With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we wanted to give a shout out to everyone out there who has romantic ties to the mountain. The Blue Ridge Marriage Roster is a book commemorating married couples who met at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. It originated as a gift from Billie Camp Younts in 1978, whose husband Charles R. Younts served at Blue Ridge Assembly for more than 40 years. To date, there are nearly 30 couples documented in the Roster.

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster

  • Willis Duke Weatherford and Julia McRory met at a YWCA student conference at Blue Ridge in 1912. They were married in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1914.
  • Geneva Kirby and Herbert Warner met at Blue Ridge in 1924. He was a Y exec receiving certification and she was on staff in the dining room. They married in Birmingham, Alabama on July 19, 1927.
  • Frieda Traweek (collegiate staff) and Finley Eversole (YMCA student delegate) met at Blue Ridge in 1931. They were married in Birmingham, Alabama on July 9, 1932.
  • Mabel Orr from Birmingham, Alabama and Martin England from Mars Hill, North Carolina met working as dining room staff in the summer of 1929. They were married in 1933.They went on to honeymoon with the American Baptist Mission in Burma and have 4 children.
  • Eileen Aull  and Howard Covington  met in the summer of 1935 as collegiate staff. Mr. Covington was a protege of Dr. Weatherford and went on to have a career as a YMCA Secretary.  Their daughter, Flossie Covington Hickland, went on to work at Blue Ridge in 1960,  their grandson James Hickland served in the mid- ’80s, and their great grandson will attend Leaders’ School this summer. “It is great to have such a family legacy”
  • Edna Erle Waters and Sam Marshall met the summer of 1940 as guests with the YMCA/YWCA conference. They were married in Tupelo, Mississippi on December 25,1941.
  • Mary Ann Henry and Hyman McCarty met as collegiate staff at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1942. They were married in Meadville, Pennsylvania on December 24, 1943. Mary Ann says, “Blue Ridge definitely has a tremendous place in our hearts!”
  • Emily Cottingham (YWCA student conferee) and Robert C. Stuart (store staff) met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1940. They were married in Douglas, Georgia on August 10, 1946.
  • Marilyn Zibell and Olson Huff met summer of 1959 as collegiate staff. They were married in Decatur, Georgia in 1963. ”It was a great summer. Walked to Black Mountain under a full moon!”, Olson writes.
  • Kay Clement and Frank Edmond Hogan met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1962. They were married in Greenville, South Carolina on August 8, 1964. They have 2 daughters.
  • Camilla Bolin (housekeeping ‘63-64, librarian ‘66) and J. Craig Weaver (collegiate staff ‘63-64, desk clerk ‘66). They were married on August 28, 1965.
  • Pat Goldthwaite (collegiate staff ‘63-65, senior staff ‘68) and Robert Wilhem (collegiate staff ‘62-64, senior staff ‘65-68). They were married in 1968.
  •  Rosemary Tenney and Judge McFerrin Smith met at Blue Ridge in 1967. She was renting North Carolina cottage and he was staying in Florida cabin. They were married in 1968.
  • Ann Hodge and Jerry Carl Hogan met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1969. They were married at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 1970 and have one son.
  • Barbara Delores Steiner and Joseph Kenneth Mustoe met at Blue Ridge as staff in 1970. They were married in Morganton, North Carolina on July 25, 1971.
  • Carol Fassold and Larry Geiger met as Blue Ridge summer staff in 1972. They were married on June 15, 1974. The couple visited again on their honeymoon and again in 1977 when they served as dorm parents in Martha Washington Hall.
  • Kitti Ann Ruebenstahl (staff ‘73-76) and Kenneth Ray Kelly (staff ’73-’76) met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1973. They were married at Warren Wilson Chapel in Swannanoa, North Carolina followed by a reception at Blue Ridge Center on October 9, 1976.
  • Cheryl Elrod (collegiate ’77, senior staff ’78-80) and Scott Washburn (collegiate ’68-75, senior staff ’77-79) met in the summer of 1979.  They were married on August 22, 1982 at Blue Ridge Assembly.
  • Deborah Meredith Dyer (collegiate ‘76-79, senior staff ‘80-83) and William Cameron Williams (collegiate ’80-81) met at Blue Ridge in the  summer of 1980. They were married on May 26, 1984.
  • Beth McGirt (collegiate staff member in ’84–85, senior staff ’86) and Tony Adams (collegiate  ’84): “We met at Blue Ridge the summer of 1984. Tony and I were both fresh out of high school — he hailed from the town of Jefferson and I came from Irmo. . It was pretty much love at first sight for both of us. I especially loved Tony’s outgoing personality and no one could sing like him. He starred in our staff production of Carousel and throughout the years that followed I could still hear him sing “If I Loved You “. We went our separate ways after that summer, but we still kept in touch over the years. And even though we both went on to live separate lives, 15 years after we first met — after both of us had gone through divorces in our first marriages –we tracked each other down and got married! That Blue Ridge Magic has always stayed with us and we just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (but we like to count 28 since that’s how long we’ve loved each other!).”
  • Dan Matthews (collegiate staff ’80, senior staff ’81-83, and ’85-86) met Lynn Rabon (collegiate staff ’85 , senior staff ’86,’87) during the summer of 1985. They were married in 1989 in Camden, SC  “after much convincing”, and settled there. They have two children, Roland and Meg.
  • Mary Catherine Saidla & Trevor Krister Person met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1988, while  attending the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs.  They were married in Auburn, Alabama, in the summer of 1999.
  • Amy Cushnie and Brandon Vaughn met as conferees during Blue Ridge Leaders School in 1998! They were married in June of 2002 in Richmond, Virginia and have a 5 year old daughter, Emily Grace. They currently live in Midlothian, Virginia.
  • Domenick Risola and Keena Meyer met and worked together at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1992, and have been together ever since. “Twenty years and two kids later still going strong, and we still reminisce about our summer of love; climbing Chimney Top together, pillow fights while on housekeeping detail at Weatherford Hall, and first kisses at the bonfire at the end of summer…Our kids are tired of hearing how romantic the Blue Ridge mountains can be when you’re 18 and fall in love for the first time, and then get married and stay together…it does still happen, folks!”
  • Phillip and Helen Day met as Blue Ridge as staff in the summer of 1997. They were married December 30, 2004.
  • Rebecca Beltrame and Rene Moncivaez met as staff at Blue Ridge and were married in 2006.
  • Brent and Lillian Hadas met at Blue Ridge as staff in 2005. They were married in 2007 in Asheville, North Carolina. They have one daughter, Zoe, and are expecting another child this spring.
  • Travis Silver (Grounds Manager ’00-Present) and Michelle Miller (Dining Room Supervisor, ’09-‘11) were married in October 2010 in Marion, North Carolina. They have one son, Sean
  • Ryan Welsch (CONA  ’97 – Alabama delegation) and Lucie Swain (CONA ’04- Kentucky delegation) met in 2008 while volunteering at the 2008 Conference on National Affairs. Ryan proposed on the mountain 3 years later, and on June 16, 2012 they were married in nearby Asheville, NC.
  • Andrew McKinney (Program Coordinator ’08-Present) and Beth Snook (Event Planner, ’07-Present) married August 2012 in Asheville, North Carolina.

We want to know YOUR Blue Ridge love story! If you would like your names added to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster, please write Melissa Logan, Development Director, at mblogan@ymcabra.org with your information or simply reply as a comment in this blog post! Please share your maiden names, how you met on the mountain, as well as the date and location of your wedding. If you were visiting the Assembly as a guest, please specify which conference you were a part of, and if you were part of our staff, which department you served in. We’d also enjoy hearing any updates on how you and your family are doing today!

Again, best wishes and congratulations to all of the sweethearts we have united. We hope that YMCA Blue Ridge will continue to touch lives and bring people together in faith and fellowship in the years to come. Happy Valentine’s Day!



In September, we hosted the LIVESTRONG Wellness Retreat. This was the third LIVESTRONG weekend retreat to be held at YMCA Blue Ridge as part of the collaboration between the LIVESTRONG Foundation and the YMCA of the USA. You can read about our successful springtime event here!


This fall we welcomed 20 cancer survivors to experience relaxation and renewal in our peaceful mountain setting. Participants were able to share and reflect with other survivors on their personal experiences in battling the disease. The retreat offered spiritual encouragement in the form of art, laughter, and prayer, as well as educational opportunities, including guest speakers and workshops.  The weekend emphasized a holistic approach to wellness, addressing the spirit, mind, and body.  Crafts encouraged self expression and reflection, while hiking allowed guests to be active and experience the inspirational beauty of God’s creation. There was also plenty of time to celebrate life and laughter with fun icebreakers, healing massages, and delicious refreshments.

THANK YOU to all of the participants, staff, and guest speakers who made this event possible!  YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is thankful to be part of this nationwide movement that helps cancer survivors reach their health and well-being goals. For more information on the life-changing impact of “LIVESTRONG at the YMCA”, check out this  video.

Want to join us next year? Contact YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Campus Life Director, Owen Lovejoy, at olovejoy@ymcabra.org to register.

SPRING 2013: Saturday, April 6 – Sunday, April 7, 2013
FALL 2013: Saturday, September 14 – Sunday, September 15, 2013

October 1-7, communities nationwide will come together to honor The Y Arts Week – an annual celebration to promote the power of art to EDUCATE, INSPIRE, AND CONNECT. Celebrated every October during National Arts and Humanities Month, Arts Week strives to showcase the unique talents of artists of all ages and to bring together youth, families, and entire communities.

Arts Week is an initiative of the YMCA. At the Y, we believe the arts have the power to:

  • UNITE communities and e­­­­ncourage fellowship
  • CONNECT kids and teens to themselves and their peers as they share their enjoyment and passion with each other
  • PROVIDE new challenges and opportunities for hands-on learning and growth
  • ENCOURAGE families to develop traditions of arts and crafts that can be passed down for generations
  • IMPROVE creative and tactical skills, helping kids and adults reach their God-given potential
  • SUPPORT youth in the ability to express themselves, develop confidence and greater self-esteem

The Arts at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly
The arts have a special place at Blue Ridge. Not only are they part of our longstanding Appalachian heritage, but they are also an integral part of our ministry to serve guests and help strengthen spirit, mind, and body.

The Craft Shop

For generations, the Blue Ridge Craft Shop has provided opportunities for those who wish to create a tangible reminder of their time and experience on the mountain. There are a variety of projects for all skill levels and interests including working with clay and ceramics, candle-making, acrylic painting on wood, leather stamping, jewelry making, and fiber arts of weaving, felting, tie-dye.These activities allow our guests to experience heritage crafts of the Appalachian mountains, to express the inspirational beauty of God’s creation, and to find pleasure and peace in working together in community.

Through arts programming at Blue Ridge, we are able to reach kids who are otherwise not being reached. For instance, in collaboration with the YMCA of Western North Carolina Day Camp  youth came each week over the summer to experience our Craft Shop. Campers, ages 6-12, made felted soap, clay pots, woven oven mitt, and other creations in our Craft Shop that they were able to take home.

As we extend our services to others in the community, our ability to support the YMCA mission stretches even further. Are you an arts organization looking to gather and create? Contact Danielle Tocaben, Sales Director to plan a mountain retreat for your group. We look forward to seeing you soon and sharing in the spirited creativity and artistic expression that Blue Ridge inspires!

The Blue Ridge family could not be more excited about the recent good news from some of our staff.  This summer we celebrated an engagement, a baby and a wedding!

Cupid’s arrow struck food service’s Kyle Winters and one of our international staff from Columbia, Gaby Chavez last summer. The couple kept in touch and after several visits to South America for Kyle and another summer spent at Blue Ridge for Gaby, Kyle proposed! He will move to Columbia to teach English next month.  Blessings of love, joy and good fortune to Kyle and Gaby as they begin a life together!

A few weeks before the proposal, Kyle and Gabby were voted “Most Likely to Be Married” by fellow summer staff!

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Next, congratulations to Grounds Manager Travis Silver and wife Michelle as they welcomed a healthy baby boy to the world! We wish the Silvers all the best with the start of their new family. What a beautiful bundle of joy!

Congratulations to Travis and Michelle on the birth of their son, Sean.

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. – Psalm 127:3

Lastly, best wishes and congratulations to Program Coordinator Andrew McKinney and Event Coordinator Beth Snook on tieing the knot at the North Carolina Arboretum in August.  The couple recently returned from their honeymoon in Costa Rica, just in time to prepare for our busy fall season. We are so happy and excited for this lovely duo and wish them years of prosperity and happiness for the life ahead!

Andrew & Beth McKinney: August 18, 2012

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. – Proverbs 5:18-19

We want to know…What’s YOUR Blue Ridge love story? Did you meet or fall in love with your sweetheart on the mountain? Would you like your story to be preserved in the Blue Ridge archives for eternity? Then become a part of our Marriage Roster!

The Marriage Roster is a book commemorating all of the couples who met at Blue Ridge Assembly. So far 17 couples, from the 1920s to the 1980s, have been listed in the book, but we are confident there are more of you out there! If you would like your names added to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster, please write Melissa Logan, Development Director, at mblogan@ymcabra.org with your information or simply reply as a comment in this blog post.

Share your love story with us: your maiden name, how you met on the mountain, as well as the date and location of your wedding. If you were visiting the Assembly as a guest, please specify which conference you were a part of, and if you were part of our staff, which department you served in. We’d also enjoy hearing any updates on how you and your family are doing today!

Again, best wishes and congratulations to all of the sweethearts we have united. We hope that YMCA Blue Ridge will continue to touch lives and bring people together in faith and fellowship in the years to come.

Michelle Fontebasso

Hi everybody! I would like to introduce myself as the 2012-2013 Trainee/Intern! My name is Michelle Fontebasso. I am 24 years old, from São Paulo, Brazil.  I worked at the YMCA São Paulo for 7 years as a Journalist and recently I decided to explore a new YMCA.

My first contact here was last summer, when I spent 2 months as a volunteer. At that time I realized 2 months was not enough to discover and learn everything that this place and people could offer me and wanted to return.  I arrived again in this wonderful place in March, and for almost 3 months so far I am living my dream.

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly will be my home for 18 months. Here I can have a lot of new experiences because I have the opportunity to work in different departments, such as Guest Service, Conference Service, Housekeeping and Programs. I am learning new skills every day, as well as improving my English. Everybody here is so hospitable and kind. I have made many good  friends that always take care of me.

I am from a big city- totally different from here.  There are so many buildings, intense traffic and a lot of people. So here in Black Mountain I can live a new life and enjoy the beautiful mountains with much peace and quiet.

I want to contribute to Blue Ridge by helping others understand my culture, and bringing my past experience as a journalist. This summer I have been given the opportunity to write the Ridgerunner Newsletter, a publication that goes out to Blue Ridge staff each week. You can read the issues on our website here!

I am so excited to see what this summer and the rest of the year brings. Here are some photos from our staff Orientation earlier this month:

Staff team-building in Lee Hall lobby

New friends!

Emergency procedures review in Heaton Hall

Staff climb on the Odyssey


Fun times on the Odyssey


Calling all Blue Ridge Staff Alumni! It’s that time again….Time for walking in the cool streams, hiking to High Windy, making heritage crafts, rocking on Lee Hall porch…whatever it is that you love about Blue Ridge, we invite you to return home to the mountain.

On July 6-8, we will welcome staff alumni and their families to the mountain to reminisce and reconnect. The schedule includes a “Christmas in July” celebration, an exciting and educational Naturalist Program, a picnic by the lake, and more.  There will be plenty of planned activities with the group, but also lots of free time to explore free time on own or with your loved ones.  It is a wonderful opportunity for old staff to mingle with new staff, to share fond memories of your Blue Ridge summer, and to enjoy a relaxing weekend in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. Register today!


2011 Staff Alumni Reunion

Can’t join us this summer? Here are some other ways to be involved:

Stay connected with your fellow staffers on Facebook by joining our Group page, or by “Liking” YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. You can also subscribe to the “Eureka! Blog” to stay up to date about the latest happenings on the mountain, news from current staff, or to read inspirational stories about the impact that Blue Ridge has.

Volunteer Your Time: Contact volunteer@ymcabra.org for information on the exciting year-round service opportunities around the mountain.

Recruit Summer Staff:  Through friends, family, internships, and other opportunities, we each found our way to Blue Ridge on different paths.  Today, you  can guide youth to the mountain by reaching out to those in your own lives that you know would benefit from the Blue Ridge summer experience.  Internships in Food Service, Event Planning, Hotel/Hospitality Management, Art Education, or Outdoor Education are just a few worth exploring as possibilities for great real-world experience and school credit.  If you know anyone that you feel would be a good fit, send them our way! For more information, visit the Blue Ridge Assembly website.

Bring a Group: Where do you belong in your community? Contact Blue Ridge today about bringing a group for a conference retreat, weekend getaway, or family reunion. We have a variety of accommodations including  hotel-style rooms, cabins and cottages, and new lodges to fit your groups needs.  There are also many recreational opportunities available through our Program Department.  Contact Danielle Tocaben at (828) 210-8457 or dtocaben@ymcabra.org for more information.

Donate! Alumni donations help in many ways. They help current summer staff by providing them with programming opportunities, a collegiate summer course, and a special gift each summer. In previous years the Alumni Group has presented ping pong tables, staff photo CDs, televisions, grills, rocking chairs and this year…a computer! Your contributions are going towards a bigger goal: creating memories, changing lives, and making Blue Ridge a  better place for those staff who return year after year. Donations can be mailed to: Blue Ridge Assembly Staff Alumni Association, 84 Blue Ridge Circle, Black Mountain, NC 28711

Thanks for to all those who have served in the past as alumni officers- helping to plan reunions, lead programs, create newsletters, and assisted with the Alumni Association in any other capacity. If you have any questions regarding registration, volunteering, or making a donation, please contact Alumni Association President, Juli Gerken (1995 Summer Staff) at juligerken@charter.net or Blue Ridge’s Staff Alumni at alumni@ymcabra.org

The Hunger Games movie

The Hunger Games mania has taken over YMCA Blue Ridge!

The Hunger Games is a young-adult action/drama film directed by Gary Ross. The film, released in March 2012, is based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. Filming sites for the movie were locations around Asheville and Black Mountain, including Dupont National Forest and the Burnett Reservoir, just a few miles from the Assembly. Many local residents and even some Blue Ridge staff members were featured as extras in the film!

In honor of this literary heritage, several area middle schools are reading the book as part of their curriculum. Even more exciting is that many of them have booked class field trips this spring with a Hunger Games theme…and have discovered YMCA Blue Ridge to be the perfect site for this thrilling occasion! The youth are scheduled to participate in various adventure programs which mirror the plot of the book: archery, wilderness survival, and team-building high among the trees on the Odyssey Course.


Nature Exploration

Odyssey Course

Here are some great testimonials from our young participants so far!

“I felt as if I was training for the games with an ally.”  -Anana
“The survival activity taught me what is valuable in the wilderness.”- Taylor
“The Odyssey taught me that I can do anything if I try.”  -Kyle
“I felt like Katniss shooting, and then missing the squirrel. I experienced/endured so much I actually felt like was in an actual Hunger Games training session.”  -Jessica
“It was one of the best field trips I have ever been on.”  –Andrew
“I had a great time and I actually learned a lot.”  -Mackenzie


On the weekend of April 12, the Program Staff had a nice surprise from a group of youth climbing the Alpine Tower. The group, ages 9-17, were part of the Apex/Cary Rope Skippers, who include many members of the Cary YMCA Super Skippers from Cary, North Carolina. Last year the Cary Super Skippers won 2nd Place in Overall Freestyle and tied for 2nd Overall Team at the 2011 USA Jump Rope National Championship in Galveston, Texas!

The Rope Skippers were visiting as part of the Spring Physical Education Leadership Training conference,  sponsored by the North Carolina Alliance for Health, Athletics, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. SPELT  is one of the premier K-12 physical education forums in the country and this year celebrated their 40 anniversary at Blue Ridge!

The energetic and athletic youth also visited several local elementary schools to perform their award-winning jump rope routines, and after their climb treated our staff to a private showing. Here are some great photos from the field:

To see the young skippers in action, visit their YouTube page!