Making a difference everyday
Your community is our community and together we are promoting healthy living, nurturing the potential of children and youth and fostering a sense of social responsibility. Check out these personal stories from our community, evidence that lasting personal and social change happens at the YMCA.
Taking Care of One Another
"My whole family was unhealthy and now everyone is lean and mean" (Bernard, member). It took two YMCA tours, cholesterol medication and the poor health of his family before Bernard decided to make a change.
It took two YMCA Open House tours, cholesterol medication, and the poor health of his wife and seven kids before Bernard decided to change his life and join the Tong Louie Family YMCA. "My whole family was unhealthy and now everyone is lean and mean!" Bernard has now lost more than 70lbs and has gained a love of fitness and volunteering.
Bernard gives credit to his YMCA family for helping him achieve his goals. It was the care and concern of staff and volunteers that motivated him to change his life. "The YMCA is like a big family gathering," says Bernard. "People are nice, no one sees you differently and everyone looks out for everyone else."
Bernard used to pass by Cyclefit classes and think, "It's not for me." But another member literally dragged him to class one day to change his mind. Believe it or not, Bernard now teaches Cyclefit and is loving every minute of it. "It's all about members helping members," he says. Bernard now also enjoys yoga, running, weight-lifting and circuit classes.
Life has indeed come full circle for Bernard. "I'm lucky I have the Y," he says with a big, warm smile. "I took so much from all our volunteers and if I can make a difference in someone else's life, what more can I ask for?"
Sport Changes Everything
"Basketball is going to give me a better life" (Justin, 12 years old). A team of youth at Surrey's Hjorth Road Elementary School are tackling sport and life together.
Every kid deserves the opportunity to participate in sport, but not all can. Obstacles like affordability, opportunity and other life-challenges can prevent kids from participating in positive programming, leaving them more vulnerable to unhealthy after-school options. But things are changing. At Surrey's Hjorth Road Elementary School, a team of 10 to 12 year old youth is tackling sport and life with the YMCA Steve Nash Basketball League.
The school's principal and coach, Joe Frank, teaches more to the team than the fundamentals of basketball. He's giving them the chance to be leaders, learn teamwork and find out what it means to truly look after your teammates rather than just yourself. "I am trying to build strong players, but I'm also trying to build strong people," he says. "You never know what you'll say today that gets through to them and helps them make good choices in the future.
Basketball might be a big part of 12-year-old Justin's future, which is now a bit brighter. "I want to play in college and professionally," he says. "Basketball is going to give me a better life." For Justin's teammates, it's a chance to be with friends and have fun, while learning important life skills at the same time. "It's the highlight of their week," says Joe. "Because of donations from our community, these kids are getting the chance to participate in after-school activities that not only build up positive values, but also give them a safe place to just be kids."
Support That is Unbreakable
Dörte finds social and emotional interconnectedness at the Y
"I needed contact - I'm a social person"
"What am I waiting for? It's now or never. There is nothing to be lost." This is Dörte Benecke-Knopf's daily mantra since being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Dörte says that she first came to the Tong Louie Family YMCA in 2004 because she was looking for social and emotional interconnectedness. "For me it was not losing weight," she says. "I needed contact - I'm a social person." A new mom, Dörte joined the YMCA to be active and participate in activities that she could do with her child. "It was the friends I made and my love for learning that inspired me to become a Group Fitness volunteer", she says.
Dörte's passion for people is evident in the dynamic and caring spirit she brings to each fitness class. "It was a really great way to connect with other members while also taking time to do something good for my own mind and body." Dörte started Pre-Natal Yoga at the centre and continued to teach it as well as Yoga Strength and Stroller Aerobics right up until she was diagnosed in 2007. It is the integration of physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual well being in Yoga that spoke to her from the very beginning. "I really attribute the healing benefits of yoga to my successful fight against breast cancer," she says. "It's made me strong like a warrior."
As much as Dörte embraced the Y, the Y embraced Dörte. "My extended family is still in Germany," she says. "The Y has really become my surrogate family." Dörte draws courage and strength from her YMCA class participants and friends, continuing to teach yoga 3-5 times a week. "Throughout this journey my YMCA friends are there to encourage me, cheer me on, share my laughter and my tears - it is an unbreakable bond of support," she says.