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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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“I received custody of two emergency foster children two years ago. These children had been taken from their biological homes due to neglect and abuse. I came to the Y to see if the boys could be in a mainstream program. They both suffer from some development issues.
They have been coming to the Y for two years now. They have participated in the Before and After School Program and Summer Day Camp. They have had their challenges, but have remained in the program. After seeing the boys mature at the Y, my husband and I went through the process of finalizing the adoption of these kids.”
Sarah knew the importance of water safety, having had an uncle who passed away in a lake since he didn’t have the skills necessary to swim. When she found her son Nate frightened of water, she turned to the Sarpy Community YMCA for swim lessons. Unable to afford swim lessons, Sarah received financial assistance to provide swim lessons for her son.
“Since Nate has joined swim lessons, his behavior has changed dramatically. His amazing instructors at the Y have helped show him that water can be our friend when we practice the skills we learn.”