. programs, the Yorktown Heights chapter donates funds to local organizations Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Friends of Karen, and Hope’s Door. They also sponsor local women for P.E.O. assistance and programs. To learn more about P.E.O. and the Yorktown Heights chapter visit www.peointernational.org.
Lisa has always led a busy life working at Club Fit, volunteering with P.E.O., and raising her family. She and her husband Paul have two children Paul, 28, and Stephanie, 25 — who works full time at Club Fit Jefferson Valley as the WSI coordinator, a swim instructor, and a swim coach. While Lisa has a full schedule, her goal is to log at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Sometimes she’ll work out before her classes in the women’s section or on cardio in the fitness center. Some days it’s lap swimming, and some days it’s just walking outdoors and enjoying the fresh air. Lisa feels daily exercise in any form is important to keep physically and mentally healthy. “Get thirty minutes of something in every day,” says Lisa. “Whether it’s cardio, weights, or swimming, just do something.” From Nike’s “Just Do It” to the NFL’s “Play 60”, Lisa’s E-30 philosophy is something we can all strive to incorporate into our lifestyle.
— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Joy Cain
Club Fit’s Syd Berman shares her experience to promote stroke awareness.
The morning of June 6, 2012 was like any other beautiful spring morning at Club Fit. Swim classes were going on in the program pool, treadmills and stair climbers were being used in the fitness area, and up in Studio I, Syd Berman was leading her Dance ‘n’ Funk class, just as she had done hundreds of times before. But about 15 minutes into this particular class, things went awry. And Syd Berman’s life was changed forever.
“I didn’t feel anything,” Syd responds when asked if she felt pain. “I was just teaching a dance, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I’m an instructor, and it’s almost like I’m stumbling.’ Then I said something over the microphone and two of my students recognized what was going on and stopped the class.”
What was going on was that Syd was having a stroke. The alert students who saw Syd’s unusual stance and heard her slurred speech reacted immediately. They notified the front desk, and 911 was called. Syd was whisked off by ambulance to Hudson Valley Hospital. A day later, she was transferred down to Columbia Presbyterian, where she remained in the ICU for a few days. When doctors determined that she wasn’t in imminent danger of having another stroke, Syd was transferred to Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains for what turned into a six-week stay.
For those in the Club Fit family, the overwhelming sentiment surrounding the entire episode was one of shock and incredulity. This wasn’t some weekend warrior, some wannabe jock who suffered the stroke — this was SYD! Syd… who had begun working here when the facility was known as the Jefferson Valley Racquet Club. Syd… who, since 1993, had been the Club’s dance coordinator and was later put in charge of all the group exercise programs. Syd… who ate all the right foods and slept the right number of hours and who, at the age of 59, was in better physical shape than most women half her age. The stroke had happened to Syd! And the underlying thought was this: If a stroke can happen to someone like Syd, what chance do the rest of us have?
“I had none of the precursors,” Syd says. “I’m just happy I was here when it happened because our emergency response was excellent.” What Syd had was an ischemic stroke, which means that a blood clot interfered with the flow of blood to her brain. Doctors told her that the clot probably formed after she made a sudden movement with her head. “When I do the warm up, I get very high energy, so I might have just twisted too hard or something,” she says. “My doctor told me that was it. I said, ‘Well why hasn’t Beyonce stroked out ?’ and he said it’s just the luck of the draw. My GP told me that sh*t happens — so I said, ‘Thanks a lot — that really helps me out.’ But you know what? I’m still here and I feel very lucky because everyone has a story. Everybody has a tragedy in their life and I’m lucky I survived, because stroke is the No 4 killer in the country.”
Syd is speaking from the bridge area overlooking the pool at Jefferson Valley, waiting for a chair yoga class to begin. She has gained weight in the three years since her stroke, which is to be expected given that she is so much less mobile than she used to be. She needs a cane to get around, and her left arm is virtually useless. But her speech is back to normal and the smile on her face is real. She’s wearing a black Club Fit shirt with the words Live, Laugh, Love on it, and around her neck is a rhinestone turtle, a gift someone sent to her when she was rehabbing at Burke. The turtle is her reminder that recovery from stroke is a slow process — but the idea is to keep moving forward.
When she arrived at Burke, Syd had absolutely no movement in her left arm or her left toes, and her left leg felt like it was in a bucket of cement. The left side of her face drooped slightly. She was riding on an emotional roller coaster, going from a place of initially joking about her predicament in the hospital (“little did I realize the joke was on me,”) to a place of feeling no emotions at all. It wasn’t until some instructors from Club Fit sent 100 red roses to her room at Burke that Syd finally broke down and cried.
She knew that she would do whatever she could to restore her health.“Any testing they had at Burke, I volunteered for it,” she says. “Electrical stimuli (I felt like Frankenstein), a low carb diet that was supposed to help the brain — I was game to try anything I could.“ She went to physical therapy three times a week and eventually made such amazing progress that, in 2014, she was asked to return to Burke to share her story at a clinical conference.
Which brings us to today.
“I’m good. It’s a struggle everyday to live with a disability — boy, do I have appreciation now for people that have disabilities! — but I get along. I still have a good arm, a good leg, and my husband (Howie) is so good at taking care of me!
“I can do pretty much everything myself — except I can’t cook on the stove because that’s dangerous. I’m left-handed, so I try to write, but I can’t write too well — I sort of scribble with my right hand.
“I feel very lucky. I get to take care of my grandkids, I see my friends, I get out and about. I joined a singing group — we’recalled the Sweet Seasons — and we have such a good time! Everything I read says that the more you do for your brain, even without a stroke, the better it is for you.”With that in mind, Syd tries to keep mentally busy. One of her goals is to learn Spanish. Also, Syd recently took the written test to recertify herself as a group instructor; perhaps one day she’ll be able to lead a fitness class for those with special needs.
Still, she fatigues easily. An occupational therapist regularly visits Syd at home, and, among other things, makes Syd get down on her hands and knees to try and do push ups. That, along with trying to lift her left arm by itself, are two of her most challenging physical tasks. Although doctors have told her that her disabilities are permanent, Syd refuses to accept that. “I’m not gonna stop working,” she says. “I’m never gonna give up hope.”
Life has a way of teaching us everything we need to know. Prior to the stroke, Syd says that she was super critical of her looks. “I was very self conscious and didn’t think I was good enough. Now, of course, I look at pictures and say, wow, I was pretty good,” she says. The lesson here? “Appreciate your body — no matter how big it is, how thin it is. Embrace yourself — don’t let society tell you that you have to be perfect. Embrace yourself and just make the best out of it.
“A lot of people just don’t want to go out when they’re like this [with physical challenges] — but you know what? I’m here and I’m gonna live my life the best I can.”
She’s also doing what she can to make a difference. Syd’s proud of the fact that Club Fit partnered with her to raise funds for the National Stroke Association (NSA). Among other things, the NSA seeks to educate people about strokes, help stroke victims receive extended therapy, and advise hospitals on how to become better equipped to deal with stroke victims. In May, this Club Fit fundraiser was held in conjunction with the So You Think You Can Choreograph contest and raised over $4,000 for the NSA. Last year’s fundraiser raised over $3,500.
Syd is also proud of the fact that so many of the women she taught in Dance ‘N’ Funk contributed in some way to the fundraiser, and that they are still there for her — and for each other. Says Syd: “The dance girls are unbelievable. It makes me so happy to see them bonding and being friends.”
More than 30 years have passed since Syd Berman and Club Fit first crossed paths, a path that has seen its share of twists and turns. And as Syd looks back over what’s transpired these last three years, some more of life’s lessons are revealed.
“Family is more important than anything — and keeping your spirits up, no matter what happens, is important.,” Syd says. “I’ve discovered that I have so many wonderful friends at the club, it’s like my second home. And I also discovered that I am strong. I used to wonder what would I do if something happened [to me],
— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton
Junior Club Fit member Jack Normoyle forgoes birthday gifts to collect donations for local food pantry.
Ask any kid what their favorite thing about birthdays is, and the answer will invariably be, “Presents!” Number two on the list is probably parties. Nine-year-old Club Fit Jefferson Valley member Jack Normoyle decided to change things up, skipping the presents and using his party as a vehicle to help the needy.
Jack, who will be going into the fourth grade at Lincoln-Titus Elementary School, held his Minecraft-themed birthday party at the club in May, opting for the Surf & Turf package for his friends. But instead of sitting back and collecting presents from the partygoers, he asked them to bring a nonperishable food donation for the Church of the Holy Spirit Food Pantry in Cortlandt Manor, part of the Food Bank of Westchester. And this isn’t the first time he’s done this. He did the same at his 7th birthday party.
“Jack saw a Facebook post from one of my friends mentioning the idea, and decided he wanted to help people out by doing the same,” says Jack’s mom, Suzanne. “The work that the food pantry does makes a difference in our community, and Jack has seen for himself that what he is doing matters.” The Holy Spirit Food Pantry services approximately 160 families, helping to feed about 600 people.
“I was surprised to see how much food people brought!” says Jack. “It made me happy to help out the people who really needed it.” Suzanne and Jack delivered the food a few days later, and the staff was understandably appreciative, as well as impressed by Jack’s generosity. “The ladies at the pantry definitely make a fuss over Jack!” says Suzanne. As they should!
The Normoyle family, residents of Cortlandt Manor, joined Club Fit just this past March, but have quickly become regulars. Suzanne comes to the club about three days a week, and is working with a Personal Trainer to get her fitness routine back on track. She uses the Fitness Center and Women’s Fitness Area, and husband John is working on getting more time in around his work schedule.
Jack is definitely getting his time in, doing the Junior Cycle kids’ cycle class on Mondays, and the Yoga for Kids class on Wednesdays. “It used to be all girls, but more boys are doing it now,” he says. He also enjoys the Energy Center, where he’s made some new friends, and is looking forward to attending Energy Camp this summer. “I don’t really have a favorite thing, I just like that there are a lot of different things to do here,” he says. He also enjoys basketball, soccer and karate.
We could all take a lesson from this fourth-grader, whose willingness to help is benefitting so many of the neighbors we often forget about. Hopefully other young people in our community will get wind of Jack’s act of kindness and follow his lead! For more information on the programs run by the Food Bank of Westchester and how to contribute, visit www.foodbankforwestchester.org. And if you run into Jack, give him a well-deserved pat on the back!
It takes a special person to take a family tragedy and turn it into a positive, but that’s just what Suzi McDonough did. When her husband, Jimmy, a longtime member of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and passed away less than a year later, Suzi and her family didn’t turn inward. They founded the Jimmy McDonough Foundation, a nonprofit that supports cancer patients and their families in the local community, and makes a big impact despite keeping a low profile.
“Our goal is to relieve as much stress as possible for families going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Suzi. “My family and I know firsthand the importance of a good support system, and want to provide that to those who don’t have the support they need.”
Her husband’s diagnosis was a surprise to everyone. Father of five, Jimmy never smoked and was focused on his fitness routine, working out at Club Fit almost every day. He was an involved and enthusiastic supporter of his community and kids’ sports in Mahopac, continuing to coach even after his diagnosis. He was being treated for pneumonia when a CT scan and subsequent biopsy revealed Stage 3 lung cancer. He passed away in February 2005, after seven months of chemotherapy and alternative treatments, but he and his family remained optimistic and positive throughout.
Since its inception, the Jimmy McDonough Foundation has helped countless people in our community. From rides to appointments to financial assistance to family outings, the Foundation supports families through their cancer journey. Family members serve on the Foundation’s board, and their single fundraiser is a golf outing held every May at Mahopac Golf Club. “One hundred percent of our fundraising proceeds go to funding our services,” says Suzi.
An additional fundraiser was held last year at FDR Park in Yorktown, a 5K Run that involved Club Fit’s Jason Needle, who is also battling cancer. “Jason is so like Jimmy with his positive attitude, and he is such an inspiration,” says Suzi. “His enthusiasm during the 5K event reminded me of Jimmy’s optimism throughout our family’s ordeal.”
Suzi has kept herself busy in the years since Jimmy’s passing, not only with the Foundation, but as Town Councilwoman in Carmel. She also works for the State Senate, and enjoys spending time with her five now-grown children. “I have a choice,” says Suzi. “I can wilt away or look ahead.”
But the Jimmy McDonough Foundation is clearly her priority. “Through the work we do, Jimmy’s legacy will live on,” says Suzi. And Club Fit Jefferson Valley is jumping on the bandwagon, donating all proceeds raised at the club’s Open House on January 31 to the Foundation. With a $50 donation, attendees received raffle tickets for prizes including massages, tennis lessons, a week of summer camp, a big screen TV, etc. A win-win for everyone! If you couldn’t make it and would like to help Suzi and her family make a difference in the lives of cancer patients in your community, you can mail your donation to The Jimmy McDonough Foundation, 72 Lockwood Lane, Mahopac, NY 10541, and know that you helped brighten someone’s day!
June is a month for celebrations! Happy Father’s Day all to of our dads and grandfathers, and congratulations to all of our recent and upcoming graduates!
I’d also like to congratulate the winner of our recent “So You Think You Can Choreograph” competition, Carla Sams, and runners up Maureen Milazzo and Ellen DeGrazia! Each contestant choreographed a dance to their favorite song and presented it to our panel of judges. Carla’s routine will be used in an upcoming Dance*ol*ogy session. We also raised more than $3000 for the National Stroke Association. Congratulations to all!
As a give back to our membership, we would like to invite the first 40 members to sign up for an evening of Italian cooking! Come and taste the dishes prepared by Executive Chef Nazareno Daniele from Trattoria 632. Join us on June 11th for a four-course tasting in the Café, starting at 6pm. Reservations are necessary by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us at our opening Friday Lunchtime BBQ starting on June 13th, and every Friday through the summer (weather permitting). Enjoy either a burger or hot dog, chips and a bottle of water — all for $5! This month you can also cast your vote for your favorite Club Fit Smoothie, with the winning smoothie offered at a 20% discount during the month of July.
The beautiful weather is a great excuse to take advantage of our Hiking Club. Get more information on the schedule and to read about our experienced hike leaders, Peter Meskin and Andrew Stein. The Hiking Club is open to both members and non-members, so bring a friend!
A big thank you goes out to our maintenance team, for a seamless and expedient “bubble down” process, yet again. As you know, we’ll be replacing the bubble with a new structure in the fall, and thought that in our efforts to “Go Green” these past few years, we would recycle the old material by cutting it into individual tarps and offering them to our members. We have 10′ x 10′ tarps available (size approximate) — if anyone is interested in taking some of the free tarps made from our old bubble please send an email to email@example.com by Saturday, June 7th to arrange for pick up.
Parents, a reminder that Summer Camp begins June 30th, and registration is ongoing. I hope to see the whole family at the club!
Don’t be left out of the water this summer! We offer swim lessons for all ages and all levels. Learn more about our Aquatics programs or register online . For more info, call Aquatics Director Patrick Montgomery at ext. 1140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for a high intensity workout to improve your overall athleticism this summer? Look no further — Parisi is here to help with instructional classes on Mondays and Thursdays, and open times on Wednesdays. Call 914-245-6993 or email email@example.com for more info.
To Keep You Inspired . . . Club Fit Member and Cancer Warrior Diana Pernicano
When you are a nineteen-year-old college student, the last thing you expect to hear are the words, “You have cancer.” But that’s exactly what happened to Diana Pernicano this past November, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. Luckily, Diana had a happy ending. On February 28, after three months of intense chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering, Diana was declared cancer-free.
She decided to make a positive out of a negative by learning as much as she could about the disease, and devoting herself to educating others, kids in particular, about cancer. “Kids in middle school and high school need to understand that it’s important to go to the doctor and to stay healthy, that cancer doesn’t just happen to adults,” she said. But people of all ages also need to understand that cancer doesn’t always have to end badly. Read more about Diana experience.
“Today, two out of three cancer patients will become a survivor.”
When you are a nineteen-year-old college student, the last thing you expect to hear are the words, “You have cancer.” But that’s exactly what happened to Diana Pernicano this past November, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. Luckily, Diana had a happy ending. On February 28, after three months of intense chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering, Diana was declared cancer-free.
She decided to make a positive out of a negative by learning as much as she could about the disease, and devoting herself to educating others, kids in particular, about cancer. “Kids in middle school and high school need to understand that it’s important to go to the doctor and to stay healthy, that cancer doesn’t just happen to adults,” she said. But people of all ages also need to understand that cancer doesn’t always have to end badly. She said she was surprised by how many of her classmates assumed she would not survive. She’s happy to say, “Today, two out of three cancer patients will become a survivor.”
Diana has also devoted herself to fundraising, and is currently working with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds. She had already been participating in the Yorktown Relay for Life event before her diagnosis, partly because her father also suffered through a cancer scare nine years ago. He was diagnosed with a cancer of the spine that was also treated successfully. (Their cancers are not related.)
After her diagnosis and treatment, Diana was invited to speak at the Relay for Life kickoff event in February, and did so well that she was invited to help with the speakers in the New York City office. “Survivors who I heard speak would talk about the experiences they had, but not about specific programs that helped them get through the experience.”
She impressed enough people with her story and attitude to be featured in an ACS video distributed to colleges across the country educating college students about the disease, as well as the importance of sharing stories about experiences with cancer and reaching out to others. Visit YouTube to see it for yourself! “It’s such a different perspective when you go through this at my age,” she says. “It’s also so hard, no matter what your age, to really understand what a patient goes through, unless you have cancer yourself.” Diana also invites everyone to read more about her experience on her blog, at dianapernicano.wordpress.com.
Diana will continue her studies in nursing at Mount St. Mary College in the Fall, where she was attending school when she was diagnosed. Her focus will be on oncology nursing, which she was already pursuing because of her father’s experience with cancer. But now she feels she can contribute so much more to cancer patients, because she has the unique perspective of knowing exactly how they feel.
Diana has a good role model in her father, a Club Fit member who was a runner before his diagnosis and used Club Fit to help him get back on track. He is still at Club Fit almost every day. Diana became a full member three years ago. She uses the Fitness Center, plays racquetball, shoots hoops in the gym and enjoys Zumba — an all-around member! She also attended a Cancer Wellness session or two, and although she was too sick to participate more, she thinks it’s a great resource for others going through what she did. Diana is on the cross-country team at Mount St. Mary, and intends to return to the team in the fall.
Diana will have her own team for the first time at this year’s Relay for Life, “Diana’s Lymphomaniacs,” and has already raised more than $10,000. Part of that number includes funds raised on May 18 with a foul-shooting competition for Mildred E. Strang Middle School teachers and students at Club Fit Jefferson Valley. Forty students and 17 MESMS teachers participated! The actual Relay for Life event will take place on June 13th at Jack DeVito Memorial Field in Yorktown, and the Lymphomaniacs are happy to accept donations at her Relay for Life page! For more information on how you can join the fight against cancer, visit www.cancer.org.