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Michelle weighed over 400 pounds and was a size 30 when her doctor told her she needed to change her life. After joining the Council Bluffs YMCA, Michelle began water aerobics first, later learning to use the cardio equipment and eventually the weight room. A trainer at the Y taught her about healthy foods and helped her become more active than she had been in 25 years.
Today Michelle is over 252 lighter and wears a size 8. “When I am in the Y, which is daily, I not only feel like I am amongst friends, but my extended family.”
Rachel’s son, William, was six years old when he diagnosed as morbidly obese. Because of his weight, William’s legs bowed and he was forced to wear leg braces. Through the YMCA’s Strong Communities campaign, Rachel has been able to enroll William in two seasons of basketball and flag-football.
Because William practices and plays once a week, the exercise, along with a stringent diet, has allowed him to shed the braces and his confidence is sky-rocketing. Without the Strong Communities Campaign, William would not have the opportunity to participate in sports at the YMCA.
Emily and Phillip are siblings whose mother was left paralyzed from gun violence. They have been attending the Y after school program since 2005 and thank the South YMCA Program Center for being their “safety net.” After their mother was shot, Y staff were some of the only people they could turn to. Phillip and Emily cared for their mother and took care of things around the house, such as buying food throughout her 7-month recovery.
Although their mother is unable to work, she can now take care of things around the home, so their lives are getting back to normal. Emily is on track to graduate from high school this spring and has applied to work at the YMCA this summer. Phillip now says, “If I wasn’t at the Y, I would be bored, and when you’re bored, you always find something bad to do.”
Zahra and her family decided to move here from Nigeria to provide a safe home with more opportunities. Zahra and her daughter, Aisha, began Ready to Learn when Aisha was 3. Aisha was extremely shy and dependent on her mother, but over time with the YMCA staff, Aisha came out of her shell.
Now she not only starts conversations with a confident tone in her voice while looking you in the eye; she also names letters and numbers at circle time. She is gaining more independence every day. With 3 years of early learning, she will be school ready with a strong foundation for success.
Kyaw Tun Kyi was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, where his parents had already been living for about 10 years after fleeing persecution in Burma. In 2012 the family was resettled as refugees in Omaha and Kyaw Tun Kyi began attending Ready in Five in 2013 at the age of three. Although Kyaw Tun Kyi had excellent attendance, Ready in Five staff felt he needed a little extra help to prepare for kindergarten so a staff member began meeting with him individually each week.
After a few months of tutoring Kyaw Tun Kyi now knows all of the colors, some shapes, can count to ten, and has begun to write his name. He shows much more interest in learning and proudly picks out the first letters of his family members’ names. With the help of Ready in Five, Kyaw Tun Kyi will enter kindergarten prepared to keep learning.
The Hamilton family has three children who love to play soccer. Due to their income limitations, they would only be able to afford to send one of the children to a spring soccer camp. The YMCA’s scholarship program has made it possible for the Hamiltons to be able to provide a competitive sports environment for all three of their young athletes.
“Thank goodness we were able to find an affordable situation, so that we did not have to choose who doesn’t get to play soccer this spring! We appreciate the YMCA’s generosity and enjoy the great facilities and organization of the league.”
In June of 2014, Susie fell and broke her back in 3 places. It took about 2 months for doctors to figure out why a seemingly healthy 6 year old could break her back so easily, finally suspecting Susie has a rare genetic bone disease. Although her activities were very limited, Susie’s doctors eventually told her parents swimming was the best exercise for her. With a long road ahead of her, including expensive treatments, her parents turned to financial assistance at the YMCA to enroll Susie in swimming lessons.
The family now comes during open swim and Susie’s parents even enjoy “nights off” while Susie comes to Parents’ Night Out. In the midst of doctors, bills and a diagnosis, “the Strong Communities has allowed the YMCA to be a refuge for our family,” says Susie’s parents.
Angie was in a transitory phase of her life, struggling to find housing and employment as a single mother of two. With the help of financial assistance, Angie was able to enroll her son in Summer Day Camp and her younger daughter in the Downtown YMCA’s child development center. When the children first arrived, there were initial problems of irregular attendance and showing up late for field trips.
After the program director spoke with Angie, the YMCA received a better understanding of the struggles the mother and children were dealing with at home. Angie and the program staff worked hard to build a stable and happy environment for the children during the day. Today Angie’s children love coming to the Y and add a lot of laughter to the building.
Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer and has endured a half-dozen surgeries, a year of chemotherapy treatments and months of radiation therapy. Because of the YMCA’s Strong Communities campaign, she is now a member of the Y and has participated in the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program, a program that has given her the confidence and training to regain her total health. “I would have never thought a year and half ago that I could be where I stand today.”
When Kennetta suffered a severe spinal cord injury she was initially diagnosed as a quadriplegic; but that turned out not to be the case. With an overwhelming diagnosis and her insurance no longer covering her physical therapy, the stress became too much. Kennetta turned to the Downtown YMCA’s Aqua Joints class to gain back her strength, confidence and happiness. Now she walks into the YMCA each week to work out and meet her friends.
“Going through what I did at 45 years of age is not easy. There is a new adjustment to life and the same support system of close knit family when I was younger is no longer available. The Downtown YMCA is that support system for me; my family.”