Everyone has a story, and we love it when people want to share how the Y is a piece of their story. Whether you learned to swim at a YMCA, gained confidence at camp, live a healthier lifestyle or received financial assistance to take the steps you need to grow as a person, the Y has positively impacted many people in Berkshire County and beyond. Read real stories from real people.
My Y Story
The Y recently launched “My Y Story,” a new video series featuring familiar faces who share their personal Y stories and discuss the Y’s community impact. Featured stories include those of Olympic gold medalist and Y youth participant Allyson Felix; chef and Y donor and volunteer Marcus Samuelsson; Oscar®-nominated actor and lifelong Y member Ethan Hawke; Los Angeles Lakers Forward and former Y youth member Kyle Kuzma; actress and Y member and volunteer Jane Lynch; chef and television personality Andrew Zimmern; and professional football players, the Edmunds brothers.
The Edmunds Brothers
Each year, the Y teaches more than a million children invaluable swimming and water safety skills at more than 2,000 pools across the country. Brothers and lifelong Y members Trey, Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds learned how to swim at their local Y long before they became professional football players. Watch as they visit their hometown Danville Family YMCA to help teach some important water safety skills and share their own “My Y Story.”
Water Aerobics Family for Cancer Survivor
A senior cancer survivor joined the Y to stay active and keep healthy. She loves our water aerobics classes and misses being here when she isn’t. While she joined for the exercise, she gained so much more. “It’s become a family in the water aerobics class … I find that it’s peaceful, energetic. … Everyone knows everyone and cares for everyone.” She also brings her grandchildren to the Y for family open swim time.
A Heart-Healthy Routine
Since the late 1980s, Michael has been working out at the Y 3-4 nights a week, utilizing the fitness equipment and classes and swimming occasionally. Several years later, he was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. His cardiologist recommended eating better, in addition to exercising, to become healthier and has since lost 40 pounds! Michael says visiting the Y is a part of his daily routine and that he misses us when he’s on vacation. “The people and programs are great … If I wasn’t coming here, I wouldn’t still be around.”
A Remarkable Instructor
Theresa, a retired RN, joined the Y while she was in her 50s, taking classes and exercising. She later began volunteering and then started teaching classes. As one of our instructors, people have said they feel better and stronger by taking her senior classes, and she occasionally hears that doctors have referred patients to her classes. “I have my aches and pains like everyone else. I don’t worry about it. If you sit back and let those things take over, you’ll be in a wheelchair.” Theresa reflected on her own heart troubles by saying, “I survived my heart attack (in 1998 at 70 years old) because I was in such good shape.”
Beginning Anew At The Y
Stephanie first learned about the Y when her older daughter played in our soccer program. She later sought a family membership to stay active during the winter by swimming together during family open swim time. She also wanted individual activities for her and her daughters. Listening to her needs, the Y awarded a scholarship so that Stephanie can continue to attend the Y. She has also volunteered her time coaching. In 2012, Stephanie and her family became the first recipient of the Y’s “New Beginnings” scholarship. Stephanie was honored, in part because it “really happened at a time in my life when I was looking for a new beginning” and an opportunity to focus on herself.
Better Than Watching TV
A teen from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bahati came to the United States in October 2009. Bahati joined the Y to prepare himself for doing sports but later became a volunteer assistant coach in our soccer league. Bahati also learned to swim in our pool. He enjoys coming to the Y to prepare himself for soccer and track and shares that doing so is a “good way to spend time, instead of watching TV.”
Developing Character Skills
Ayden’s parents were looking for a community organization to engage their son and chose the Y for its youth programs. Ayden first tried swim lessons, then gymnastics and loved them! Ayden’s mom explained that the gymnastics instructor made the experience so much fun, helping him but never pressuring him. Ayden also looks forward to soccer when he’s a little older. From his time at the Y, Ayden’s mom sees his listening skills and ability to follow instructions have grown, just like him.
Encouraging A Young Girl
A young girl had some issues, so her mom enrolled her in gymnastics at the Y. The girl was a little apprehensive at first, but the instructor encouraged her to try some moves, and she did! By the end of the class, she was having fun and said she wanted to come back. Plus, the next day she asked her mom for a hula hoop.
Enjoy The After-School Program
“I would like to take this time to express my thanks for all the contributions you have made to the Pittsfield Family YMCA so that many children and adults in our community could participate in the many wonderful programs the center has to offer. In past years, my children have also benefitted from these contributions, as without them they would not have been able to enjoy the after-school program or the summer camp that has kept them safe and that taught them to continue to strive to become responsible, active young adults in our community. Thanks again!” — Tara C.
Gigi and Her Favorite Campers
Nancy (a.k.a. Grandma or Gigi), grandmother to 11 and 5 year old Y campers, was offered a camp scholarship for her granddaughters. 11-year-old Christina enjoyed being able to attend camp with her 5-year-old cousin last summer, while Nancy felt reassured knowing they would be together. They had a great experience. Christina loved the pool and improved her swim skills. It was important to Nancy that the girls had something structured to do for the summer so they stayed active. She couldn't have provided this wonderful experience to her grandchildren without the camp scholarship.
Inspiring A Camper To Dream
A young girl came to Camp Sumner through a local service due to family issues. Throughout camp, she learned how to interact with other children and she was given the opportunity to see her first play on one of the camp’s field trips: “The Little Mermaid” which inspired her to become a movie star! Now back with her family, she hopes to participate in acting classes and someday be up on the stage performing at camp.
Melissa's self discovery to feel better through the LIVESTRONG program
Melissa came into the LIVESTRONG at the Y program with expectations of feeling better through exercise and to connect with other cancer survivors. She has embraced the exercise and has had some self discovery of her capacity to feel better through exercise and has increased her strength and endurance. She’s open to try new things and when we try something new, Melissa works real hard! She’s also an encouragement to her fellow LIVESTRONG at the Y participants with her determined and positive attitude. We’ve enjoyed having her in our pilot program and she has mentioned interest in becoming a volunteer trainer in the future!
More Confident In The Water
Ahna wanted to follow in her older siblings’ footsteps and be included in something they were doing: her brother was playing basketball and her sister was working out – both at the Y. So, Ahna came to the Y, too! She chose swimming lessons, and loved her instructor. Ahna’s instructor not only helped her feel more comfortable in the water, but Ahna also now feels more confident! Her mom noticed the same once summer arrived, and Ahna was outside in the water more often – without a bubble. Now, Ahna looks forward to trying other programs at the Y such as gymnastics.
Positive Social Environment for My Son
I'm grateful to the YMCA for helping my son learn how to channel his energy in a positive way while also making it affordable for me. Through sports opportunities and special coaches, my son learned many lifelong skills and gained new friends while learning a talent. He is now more interested in being in a positive social environment. Many youth are challenged by the same difficulties as my son and it shows them there is a positive way and positive people there for them.
Reaching His Health Goals
In April of 2009, Carter joined the Y. His weight was about 340 lbs. His waist was 54 inches. His blood pressure and blood sugar were very high. Carter’s doctor recommended swimming. Carter came to the Y and expressed that he was on a fixed income. We provided Carter with a financial scholarship so that he could reach his health goals. Two years later, he lost 80 lbs. and 14 inches. His blood pressure and blood sugar are much lower. He shares, “I want to thank the YMCA for being there. The staff has been very supportive and friendly.”
Seeking A Positive Environment For Her And Her Son
Kristina, a young mother, was exercising at another fitness facility which was too expensive for this college student on a tight budget. Studying to become an elementary teacher, she was also managing the anniversary of her father’s death and some anxiety. Kristina approached the Y for financial assistance. Listening to her needs, the Y awarded Kristina and her son a scholarship so that she can lose weight (she lost 65 lbs. running on our treadmills!) and sign up her son for soccer. Kristina explains that she will take full advantage of the Y’s activities in her commitment to make healthy choices.
Small Goals For This Air Force Trainee
There are a lot phrases that have become clichés designed to motivate people. They all have their place, and what works for one person may not work for another. What I have found is using small, incremental goals is a great way — maybe the only way — to achieve a much larger goal.
Beginning late in 2013, I realized I needed a career change. For much of my life, I led a sports-driven life. That aspect came to a screeching halt when I entered the “real world” after graduating from college, and I desperately wanted it back.
I decided upon a new career: Air Force Pararescue.
It isn’t sports, but it might be the closest thing.
I did my research to learn the physical requirements. Demanding is an understatement, and I needed to pass the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) to even qualify for training. Here are the baseline requirements: 25-meter underwater swim (2x), 500-meter swim in 10 minutes, 7 seconds, 1.5-mile run in 9:47 and 10 pull-ups, 54 sit-ups and 52 push-ups (each with its own 2-minute time allotment.)
It didn’t seem too daunting, but I knew I needed to determine my proficiency in the pool. I couldn’t swim the length of the pool and back, a mere 50 meters. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of work ahead of me.
And that’s where the people at the YMCA started coming out of the woodwork to help.
I had asked Lauren, a lifeguard, for a little advice on how to tread water. (I was trying to get comfortable in the water.) She gave me some tips and suggested I go to the Masters Team’s practices and talk with Dan, the coach.
I did, and astonished myself — and Dan — with the progress I made in one session, one week and one month. I continued to swim with the team for the next couple of months. The time and effort Dan put in allowed me to sail through the swimming portions of the test with ease, but I lacked the strength and stamina for the pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups.
I knew I needed to spend some time in the weight room, so I did. The next time I took the test, I passed the pull-ups, too, but not the sit-ups or push-ups.
I was close to passing the push-up portion, but it was evident I needed some serious work on my core strength. I was managing only about 25 sit-ups.
I needed help, again.
Tracy, a personal trainer, began putting me through the paces with a myriad of core exercises, and introduced me to TRX (body-resistance straps) for a full-body workout. I’m not sure I heard of it before, and part of me wished I still hadn’t. But, rest assured, it works.
When I took the test again, now my third time, I passed the push-ups, which left the sit-ups, my kryptonite, as the final category to conquer.
And that’s where Kaylyn, youth and adult wellness director, came into the picture.
I had been going to her “Kick Some Abs” and “All In One” 30-minute classes. I liked them because I knew I was working my core the way I needed to in order to pass. But I needed more. She agreed and put me through the ringer session after session.
I scheduled the test, and I was the most confident I had been. There was no false hope. There wasn’t any hope in it at all, actually. It had changed to confidence. I didn’t soar through the test by any means, but I did get my 54 sit-ups (about twice as many as the previous test) and qualified for training. I started training to pass the PAST in the middle of November and finally passed it July 1. That’s 7.5 months. As cliché as it is, nothing worthwhile comes easy.
But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It was all the hard work, pain, agony and sacrifice leading up to that test that made the euphoric moment so great.
You can’t expect to jump from the ground floor to the 50th. Smaller accomplishments are needed along the way to make the fall from those failures a lot shorter and easier to get up from and to keep the drive to achieve that big, overarching goal you glance at out of the corner of your eye alive and strong.
Your goal doesn’t need to match mine. Maybe you want to run your first 5K, shed a few pounds or get in better shape. The Y has people that can help, and if you put in the work and don’t cheat yourself, you will get there.
I’m scheduled to leave Oct. 14 for basic, and while there’s no guarantee I’ll make it through two years of training, I am forever indebted to the YMCA staff for their support.
Thanks from a single mom
My name is Jessica and I am a proud mom of three beautiful kids: Nick, Sebas and Maria.
Two years have passed already since my family became part of the YMCA family.
This has been without a doubt, one of the best things that has happened to my family.
Being a single mom things are not easy, especially financially. I have been trying my best to keep my kids active and sports are definitely the best way to keep them mentally and physically healthy, as well as, to keep them away from bad influences, such as, electronics, video games, laziness, etc.. However, I got to the point where I thought it did not matter what I do or how hard I work. I wouldn't be able to afford any sports programs for my kids. That was a devastating thought.
When I came to the YMCA for the first time, I had the pleasure to meet Chris. I was able to explain to her my situation and she is being a true ambassador of the YMCA mission. She was able to provide verly clear information that I needed so I could start the process to obtain a scholarship that gives me, as a single mom, the opportunity to put my children in all sports programs.
As I said above, the YMCA scholarship was and is one of the best things that has happened to my family. Without this amazing support, for sure, my children would not have had the opportunity to be involved in any sports programs. My children and myself were blessed when we were approved for the scholarship.
For me the YMCA is not a place for just sports, it is a place that made my dream come true. I am truly thankful for the opportunity you gave to my family.
Thanks YMCA for the amazing support and the hope you bring to many people in the community.
The Best Childcare For Their Baby
A new baby recently joined our infant room. The baby’s caretakers sought out the guidance of our infant teachers as it had been a while since they cared for a child so young, diligently caring for the baby and wanting to adapt to a consistent schedule. Although social services gave the option of funded home-based childcare services, the caretakers chose to pay privately to the Y because they’re so happy with our teachers. And through our financial scholarship program, these caretakers were able to make it possible.
Used The YMCA All Of My Life
“I’ve used the YMCA all of my life. When I was 4, I did their daycare program. The Y was where I met Santa for the first time. The Y is where I learned to swim. Many of my favorite childhood memories took place at Ponterill. The money you’ve contributed to this program will surely create many new happy memories for many, many people. Thank you.” — Lilly, scholarship recipient
Volunteering As Much As Needed
Jack first came to the Pittsfield Family YMCA in 1980 in need of a place to stay. The Y welcomed him into our residential program. Jack also became an employee for the Y, working in several roles before retiring in 2005. Since his early years with the Y, Jack’s interest in contributing to the community drew him into volunteerism. He served as a youth sports coach for the Y’s baseball and basketball leagues and as a helping hand for the Y’s special events. Through coaching, Jack has helped children develop their skill sets through learning the fundamentals of sports, all the while instilling the values of “sportsmanship, attitude and teamwork.”
Watching my grandson soar with help from the Y!
"The YMCA has been there for me and my grandson, Blake, since he was 18 months old. The Y has always worked with me and my schedule to help Blake continue to grow. They have inspired Blake to be independent and make friends so when he is at school he soars! They work on teambuilding and structure, along with challenging him academically through sports like biddy ball, soccer, and flag football, which has improved his awareness, focus, and accountability. Not to mention, 14 weeks of swim lessons, which has improved his self-confidence. As a parent and grandparent, I would recommend the Y to all families. I don’t know what I would have done without the Y supporting us."
- Melissa, 48 & Blake, 6, Pittsfield
“Thank you very much for providing this wonderful opportunity for my family. I am entrusting the Y with two of my most precious possessions: my son and my health. While my family is right now, like many others, enduring through a financial hardship, I am confident one day we’ll soon be back on our feet. In the meantime, I am grateful for your assistance.” — Jessica, scholarship recipient
‘The Y Was The Last Place I Saw My Father’
When Luke was a child, his parents went through a difficult divorce. As a result, he wasn’t able to spend as much time with his father alone, and he and his sister relied on the Pittsfield Family YMCA’s supervised visitation services to do so. Luke, his sister and father were able to do fun activities together at the Y such as swim, play basketball and exercise. By the time Luke was 7 or 8 years old, his father’s health declined and he wasn’t able to continue to see him through the Y’s program. When Luke was 13 years old, his father passed away. “If it wasn’t for the YMCA, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to make memories that have lasted forever with my dad. The YMCA was the last place I saw my father.” Now an adult, Luke is an employee for the Y supporting other youths as they develop their character and skills.