The Sarasota YMCA is more than a gym. It's a place where lives are changed, people make connections and community comes together for a greater good. These are your stories.
Last year I received a scholarship for a Y membership, available to those with limited income. I joined an exercise group at the Berlin Branch YMCA and I am now in an advanced class and enjoying good health in my 70’s. One day the instructor asked for volunteers to help mentor students at Alta Vista Elementary through the Y-Mentors program. My ears perked up. I was given an opportunity by the Y and I felt I needed to give back. I now tutor four wonderful 1st and 2nd graders. They love to have a person who will work with them one on one, every week. My heart is full with encouragement and gratification because I have helped children read, write, spell, and smile.
June 10, 2010 was a day she would never forget. That was the day her daughters were sheltered. Her daughters were 7 years old and 18 months old. Victoria knew she couldn’t continue her life this way. She made a decision that day that she would stop using. “I realized that I had to be important to myself—it wasn’t enough to try to do it for my children.” Victoria began working the 12 steps and eventually was reunified with her children. “Children are a blessing and each day I am able to help them with their homework, get involved in their activities…these are all normal things families do.” Victoria emphasizes how blessed she feels with everything the Safe Children Coalition put in place for her and continues to express gratitude toward her case manager, Lisa Hunt. “I suffered from a powerful disease. Although Lisa has not gone through the disease of addiction, she is powerful in her ability to understand and use the tools she has to do her job so well.”
Liz has always been afraid of the water. If she couldn't stand up in it she would panic. This fear happened as a result of swimming lessons in 5th grade. The instructor was a yeller and instead of learning to swim she became afraid. This year, Liz made one New Year’s resolution—only to learn how to swim. She is 65 years old and decided that now that she lives in Florida this was important not just for her daughter and grandchildren, but something she really needed to do. Since July she has been taking private lessons with Andrea every other Saturday. Thanks to her, Liz can swim and will venture in the deep end with the swim bar. The most astonishing thing to Liz is that she can float on her back (something she never thought she could do). Andrea has been a great instructor. Liz feels confident when she’s with her. Liz says she still has a lot to learn and does not fully feel comfortable in the deep end without an assistive device, but before this experience she wouldn't have gone in the deep end even with a device. For her, that's progress. Liz says, “It's been a great experience and my family and friends couldn't be prouder of the progress I've made.”
I came to the Y in November 2014 when a neighbor invited me to join him for a spinning class. I was new to the area and delighted to learn that I was so close to such a vibrant Y. I have always tried to stay active until I suffered from a herniated disc and was unable to continue my exercise routine. I ended up with a drop foot which made even walking difficult. After months of therapy I became strong enough to get back into my exercise routine. The instructors at the Y were extremely helpful in directing me to carefully yet effectively pursue my goals and build strength so that I could safely work out. I loved the challenges that the classes provided at every level. And most especially loved the results that I was seeing in my own body. I speak in the past tense because I am currently living over seas in Myanmar. Upon Erin's suggestion I purchased my own TRX and am continuing my training here. She has been kind enough to forward routines that I can incorporate into my practice. I learned appropriate exercises in my Pilates reformer class that I can do on my own to strengthen my weak leg. I will be forever grateful to all the people who helped me on my journey and I look forward to returning to the Y upon our return to the US.
Betty & Larry are YMCA family members that come to the Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch on a daily basis. In speaking with Betty one evening while she was walking on the treadmill, she said that she had recently celebrated her 76th birthday. With tears in her eyes, Betty shared that her best birthday present was bringing her “sweetie” Larry home from the hospital. As Betty touched both hands to her heart, she said that her and Larry will always be grateful for having the YMCA in their lives!
Julius first started coming to the Y for private aquatic balance classes. He was unable to walk into the facility without the assistance of his wife Mary Jane and would hang onto his wife while getting into the pool. When Julius first started getting into the pool he refused to walk backwards and continued to hang onto his wife because his poor balance. After working with our instructor Lisa for a few short months Julius was able to walk into the facility and the pool completely on his own, he even goes up and down the stairs backwards by himself. Today Julius is dropped off at the facility and doesn’t require any assistance while he is here, and will even come in on days that he doesn’t have his balance class and walk the steps of the pool. The balance class has truly made an impact on Julius’s life and it’s great to hear the other members give their compliments and words of encouragement on his progress.
Dan caught me last Wednesday to tell me how this Y changed his life. Dan isn’t his real name, but it’s easier to pronounce than Darshan. He’s from India, then New York, and now happily home in Sarasota. He came to the Y by “accident,” he said. I told him it wasn’t an accident; he was supposed to be here! Dan just recently started learning to swim. He was terrified of the water, he couldn’t stand to have his face in the water, but he mustered up the courage to try because he knew he needed to know how to swim living in Florida. Dan, according to Andrea, can now swim the length of the pool with rhythmic breathing. He is signing up for more lessons to be better and more comfortable in the water. Dan is “in his 70’s.” WOW!! How powerful to be part of a movement, a cause, that helps people achieve lifelong goals and literally changes lives, in this case, may have saved a life!
Sam, a special needs child, was a quick, eager learner who wanted to learn how to swim. He practiced at the Y every day to reach his full potential. Sam completed for the first time in the Special Olympics winning freestyle and backstroke ribbons. Sam has been an inspiration to our other Special Needs children. Another young swimmer said to his parents, “I want to swim like Sammy.”
Lacey moved to Bradenton shortly after losing her mother to cancer when she was 11 years old. At age 17, not yet an adult and still in need of guidance and support, she would suffer the loss of her father. It was at that time that she was placed into foster care through the Sarasota YMCA’s Safe Children Coalition. “They helped me deal with the loss of my parents and got me into counseling and helped me in school.” Lacey’s dream is now to go on to medical school to become a veterinarian.