The Center for Youth Services makes February a 28-day ‘Fit with Friends’ challenge

The Center’s Bridge to Peace program is housed in the old YMCA building on Monroe Avenue. Money from this challenge will help support programs like this one. (Photo provided)

One area organization is challenging the business community to be strong, fit and healthy while making a difference in the lives of local youth.

The Center for Youth’s associate board has launched a month-long event for February called Fit with Friends to encourage and engage the community in healthy eating, exercise, meditation and mindfulness, all in support of the programs at the center.

The challenge — which begins Feb. 1 — is open to people of all ages and fitness abilities; businesses can also choose to sponsor a group of employees as a team-building exercise.

All proceeds from the challenge will go toward fighting youth homelessness.


Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth, said the associate board began about five years ago and includes a diverse mix of young professionals who volunteer their time and talent to the organization.

“They have such energy and determination,” Spaull said of the group. “They are committed and want to help.”

As the winter often dampens spirits, the group provides motivation with the 28-day challenge just when it is most needed, said Heather Wohaska, assistant vice president for business development at First American Equipment Finance and a Center for Youth associate board member.

A similar event was held last year on a much smaller scale, she said, noting there is more of an outreach effort this year.

Sponsors have stepped up this year to support the cause, including First American Equipment Finance and Rite-Aid. Local gyms and fitness center have also gotten involved.

The goal is to raise $25,000 for the center and to bring together a larger community effort, based on providing an incentive for good health, good eating and positive relationships.

The associate board is targeting 150 participants.

For $1 a day, participants are eligible to receive a month of benefits and free classes, weekly prize drawings, referral prizes, a grand prize and access to a community for motivation.

Participants receive:

  • An unlimited class pass in February at SPENGA
  • An unlimited class pass in February at Burn Boot Camp
  • Opportunities to try new classes at local fitness studios
  • The chance to win $25 Amazon gift cards every week in February
  • The chance to win a grand prize for completing the challenge, and
  • A complimentary class at Compass Cycle for completing the challenge.

Once registered, participants create a Strava account and log 30 minutes of any activity each day — walking, running, dancing, yoga, walking the dog, even vacuuming — for the month of February.


Wohaska, who began volunteer work when she was a teen, wanted to give back to the local community, which prompted her to join the center’s associate board in its infancy.

“I’ve been able to see the work the center has been doing which has a direct impact on the community,” Wohaska said. “It’s been a great experience.”

The Center for Youth’s services include support for families and children, including two crisis nursery locations, Chrysalis House for parenting and pregnant teens and their children, an LGBTQ+ and trafficked homeless residence, multiple youth shelters and more.

The organization has a nearly-$12 million annual operating budget and employs roughly 300 people. The center serves upwards of 30,000 youth annually, most of whom connect through school-based programming.

Its largest annual fundraiser is Fashion Week Rochester, which attracts thousands of people to the region and raises funds and awareness for youth homelessness, youth shelters and emergency programs.

Spaull noted that some of the center’s programs rely on donations to operate.

That includes the Arnett House, which is the transitional living program for homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ+ or sex-trafficked youth and the Bridge to Peace program which provides youth-centered activities, programs and an open and welcoming space to encourage positive youth engagement, socialization and restorative practices.

The Fit with Friends challenge can serve as a way for local businesses and individuals to have a direct impact on a local organization that supports youth, Spaull said.

“This is an amazing opportunity to give back,” she said.

More information on the Fit with Friends Challenge can be found at Updates can also be found on the @Center4Youth Instagram, as well as the associate board’s Instagram – @AssociateC4Y.

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021