A Family On The Ball|
To say that Heidi Pratley is always on the run is putting it mildly. With three young children, ages 5, 4, and 3 she doesn’t have time to sit still.
When her son Brent turned 5, they told him he could play soccer. This past spring was his first session of YMCA Rookie soccer. “The Y’s youth sports program is a great way for kids to try out a sport to see if they like it, without spending a fortune,” Heidi said.
Because the Y needed volunteer coaches, they approached Heidi who graciously accepted. “It was a different setting and I was in a different role than ‘mom,’” she said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to get involved with Brent in something other than our day-to-day routine.”
The Pratley family enjoyed the experience so much that all three kids will be playing soccer this fall. And Heidi will be coaching both teams, with the two older kids on one team and the youngest on another.
The YMCA youth sports program provides a way for this family to spend quality time together doing a healthy activity that everyone enjoys.
Building Positive Futures|
It’s been a few years since Val Hennings has been back toNorth Middle School. However it is here that he first got connected with the YMCA’s Minority Achievers Program (MAP), with the urging of JJ Frank, the YMCA MAP Director.
Val knew JJ from church. At that time he was an 8th grade teenage boy dealing with some intense family issues. JJ would take kids to the Marysville YMCA after church to swim and play basketball. Having a safe place to hang out with friends helped ease some of the problems going on at home.
Val also joined the MAP program at North Middle School. It was here that he got help with homework from positive role models and learned the importance of staying in school. Val continued to keep in touch with the Minority Achievers Program and JJ Frank through his high school years.
Fast forward to 2009 . . . Val, now 19 years old, is a student at Everett Community College. He says that he has made getting good grades a priority. “It makes me, and those who helped me, proud.” He hopes to eventually transfer to theUniversity of Washington to pursue a career in journalism, teaching, or criminal justice.
Val recently shared his story at the YMCA Heritage Club Dinner. Val says that without the YMCA and MAP he wouldn’t be where he is today. “MAP has changed my life and I know my future has endless possibilities,” said Val.
Building Strong Kids|
Eleven-year-old Allyson Woods is officially a “Strong Kid.” On April 17 she graduated from the Strong Kids Strong Teens program at the Monroe/Sky Valley Family YMCA.
Allyson’s mom, Laurel, has struggled with weight issues all her life. At 11, Allyson was also headed down this path. They were referred to the Strong Kids Strong Teens program by their doctor.
Strong Kids Strong Teens (SKST) is a nutrition, activity, and self-improvement program for kids ages 8-11 and teens ages 12-14 and their parents. A Total Health Team teaches fun ways to be active, eat, and create healthy lifestyles for the whole family. Two 90-minute sessions are conducted each week for three months, then once a week for six weeks. To be involved in Strong Kids Strong Teens, one adult family member or guardian must participate.
Allyson and her mom Laurel have come to the Y twice a week for 12 weeks. In the beginning they had to force themselves to come on some days. However, once they got to the Y they enjoyed the class. Now they look forward to coming and are sad that the class is coming to an end.
When they started, Allyson was shy and getting poor grades in PE class. In only 12 weeks she has become more social and improved her PE grades at school. She has also been selected as a peer mediator on the playground.
“She has become her own advocate,” Laurel said. “Somehow, in only three months, these kids have become empowered. They have learned that they have a voice and feel good about themselves.”
Working with a group of families who are also experiencing the same challenges has also been extremely helpful. Both Allyson and Laurel have made many friends during the program. “This program teaches kids not about being fat or skinny, but about being healthy,” Laurel said.
“The Strong Kids program is cool because it introduced us to new things,” Allyson said. “We went swimming, learned Zumba, and used the cardio/weight room.” She explained how she also learned about the importance of eating breakfast, how to read nutrition labels, portion control, how to make healthy food choices when dining out, and other tricks to sneak in extra exercise such as parking the car far away from the store and walking.
Allyson once was the last kid out of school at the end of the day. She carried the world on her shoulders. Now every morning she says, “I love you mom and I’m going to have a great day!”
At the end of the day she comes out of school with her head held high. “She’s a different person, and I can only attribute this change to the Strong Kids program,” Laurel said.
Molly McMurphy is a mom and a wife. And she also has brain cancer. Facing and fighting this disease, now for the second time, was taking a toll on her family’s hearts and finances.
Molly’s 5-year-old son Sailor attends the preschool program at the Everett Family YMCA. Sailor enjoys sharing toys with his friends, and “he has really begun to blossom into a fine little man,” Molly said.
As anyone who has gone through this knows, when the money runs out it makes it nearly impossible to focus on recovery. Molly and her husband Donnie Wilcox were faced with an impossible decision. Pull Sailor out of a safe and inspiring environment and take him to Molly’s radiation sessions, or go back to work and postpone treatment until they could afford preschool again.
“I was completely unable to think about myself and the road ahead, which is directly opposite from what would benefit my family,” Molly said. “It was a vicious circle of fear and doubt pulling me further away with every thought from beating this disease. Then my angels stepped in.”
Molly arrived at the Everett Y to pick up Sailor for what was, regrettably going to be his last day. Debra Wells, the YMCA Senior Programs Director, asked to speak with her. “My palms were sweaty, and my nerves were shot. I thought for sure she was going to tell me Sailor could not attend class until we got caught up. After all, I knew we could no longer afford their program and was going to pull him out anyway.”
“What Miss Debbie did say to me was nothing short of one of the miracles I had been praying for. She proceeded to tell me that The Lance Armstrong Cancer Care Alliance had contacted them regarding my situation and that the YMCA was going to supplement my child care 80 percent! . . . That means we can keep him with his friends and teachers he has come to love so much. The tears of joy flowed freely down both our faces.”
By providing the assistance to keep Sailor in child care, Molly can now focus her attention on fighting the disease and getting healthy for her family.
“What this gift has given me and my family can not be expressed in words,” she said. “Through the selflessness of the YMCA, my husband and I have found peace where our most precious of family members is concerned.”
From "Biggest Losers" to a Healthy Family|
The Mukilteo Family YMCA welcomed special guests Matt Hoover and Suzy Preston Hoover during its Healthy Kids Day event on April 17. This was their first presentation at a YMCA facility in Washington.
The Hoovers met on season 2 of NBC’s Biggest Loser in 2005 with Matt winning the competition and Suzy coming in as the second runner up, losing a combined 252 pounds during the show. They initially did not like each other, however over the course of nine months as the pounds dropped, their perspectives of each other changed, and as they say, the rest is history.
They now share their story to help inspire others to have their own life-changing experiences.
Suzy is a Washington local growing up in Des Moines where she was a hairdresser. As she explained, she was a chubby kid, then a chubby teen, and finally a chubby adult. She tried diets, but nothing seemed to ever work. She entered the contest weighing 227 pounds.
Matt grew up in Iowa and was very athletic. In high school he was a two-time state wrestling champion and was named a high school All-American. He was awarded a scholarship to the top college wrestling program at the University of Iowa. Matt’s wrestling career ended due to an injury and he never achieved his wrestling goals. Over the next few years, he developed severe eating and drinking problems that caused his weight to balloon from a lean 177 pounds to more than 353 pounds.
The Hoovers have had a busy five years since being on the Biggest Loser. They were married in 2006, welcomed their first son in 2007, and their second son in 2008. During this time they’ve also had to deal with the real world realities of gaining baby weight, and incorporating the healthy lessons they learned on the “ranch” into their daily lives.
The Hoover’s tips for healthy living are as follows:
- Develop a partnership with someone to support you: This can be someone at home or someone to work out with. They need to be asking you, “What can I help you with?” For the Hoovers, they want to be healthy to raise their kids.
- Make good choices: Start small focusing on healthy food options or being a little more active. If you mess up, you can’t rewind. Don’t carry the guilt. Pick yourself up and carry on. Attention: It’s okay to throw away food. You don’t have to clean your plate.
- Portion control: Our thinking has been distorted . . . we don’t need to eat to be full. We need to eat to nourish our bodies. The Hoovers eat three meals a day with one or two healthy snacks. When eating dinner, your plate should be one-half fruits and/or vegetables, one-quarter whole grains, and one quarter protein.
A few additional tips they shared with the audience throughout their presentation are:
- There is a difference between healthy vs. skinny. Don’t be ruled by the scale.
- Get active with your kids. When you go to the playground, don’t just sit on the bench and watch.
- Don’t blame others. The choices start at home.
- Be realistic with your expectations.
- Do something you don’t think you’re capable of, it’s great motivation. Sign up for a 5K run or maybe even an Ironman competition.
- Just because you reach your goal it doesn’t mean you’re done. Healthy living is a life-long commitment.
At the end of the presentation, five year old Tre Keeten asked, “Why is eating healthy foods so important?” Suzy replied, “Healthy foods give you energy, and make you stronger and smarter.” Tre seemed to understand that. If a five year old can get it, what about the rest of us?
Getting Active Has Become a Family Affair|
When Greg Miller was in the armed services, he was in the best shape of his life. That was many years and many pounds ago. Having a wife who loves to cook hasn’t helped either.
As his girth expanded he found it becoming more and more difficult to get around. This was also compounded by knee problems and other health issues such as high blood pressure. As he became less mobile, he found his kids falling into his same couch potato ways, with television and video games.
Greg finally realized that he needed to do something. There were many things that he wanted to do, but couldn’t. He also knew that he needed to be a good role model for his kids.
He visited a number of health and fitness facilities, but didn’t like the “meat market” atmosphere of many of them. He then found the Southeast Family YMCA. The price was right, and he was impressed that his membership fee provided him with access to all four facility branches within Snohomish County. And best of all, it was convenient.
When Greg first visited the Y he didn’t have a clue where to begin. He gave the fitness staff a list of his goals and they set him up on a program. “Everyone was so helpful and supportive — it was unbelievable. I truly felt welcome,” he said.
He started slowly with weights and walking in the pool at the Mukilteo Y. He then graduated to walking on a treadmill. He now has a circuit routine that includes treadmill walking, lifting weights, and then walking again. Greg’s kids also join him at the Y and play basketball, racquetball, or play with him in the pool.
One of the things Greg likes most about the Y is the sense of community. When he’s on the treadmill he’ll strike up a conversation with friends and before he knows it, his workout is over. Being a social person, he enjoys this time to interact with others.
So far Greg has lost 20 pounds. Not as much as he’d like, but he’s gained so much more. He has more energy and stamina. His blood pressure is stabilizing, and he’s gaining muscle. The best part is spending quality time with his kids and teaching them how fun it is to be active. He hopes this will become a life-long habit for them.
Getting Heart Healthy|
Maury Eskenazi is an account executive and broadcaster with Northsound 1380 Radio. Though he’s had a YMCA membership through his work for years, he really wasn’t that into working out.
After he successfully quit smoking and at the urging of co-worker Melene Thompson, he started coming to the Y about a year ago. “Melene made me come,” he says jokingly. They would meet at the Everett YMCA in the mornings at 6:30 to begin their day.
Because he has a YMCA Puget Sound Triangle Membership, he can visit any YMCA in the Puget Sound area. Eventually Maury attended the Northshore YMCA because it’s closer to his home. After about four months of working out he started having chest pains. He went to the doctor and they performed an EKG. They said he probably just strained something working out. He was relieved.
However he continued to have pains returned to the doctor a few days later. Maury knew something wasn’t right. This time they put him through a stress test and immediately sent him to a cardiologist. An angiogram, a test that uses a special dye and camera to take pictures of blood flow in an artery, indicated that he had 90 percent blockage.
During an angioplasty procedure a stent was inserted into the coronary artery to hold it open and improve blood flow to the heart. Maury was released from the hospital two days before his birthday. When he went back to work he gave Melene a big hug. “If it wasn’t for the YMCA and for her urging me to work out, I probably wouldn’t be alive today,” Maury said.
He is now committed to his health and works out six or seven days a week. He keeps his gear in his car, this way if he has time between meetings and is near a YMCA, he’ll pop in for a workout. He even admits he has come to enjoy it.
The YMCA is also a great place to build community. “The nice thing about working out every morning is that you see the same people. I’ve made a lot of acquaintances,” Maury said. “I’ve talked about my heart issue and quitting smoking on the air and people come up to me all the time to talk to me about it.”
Getting in Shape at the Y|
Tom Kometani had a heart attack at the young age of 37 and endured a quadruple bypass at age 50. However, looking at him now, you wouldn’t guess he’s actually 71 years old. Tom and his wife Janet, 70, have been coming to the Southeast Family YMCA for three years. When they first visited the Y, Tom hobbled in on crutches due to a deep thigh bruise caused by his heart medication and Janet had a frozen shoulder and couldn’t raise her right arm over her head.
“We realized that if we wanted to keep doing the things we enjoyed, we needed to get in shape and keep active,” Tom said. The friendly, qualified Y staff set them up on a structured exercise program that began with stretching to increase flexibility. They eventually added weights and aerobics to their workouts.
“We feel that we are getting expert instruction of safe but rigorous exercises which increase our strength and enhance our quality of life,” he said.
Tom and Janet now participate in the Silver Sneakers and Forever Fit programs and have made many close friendships with other members. “It’s not just the equipment, it’s the people,” Janet said. “We support each other, motivate each other, and keep track of each other.”
They’ve also joined with other Y members to form a Line Dancing group that performs at events and locations, such as preschools and nursing homes, throughout the community. They enjoy the camaraderie and socialization resulting from the dancing performances.
“We have more energy and feel better both physically and spiritually since we started living a healthier lifestyle,” Tom said. “We enjoy spending time with people that have the same goals as us. Our social life now involves the Y.
Half the Size, Double the Enthusiasm|
They played together a few years ago through the local parks program, but aged out when they started middle school. Just wanting a place to play, the coach asked the Everett YMCA if they could play there. The games are like a school yard pick situation, getting changed up every week. Most importantly, it’s fun: For the players and the parents.
Faisal’s brother Faris plays on the team. At every game you would find Faisal on the sidelines dribbling his ball while his brother played during the game. During timeouts he’d go out and take shots. During one game the team was short on players, so seeing how Faisal loved basketball, coach Cris Gellerson asked him if he wanted to play in the game. His face lit up!
As he waits to get subbed in, Faisal sits on the sideline stretching out. He doesn’t want his little muscles to get tight while he patiently waits to go back into the game. When the other team has the ball his arms are up in defense mode, though they may only reach his opponent’s armpits. He glances up to the scoreboard regularly to stay on top of the game.
When asked what he likes best about playing basketball he sums it up with one word, “Shooting.” In fact, he scored 12 points in his last game.
What’s so special is that when Faisal has possession of the ball, the other players back off a bit, knowing that he’s half their age. It’s not about winning; it’s about teamwork and caring that Faisal has fun and doesn’t get hurt. This isn’t a trait you’d typically experience at other basketball games for boys of this age.
You truly can’t help but smile as you watch Faisal play. You smile knowing that this seven year old is having the time of his life. And you smile because the other twelve-to-fourteen year old boys on the team all watch out for him.
Half the size and half the age of some of the other players on the team, Faisal Arshad, age 7, drives down the court and takes the shot. He dribbles like someone twice his age, making it hard for the other team to steal the ball, since he dribbles at their knees.
The Everett Family YMCA middle school basketball team is made up of a group of kids who simply love to play basketball.
Having the Time of His Life|
Barney Membrere is a survivor. Through a traumatic childhood and a high school sports injury that left him paralyzed on his left side, he never gave up. He put himself through college shooting pool in Everett. He was known as the “one arm bandit” because he shot only using his right arm. He quickly learned that if he missed the ball, he was out of the game.
Barney has always enjoyed working with youth. Over the past 30 years he has worked for a number of youth service organizations and school districts as a teacher’s aide. In 1993 he read an article about latchkey kids and felt inclined to get involved and work with these children. He found his way to the Marysville Family YMCA and worked as a program assistant in the child care program reading to kids.
In 2000 he started working in the Y’s teen center. After overseeing numerous arguments and seeing the mistreatment of equipment, he was looking for a way to teach kids respect and sportsmanship, for the game and each for other. So this past year he began organizing pool tournaments.
Each game starts out with a handshake. It is now common for kids to congratulate each other after the game too. “It now comes naturally to see good sportsmanship,” he said. Barney likes to “plant the seed” of confidence in all the kids. He shows an interest in their lives and finds a “key” to talk to each of them. Whether it’s sports, school, or life in general. He doesn’t accept excuses.
“I have been rewarded the honor of building confidence and skills in these kids. Students and kids I have worked with in the past now meet me in public and share of their successes,” he said. “I’m having the time of my life.”
Mentoring Program Benefits Young and Old|
Eleven year old Keith K. is stuck in the middle. In the middle of siblings that is. He has two older brothers and two younger twin sisters. Single, working mom Crissy feels stretched at times trying to provide everyone with the attention they need.
In October 2002, at the suggestion of Challenger Elementary School dean of students, Christine Johnson, Keith joined the school-based Mentors Matter program through the MukilteoSchool District’s partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Snohomish County. Keith was matched with Bob Lee and the rest as they say is history.
This past summer, Bob and Keith enhanced their school-based relationship by transitioning into the BBBS community-based program. Now, they typically get together for about four hours every Saturday, more often during the summer.
The two immediately hit it off. According to Crissy, they are a perfect match and both have a very “quirky” sense of humor. When asked what he enjoys most about the program, Keith said “I enjoy not being alone on the weekends.” Crissy appreciates the fact that Keith has someone all his own. Someone he doesn’t have to share with his siblings. She feels comfortable that when they’re together, Bob is providing Keith with the male guidance he’s not able to get at home.
Since being together Bob has taught Keith to swim, dive and now snorkel. An avid scuba diver, Bob enjoys the water but told Keith that he had to learn how to swim before he could join him on his boat. Bob says that Keith has a natural talent for snorkeling.
Crissy says that Keith’s involvement with Bob has increased his confidence. And as an added bonus, learning to snorkel has actually helped Keith’s asthma because it has increased his lung capacity. He hasn’t had to use his inhaler for two months.
A retired Boeing engineer and active Boeing Bluebill, Bob wants to encourage other older adults to become involved inBBBS mentoring programs. Through his involvement with science education he has witnessed first-hand by visiting schools how easy it is for kids to fall through the cracks. If more people, especially active older adults who have more free time can become involved with a child during the elementary and middle school years, he believes we can prevent more kids from falling.
Bob says that Keith has shown him how easy it is to have fun and that it has knocked 15 years off his age.
Never Too Old to Try Something New|
After 25 leg surgeries, which include three knee replacements and three hip replacements, wouldn’t think that the word “active” is one to describe Doris Torgerson. You’re wrong.
At the age of 75, Doris is not one to sit still. She likes to keep busy and active, both mentally and physically; and according to her, that’s the secret to staying young. Doris has been a SilverSneakers® member at the Mukilteo Family YMCA for three years. Doris said that the exercise classes for older adults have pushed her to try things she wouldn’t even have thought of trying before. Though she’s taken her fair share of spills, she gets back up and tries again. With her stiff legs, she says she falls flat, “just like a board.”
The Mukilteo Family YMCA offers a variety of group exercise classes designed specifically for the health and fitness needs of older adults. The SilverSneakers® group exercise class focuses on cardiovascular health, muscle strength, balance, coordination and conditioning and is proven to improve members' activities for daily living and reduce health care costs. The class is appropriate for a wide range of fitness levels. Other activities include teas, potlucks, day trips and holiday parties. These activities provide an excellent opportunity for active older adults to spend time together with their friends and make new ones. Doris enjoys this aspect of the program just as much as exercising.
In addition to exercising four days a week at the Y, Doris also sings weekly at a local nursing home, and is currently acting as a “mentor” assisting her granddaughter Amanda with her senior class project. Her advice to other older adults, “Get involved in a program that inspires you to do the best you can with what you have. We’re all limited, but there’s something at the Y for everyone.”
One Less Thing To Worry About|
Cristin Smock is a single mom trying to make ends meet. When her daughter Taylor began full-day kindergarten, the daycare she was using at the time wanted to charge her the same rate for two hours after school as they did for full-day child care. Being on a limited budget, this wasn’t going to work.
Taylor, 8, has been in YMCA afterschool child care on and off for the past three years. Cristin had heard about YMCA child care through Taylor’s school and contacted the Southeast Family Branch for more information. The staff worked with her to get set up on financial assistance. “The Y was the only one to offer to help with financial assistance,” Cristin said.
This summer Taylor participated in Horse Camp and Summer Enrichment Camp. Some of her favorite things to do were riding her horse Hopie on the trails, going to the Birch Bay waterslides, holding snakes at the Reptile Zoo, and swimming at Yost Pool.
Cristin said that she wouldn’t be able to do all the things with Taylor that she got do on the field trips with camp. “She got to experience new and fun things that we wouldn’t normally get to do.”
“Having Taylor in YMCA child care is just one less thing to worry about,” Cristin said. “I know she is safe, and I don’t have to stress.”
Peace of Mind and Family Time|
Krista Burkart gave birth to her daughter in 2006, and she did all the right things to find child care in the months before little Regan arrived. She and her husband toured facilities, interviewed parents, and sat with teachers. They were looking for an affordable child care center that was child-centered, safe, and intentional with their daughter.
They settled on a center in Bothell, but soon learned this was not the right choice. They began to notice a lot of staff turnover and were not getting a good “gut” feeling about the care being provided to their daughter. With the stress of being new parents, long commutes, and the transition to a child care setting they were exhausted and struggling to get quality family time. “We needed to change our situation,” Krista said.
The Burkarts again started to look for a child care center and visited the YMCA Heatherwood Child Care Center in Mill Creek. “As soon as we walked in the building we knew that this was the place where our children would love coming to school each day. The building was clean and well maintained, the playground is safe and enclosed, and the rooms have age-appropriate equipment and toys for every level,” Krista said. “But what really sold us on the YMCA at Heatherwood were the teachers and staff.”
Krista has only great things to say about their experience with the YMCA Heatherwood Child Care Center. The location is great. The staff provides structure that little ones (and parents) need to be happy. They do art, take field trips, play outside, provide healthy meals, all for a reasonably affordable price. When Regan was asked what she likes best she replied, “Playing . . . I exercise while playing.”
In 2009 Cassidy was born and she also attends Heatherwood. “Mostly, my husband and I have peace of mind knowing that our children are in a wonderful place, making friends, and that their lives are enriched by being at the YMCA.”
“We are excited that both girls can learn and grow in the same place, with the same wonderful teachers again,” Krista said. “We have dinner together as a family every night, and talk about our days. We feel that the teachers and staff partner with us to be the best parents we can be.”
Supporting Teens Worlds Away|
What do you do if you’re a 16-year-old teenager looking for fun and adventure during the summer? Well, if you’re Nadeem Quandeel, an 11th grader from Amman, Jordan, you come to the United States to visit your uncle.
Nadeem’s main goal for his visit was to improve his language skills, to better understand how people live overseas, and to experience American lifestyle and culture because he plans to attend a university in the U. S. after completing high school in Jordan.
While visiting, Nadeem learned about the YMCA Counselors in Training (CIT) program. The goal of the CIT program is to help teens improve their leadership skills and take the first steps toward becoming a camp counselor. The program focuses on six core areas of leadership: volunteering, communication, caring for children, values and character development, program development, and leadership styles.
“I learned so may things at the Y and had a wonderful experience that comes only once in a lifetime,” Nadeem said.
According to Nadeem, some of the things he learned from attending the CIT program include:
- How to be a better person and how to interact with kids.
- How to be a good role model for the kids.
- I learned to always have a positive attitude.
- To ask for feedback on performance and to always have a goal.
- I learned how to be a good teammate and to care about my colleagues and campers.
- How to solve problems correctly.
- I learned how to communicate with the staff.
- To have a new challenge to grow in spirit, mind, and body.
- I learned how to be enthusiastic and show enthusiasm.
“I am looking forward to working with the YMCA in Jordan as a counselor,” he said. “I want to demonstrate the things I have learned in the U.S. and continue the work I started.”
The Y Gives This Mom Peace of Mind|
Susanne Cundy has been involved with the Monroe Family YMCA for four years. When her husband lost his job a few years ago, she turned to the Monroe YMCA for assistance. Now separated, Susanne depends on the Y for school-age child care and summer camp for her two daughters, Sarah, 12, and Samantha, 10.
Susanne can’t say enough about the staff, “They really care and will work with you to find a solution to meet your needs.” Though Susanne works in Lynnwood, she can’t bring herself to move because of the wonderful support she receives from both the child care and administrative staff at the Monroe Family YMCA. She is grateful for their compassion and understanding.
Sarah and Samantha love the Y and look forward to seeing their friends. During the summer Sarah participated in the Teen Xtreme summer camp program. Her favorite field trip was going to watch a Seattle Storm basketball game. In the day camp program, Samantha enjoyed visits to Legion Park.
The Y Helps Member Gain Strength and Freedom|
In April 2004 Gil Velo was released from the hospital after what was supposed to be a simple bowel obstruction surgery. Two hours after being home he experienced a spinal cord aneurism and was left paralyzed from the chest down. His entire life changed. He was now a paraplegic.
For the next three months Gil attended therapy twice a day during the week and once a day on weekends. When he was discharged from transitional care in June of that year, the therapy ended. He and his wife Jamie knew that he must continue exercising to build muscle strength. Jamie started calling around and found the Marysville Family YMCA.
Scott Ballinger is the trainer at the Marysville Y. He experienced a spinal cord injury as a young boy, and can relate to some of the things Gil was experiencing. “Scott understands what I’m going through,” Gil said. “He motivates me and keeps me going.”
Beginning in September 2004, Gil began working out with Scott twice a week. Together they work on rehabilitative and cardio exercises to build muscle, strength, and balance.
When he first came to the YMCA, Gil had very little upper body strength. The upper body exercises have been key to building his balance since he only has feeling from the chest up. “Using the machines and building my strength has given me the assurance to try new things,” Gil said. He can now lift himself out of his wheelchair and has the freedom to move.
Gil has become a volunteer member on the Marysville Y’s Total Health Committee. Working with the committee, Gil is increasing awareness about the challenges people with physical disabilities face on a daily basis — things that most people take for granted, such as getting changed into workout clothes.
Being around other members and the staff at the Marysville Y has also helped Gil’s mental outlook. Gil looks forward to his weekly visits to the Marysville YMCA to work out with Scott and see the many friends and supporters he has met on his journey. His entire outlook on life has changed since he came to the Y. "I will walk again," he said.
The Y Helps This Teen Mom Finish School|
Lamara Penny was a typical teenager, except for one thing. She had a baby. Though she tried to keep up with her studies at Mariner High School, it was difficult to balance both her lives — that of a mother and a student. Unfortunately she ended up missing a lot of school and falling farther and farther behind in her school work. This led to other problems and challenges.
Finally, counselors at Mariner put Lamara in touch with the Mukilteo Family YMCA ACES child care program. The YMCA provides safe, quality, licensed infant and toddler child care for teen parents at ACES, Kamiak, and Mariner High Schoolsso teens can finish their education.
The Y worked with Lamara to get all of the paperwork submitted. Once her daughter was enrolled in the ACES child care program, Lamara returned to Mariner. She stayed for one month and then transferred to ACES High School. Lamara graduated with her high school diploma in June 2004.
“The Y was great in helping me get all the paperwork processed and everything set up,” Lamara said. “If it wasn’t for Y child care offered through ACES, I probably wouldn’t have finished high school.”
Now a mother of two, Sierra, 3, and Mason, 18 months, Lamara is participating in the Community-based TransitionCenter program offered through the school district. She is still able to keep the children in YMCA child care at ACES while she pursues getting a drivers license, obtains job training, and learns skills to budget money.
Lamara feels that she is a better person since having children because it has forced her to focus on the realities of life and realize that other people depend on her.
She gives a lot of credit to the YMCA ACES child care program for allowing her to look to a brighter future because she obtained her high school diploma.
The Y Provides This Teen a Sense of Freedom|
Nick Jenkins is like any other 17-year-old high school student. He likes to listen to music, play video games and hang out with his friends. The only difference is that Nick has Down Syndrome. So the sense of freedom that many teens start to experience at this age has not been part of his life. That is, until he joined the YMCA.
Attending the Marysville Family YMCA has given Nick the freedom to be a kid without his parents or teachers watching over him. It has allowed him a certain level of independence that he can’t experience at home or at school.
It is here that Nick fits in. Members and staff know him by name and are patient, friendly and encouraging. He loves to help fold towels or talk to kids in the game room. While at the Y he has the opportunity to form healthy relationships and friendships. It is here that he is learning both from staff and other members appropriate socials skills and behaviors.
Nick’s mother, Loren, says, “The Y staff has been wonderful. They are very supportive, setting the appropriate boundaries where necessary, but also working with Nick to accommodate certain situations.”
Nick now attends Tae Kwon Do classes three times a week and comes to open swim on Friday. Loren said the exercise has also been great for Nick. Down Syndrome kids have the tendency to gain weight, however these programs have allowed Nick to successfully maintain his weight.
When asked what Nick likes best about the YMCA he said, “There’s lots to do.” He can work out, swim or take his Tae Kwon Do class. He also likes to “help people” volunteering behind the counter or in the teen center.
The main benefit from Nick attending the YMCA is the sense of “normalcy” it gives him. It gives him freedom and independence within a safe environment. Loren knows there are caring people watching out for him and that his experiences at the Y will positively impact his life and help him reach is full potential.
Time is Special When Big and Little Are Together|
“War of the Animals” is a multimedia production David I. and his Big Brother Greg Hill recently produced. David wrote the story and together they created a presentation that includes photos, sound, and a supplemental book. David and Greg are matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) School-based Mentoring Program.
David and Greg have been matched for three years and truly enjoy their weekly visits during the school year. They also attend many of the BBBS social activities throughout the year. Because Greg travels a lot, many times when they meet they talk about his most recent trips and look at photos. They have also done research on other countries and learned that David has roots in Nicaragua.
They like working on projects using technology, and that is what spurred the “War of the Animals.” Many times though, they simply just enjoy their hour together hanging out, talking over lunch, or playing Frisbee.
David’s mom Kathy has a brother in Wyoming who is a BBBSvolunteer, and that is how she learned about the program. Not having family in the area she knew this would be a good program for David because it would provide him with a caring, positive, male, adult role model. Before being matched withGreg, David was much more shy. Now he’s conversational and sure of himself.
“Being matched with Greg has added another color to David’s world,” Kathy said. “He’s excited about school and has an interest in things he wouldn’t normally be exposed to such as world travel and technology.”
It is obvious that they enjoy being together. David says that being with Greg has helped his social skills. He’s now more comfortable around people. For Greg, he simply likes hearing about David’s life and what he’s doing. It gets him out of the office and is a great stress reducer. When he’s with David he can forget about everything else focus only on David. “We always have a good time together.”
Y Helps Family Through Difficult Times|
The Rasmussen-Richardson family has had a difficult few years, but the YMCA of Snohomish County stepped in to provide child care assistance that made a difference in their lives.
When Bill Richardson was forced to resign from his job last summer, having young children at home made it difficult for him to look for employment and to go on job interviews, so they decided to enroll their two young girls, Starr and Sunn, in child care. Cecilia Rasmussen-Richardson’s boys had been involved in YMCA youth sports in the past, and she had a friend who recommended YMCA child care for the girls.
Because Cecilia was still working, the family didn’t qualify for DSHS. She applied for financial aid, and the YMCA provided assistance for both her daughters. The YMCA also honored her request for a flexible payment plan.
Cecilia said, “Without financial aid, I would not have been able to have my children attend child care. This has enabled me to continue to work without the added stress of having to worry about where my children would be during my hours of work.”
Had financial aid been denied, it would have forced Cecilia to consider quitting her job to be home with the girls. This would have eventually lead to even more financial difficulties. Having the girls in child care also freed up time during the day for Bill to seek employment.
“The interchange I received from everyone at the Everett YMCA has been an attitude of genuine caring and remarkable understanding,” Cecilia said. “I can only say ‘thank you’ to the YMCA for demonstrating such a caring attitude. It’s sometimes hard to find that in this day and age.”
Starr and Sunn have made many friends, love the variety of activities, and truly look forward to going to child care. Bill was able to secure employment, and Cecilia has the peace of mind of not having to worry about the safety of her children while she’s at work.
Y-Community Program Helps Bring Family Together|
A grand mal seizure and a few short paychecks was all it took to force Pam Oliver and Harold Grinstead and their family into homelessness. Unable to meet full rent they were evicted from their home. Volunteers of America put them up in a motel for one month and from there they transferred to a Red Cross emergency shelter for 90 days. After transferring to Housing Hope in late August they learned about the YMCA’s Y-Community program.
Y-Community was developed to help reduce the impact of homelessness and related traumas for children and families in the shelter and housing network within Snohomish. The Y coordinates with housing providers, community organizations and volunteers to create a sustainable umbrella of programs, activities and services.
Since learning about the Y-Community program, seven year old Bobbi-Lee and fifteen year old Cody have been actively involved in Kids Night Out and Fun Swim programs. Bobbi-Lee enjoys the opportunity to meet and play with other children her own age, something that’s not always possible in the shelter environment. Family Swims provided the family with quality time together. This was cherished time away from the stress and unknowns that the family faced on a daily basis. While at the Y they could focus on each other and enjoy their time together in a safe place with caring adults and positive activities.
Things are looking up. Pam promised Cody and Bobbi-Lee that they would be in their own home by the beginning of the school year and she did everything possible to keep her word. Her persistence has paid off and after ten months of homelessness, they signed a lease in July to move into permanent housing as part of the State’s Welfare to Work program. Their experience with homelessness was much shorter than most families – which is often 2-4 years. Pam also just received approval to return to work.
Pam is so impressed with the Y-Community program that she has submitted an application to volunteer. “I believe the YMCA really helped bring my family together during an incredibly stressful period of our lives,” said Pam.