Trainer Bios

Gene DeNota
Fitness Operations Coordinator

Since 1989, Gene has been in the health and fitness industry helping people live a healthy lifestyle. From lifeguarding and swim instruction to fitness instructor and personal trainer, as well as in member services and fitness management, throughout the years Gene has always tried to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Gene instills this mindset with his trainers and instructors to provide the best fitness experience for our members.

Too many people struggle with daily life activities because of lack of exercise, and they never achieve their goals because of poor health choices. Gene has dedicated his life to helping people put an end to these bad habits. He has successfully helped transform many clients (as well as himself) through proper exercise and nutrition choices. His philosophy is simple: walk before you run. First, build a strong, stable foundation with what is most important. Start with the basics. Then, with the proper guidance of exercise and nutrition, you will be able to create your fortress of solitude. He feels if you set realistic goals for yourself - short-term and long-term - and stick with it, you will see results. Gene constantly reminds his clients of one very important thing: if this (exercise) was easy, everybody would be doing it, and they would all be in shape!

Gene specializes in strength, cardiovascular and endurance training, as well as stretching to help increase flexibility. In addition to one-on-one and small group training, he also teaches group classes which include kettlebells, extreme conditioning boot camps, and group weight training.
Beata Kelemen
Personal Trainer

Introducing Beata (Bea), your wellness partner. With a passion for nourishing food and staying active, she's dedicated to helping you reach your health goals and to feel your best. Drawing from her upbringing in Europe and her experience juggling work and family life in Darien the past 15 years, Bea firmly advocates the importance of being fit and healthy as a fundamental approach to tackling life's daily challenges.

Her philosophy is simple: wellness isn't one-size-fits-all. Fitness and nutrition are personal journeys, and she's here to guide you in tuning into your body's needs, through personalized strength training, combined with consistent cardio and core workouts.

Certified as a personal trainer by NASM, Bea highlights the value of lean muscles and a strong core as the key to functional strength. She also champions healthy eating as part of a balanced lifestyle and is currently pursuing a nutrition certification. When not training, catch her running, paddle boarding, creating art, or whipping up nourishing recipes.
Beverly Wagner
Personal Trainer

Meet Beverly Wagner, a seasoned fitness expert with 15+ years in the industry, based at the Darien YMCA. As a Certified Personal Trainer, Beverly specializes in spinning and TRX, catering to diverse clients—ranging from those seeking an active lifestyle to first-time 5K racers.

Beverly's approach is all about tailoring. She'll evaluate your strengths and areas for improvement to help you conquer your goals. Workouts with Beverly are a blend of functionality and enjoyment, utilizing various techniques to keep things dynamic and engaging.

Beyond the gym, Beverly channels her fitness passion into personal pursuits. An avid competitor in running, cycling, and triathlons, she's often spotted training around Darien alongside her YMCA companions. Join Beverly to turn your fitness aspirations into reality!
Cheryl Curthoys
Personal Trainer

Meet Cheryl, your dedicated fitness ally since 2009. Beginning as a fitness instructor, she became a certified personal trainer (ACSM) in 2012. Continuously expanding her expertise, she's a Cancer Exercise Specialist (CETI) and a breast cancer survivor, bringing a unique outlook to her clients at the Darien YMCA.

Cheryl's holistic approach to wellness harmonizes nutrition insights - such as the healing properties of certain foods - and nurturing the soul by managing stress, getting quality rest, and being kind to yourself. Her diverse expertise caters to those with a range of medical conditions, seniors, and fitness newcomers. She can also be found teaching group classes in cycling, TRX, weight training, and yoga.

In her spare time, Cheryl enjoys playing racquet sports, spending time with her dog Addy, and gardening, all while nurturing friendships.
Chris Bellantoni
Personal Trainer

Meet Chris, a certified personal trainer with over 2 decades of experience in the fitness industry. He's worked with a range of clients and fitness levels through the years, from teenagers to clients over 90 years old. His specialties include training general and special populations, flexology, boxing, kettlebells, post-rehab, and sport specific training for golf and tennis players.

There's nothing more valuable to him than helping clients become more happy, confident and strong. He realizes how being deconditioned, overweight, dealing with ailments and health issues can impact general wellness and happiness. For Chris, an optimal healthy lifestyle is about lifting weights, aerobic conditioning, stretching, eating healthy, and getting enough rest. He loves helping clients realize their potential and achieve wellness goals.

His goal: Helping you achieve a happy and well-balanced lifestyle that will minimize the risk of future health-related issues.
Connie Bocchetta
Personal Trainer

Connie's journey in the fitness industry began when she was just 15 years old. Throughout her career, she has had the privilege of assisting a diverse range of individuals. These include athletes preparing for the Olympic trials, clients battling cancer, and both young and adult individuals seeking help with eating disorders.

Connie specializes in working with seniors to improve their flexibility, balance, strength, and overall range of motion. Notably, her most senior client reached the remarkable age of 102!
Dan D'Andrea
Personal Trainer

With over 15 years at the Darien YMCA, Dan, a local of Stamford, found his passion for personal training through his own transformative 60-pound weight loss journey. Now dedicated to making an impact to others, Dan specializes in fat loss, muscle gain and body toning. He specializes in working with triathletes, youth fitness, and those with diverse abilities.

His adaptive special needs fitness program offers corrective exercise, and his approach emphasizes resilience, mental toughness, and self-accountability for achieving personal goals. Dan believes that true results emanate not just from gym efforts, but from how you treat yourself beyond the gym.
Julienne Camhi
Personal Trainer

ulienne switched careers in 2000 over to the wellness industry. A certified ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Balanced Body Mat Pilates & Reformer instructor, she excels in both personal training and teaching group exercise classes. In addition to land-based instruction, you can find Julienne leading Aqua classes - so she's got the environment covered that best fits your needs.

Julienne previously worked in fitness and management roles at various local institutions including Norwalk Community College, Norwalk YMCA, the Wilton Senior Center, the Tully Health Center, then away at Club Pilates in Shrewsbury, MA. Julienne's expertise is now back in CT, fueling her passion for fitness and empowering wellness journeys for Darien YMCA members.
Kai Bjornstad
Personal Trainer

Kai Bjornstad, a NASM certified personal trainer, hails from Greenwich, CT, but his upbringing spans both Europe and America, shaping his diverse outlook on fitness. His athletic background includes playing soccer in Argentina and representing Luxembourg's youth soccer team. In 2017, Kai shifted his passion for fitness into a career, securing his Personal Training NASM certification. Since then, he's guided his clients to achieve their fitness aspirations.

Kai's training approach focuses on practicality, ensuring clients can apply their gym workouts to daily life. He also applies his knowledge of exercise science and rehabilitative training to his work with clients, based on recent university studies.

When not in the gym, Kai can be found researching the latest fitness trends and cherishing moments with friends.
Kent Houseknecht
Personal Trainer

With over 2 decades of experience, Kent's passion lies in helping clients uncover their potential, fostering inner strength and confidence through focused workouts. Kent began personal training as a student at Penn State University and began teaching classes in 1996. Since then, he has continuously evolved as an instructor.

His expertise spans injury recovery and prevention, posture training, weight loss, and pre/postnatal training. Kent's unique approach encompasses diverse methods including boxing, kickboxing, and his signature "A-Z fitness", crafting strength through varied sequences to break you down and then build you back up stronger than before.
Nick Somma
Personal Trainer

With over 20 years in the fitness industry, Nick tailors his approach to individuals of all ages, focusing on longevity, strength training, power bodybuilding, and athletics. Nick's lifelong passion for health and fitness began with youth sports including baseball, basketball, and amateur youth boxing. At 14, he discovered his love for weightlifting, a passion that still drives him today. While pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Manhattan College, Nick launched his personal training career. He holds certifications from NASM and Ken Hutchin's Super Slow method of strength training.

Nick has honed his expertise in holistic health improvement encompassing strength training, nutrition, cardio, mobility, and recovery. In 2022, he achieved a top-three finish among 50 competitors in his category at a Muscle & Fitness magazine competition. Join Nick on your fitness journey and benefit from his extensive knowledge, experience, and unwavering dedication to helping you reach your fitness goals.
Ryan Casolo
Personal Trainer

Ryan is a Miami University graduate who majored in Kinesiology with a focus on gerontology. After graduating he has gained countless hours of experience coaching in numerous settings and training clients of all levels.

As an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer skilled in strength and conditioning, it is his mission to make wellness accessible by taking a personalized approach to every individual. In addition to personal training,

Ryan has coached professionally at varying levels of competitive soccer and is looking forward to working with the Darien YMCA community.
Saad Mustafa
Personal Trainer

Meet Saad, a Certified Personal Trainer and Darien native, who discovered his passion for fitness and weightlifting at the Darien YMCA during his high school years.

Saad's journey at the Darien YMCA marked the beginning of his transformative fitness career. Initially unfamiliar with weightlifting and a fitness "novice", he was embraced by the YMCA family, and he evolved into a Rock Wall Fitness Instructor and a member of the Wellness Desk Team. Encouraged by the YMCA community, Saad went on to become a Certified Personal Trainer in 2016, and he is now dedicated to helping clients achieve their unique fitness goals. Saad firmly believes that fitness extends beyond physical health, influencing mental and emotional well-being. His personal story serves as a powerful testament to the attainability of fitness goals through personalized guidance and unwavering support.
Sally Bocchetta
Personal Trainer

Sally, a seasoned personal trainer with over 40 years of experience, is deeply committed to teaching and considers herself a life coach of fitness. She emphasizes proper form and technique while making workouts engaging and fun.

With a background in bodybuilding and powerlifting, combined with extensive knowledge of nutrition, Sally is a well-rounded fitness expert who can adapt to clients of all ages and abilities. Whether you aim to stay active, lose weight, boost athletic performance, or prepare for an event, Sally is your dedicated trainer. Additionally, Sally supports cancer patients at the Darien YMCA with their journeys to renewed stamina and well-being.

Beyond fitness, she volunteers as a firefighter with the Glenbrook FD in Stamford and has experience as an EMT. Outside of the gym, Sally's diverse interests include fishing, writing, motorcycle riding, and the arts and she runs the “Stained Glass Apple” stained glass store in Stamford.
Shawna O’Brien
Personal Trainer

Meet Shawna, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, who’s here to help guide you along your fitness journey! Drawing from years of education and hands-on experience, Shawna possesses the necessary tools to help you enhance your health and wellness, in a safe, fun and effective way.

In addition to NASM certifications for personal training and group fitness, Shawna has specialty certifications in Corrective Exercise, Senior Fitness, TRX, and Spin.

Shawna has extensive experience working with individuals facing various limitations, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or joint replacements. Together, through dedication and persistence, her clients have successfully increased their strength and endurance with workouts focused on functional fitness, mobility, and balance. Shawna's expertise makes her well-equipped to support individuals at any fitness level.

Pilates Personal Trainer Bios

Julienne Camhi
Pilates Personal Trainer

Julienne has over twenty years in the health and wellness industry. Her programs have spanned the age range with Yoga for Kids classes to Tai Chi for Better Balance Senior classes.

In addition to leading and inspiring others to move with Group Fitness classes, Julienne is a certified through ACSM Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP) and Balanced Body Mat Pilates & Reformer to offer one on one personal training.

Her past employers include Norwalk Community College, Norwalk YMCA, Wilton Senior Center, Director of Group Fitness at Tully Health Center, and General Manager oat Club Pilates Shrewsbury, MA. Julienne has recently returned to CT and we are all very grateful she is here!

"My passion is FITNESS and helping others along their wellness journey!"
Steve Whitaker
Pilates Personal Trainer

Steven Carroll Whitaker brings to the Darien Y over twenty five years experience in the health, wellness & fitness industry. Holding certifications with NASM- CPT, Peak Pilates Level III, 300 Hr Yoga Aura Wellness Center, Floor Barre Method, IIQTC- Tai Chi Easy, AFFA- Prime, ICG- Indoor Cycling, Red Cross- CPR/AED/First Aid.

Steve has over 12 years experience teaching Pilates. Turning to the “Classic Pilates” approach in recent years, utilizing the teaching methodology as Joseph Pilates originally designed almost 100 years ago as a movement system. Using precise connecting flowing movements to develop the powerhouse (core) strength. This traditional flow develops the body into a better balanced, lean and stronger physic as it develops a strong sense of being at the peak of one’s ultimate level of physical conditioning.

Steve also brings to the Y program over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, teaching yoga, Tai Chi/ Qigong, along with various other modalities of strength and conditioning programs.

Karyn Hall
Pilates Personal Trainer

Karyn Hall is a Pilates instructor with the Darien YMCA team. A long time exercise class enthusiast, she has followed the trends over the years from 80’s aerobics to step classes to Zumba. When she tried a Pilates mat class for the first time, Karyn knew she had found a permanent fitness home. Her passion for Pilates led Karyn to pursue certification as a teacher. She received her education at the Kinected Pilates Center Kane School, a rigorous training program combining the classic principles of Pilates with a modern, clinical perspective on the human body.

Karyn teaches Pilates Mat class on Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m. and Apparatus training, including Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair and Ballet Barrel in private and small class settings.

When not teaching Pilates, Karyn works as an independent consumer research and marketing strategy consultant. Karyn lives in Darien, CT with her husband and 4 children.