We are always seeking member stories that help us show how the Y makes a positive impact on individuals and families in our community.
If you would like to share your YMCA experience please complete this
‘Share your Y Story Form’
As a high school teacher and the mother of three young children, Stacy needed support with her children’s remote learning so she and her husband could work. When she found the Y’s Academic Support Center for virtual learning, she was relieved.
“This has been a tough year to be both a teacher and a mom. When the new school year started, I knew I would need a child care solution for my kids. Thanks to the Y, my husband and I can work with peace of mind knowing that our children are in a program that offers stability, structure, academic support, enriching activities and safety protocols. We’ve been so impressed by the social-emotional learning that the Y infuses in the program, which is needed now more than ever. Most importantly, our kids just view it as fun – in fact, they request to stay till closing time each day. We are so grateful to the Y for offering this program. It’s helping the well-being of everyone in our family during this challenging time.”
“Swimming on the Y team since the age of 9 has helped me to believe in myself. I learned to set goals and to work as hard as I can to achieve them. The Y taught me responsibility for myself, respect for others and the importance of volunteerism. I was recently recognized by the National Girls & Women in Sports Association for excelling in sports, school and citizenship. I’m proud to say that, thanks to the Y, caring for people and my community has extended into all aspects of my life, in and out of the pool.”
“I’m a junior at Somerville High School and I first heard of Mental Health First Aid Training via a school newsletter. Because I have an interest in psychology, I decided to take time to get the training that Somerville YMCA offered. I didn’t know what to expect, but the training was really well organized. The 8-hour course was a great learning experience and everyone taking the course with me was really welcoming and inviting. I think everyone should have some background knowledge of mental health disorders and mental health first aid. I hope that more of my fellow students will be encouraged to attend this worthwhile program to help individuals experiencing mental health crisis.”
“My husband and I moved to the area shortly after I was laid off and we were fortunate to find the YMCA to care for our boys. A weight was lifted from my shoulders when I learned that financial assistance is available to struggling families. My oldest son, Joshua, who is 8, is excited to return to camp this summer to see his friends and spend time with his favorite counselors. The Y’s specialty sports camps keep him active all summer long, and he loves it. His brother Jeremiah, enjoys swimming at Junior Y Camp and he has made friends who he keeps in touch with outside of the Y. The financial assistance we receive from the Y has helped our boys grow by allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities we couldn’t otherwise afford. Without the Y being there to provide full-time care for my children, I wouldn’t be able to offer my boys a better life by pursuing my dream of completing nursing school. I’m humbled by those who give to support families in need; it is a gift that can change a life.”
”I was nervous on my first day at Y camp. Before the Y, I went to a camp where I was bullied. But the Y was awesome – everyone was friendly and welcoming. I made lots of friends. As a counselor in training, I was proud to be a role model for the younger kids. Y camp gave me confidence and inspired me to do my best and not let anything get in my way.”
“What frightened me more than a fear of drowning was knowing that I couldn’t save my son in the water if I couldn’t save myself. In the Y’s swim lessons, my son and I learned to stay calm and in control. The first time I swam the length of the pool was a milestone. Now, we are more confident, swimming and enjoying pool time together.”
“Before birth, my son, Tyshawn, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). In the first two years, he had many surgeries and complications. So, I researched new doctors and moved to NJ for better medical care. It wasn’t easy … we were homeless until we found Interfaith Hospitality Network in Somerville. They connected us to the Y for child care so I could work. Putting him in the care of others made me nervous, but the Y staff quickly put me at ease. Tyshawn loves his teachers at the Y; they give him love and compassion. His progress has been amazing — he’s learning so much, gaining social skills and developing confidence. I am so thankful for the Y and the financial assistance it provides. It has drastically changed our lives by allowing me to work to support my son’s medical needs and by helping Tyshawn to grow. The Y gives me hope that there is good in this world.”
“Caring for my boys has consumed my life. Over the years, I didn’t take care of myself and I became obese. I lost myself. When my health and my boys’ health declined, I realized we needed an outlet. So, I turned to the Y. With the help of financial assistance, we began swimming in the pool and quickly felt the benefits. It was therapeutic for the boys and I lost 107 pounds! Coming to the Y has been life changing for us. With their health issues, my boys often had melt downs. In public, people would stare and I felt they were judging us. It was isolating. But at the Y, we never feel different, awkward or unwanted. We are always welcomed with compassion, kindness and acceptance. The Y gave us our lives back and strengthened us as a family. For that, I am so grateful.”
“At the YMCA camp, I learned to swim. It was a very positive experience. So fast forward in my life about 20 years and I have a son and it was summertime and I wanted to send him to camp, too, and I thought what other camp am I going to send my son to but the Y camp? I was a single mom at the time and struggling… Had I not received financial aid I wouldn’t have been able to do that with my son.”
“As a kid, I was bullied in school and never felt like I fit in. At Y camp, I was relieved of harassment in a positive environment where the counselors displayed caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. My summers were full of friendships and fun. I never worried about being teased; instead I was encouraged to build character. I was inspired to become a counselor and a volunteer Y tutor during the school year. I’ve learned that no child is beyond hope and every child deserves to thrive. I’ve seen the difference I can make in the lives of others and I’ve grown as a person. I am indebted to the Y.”
“Every day, when I pick up my boys from the Y, they are so happy about their day. They are learning a lot…letters, counting, shapes, life skills, manners and values…and they help teach me English, too. Financial assistance from the Y means I can focus on work without worry, and it makes me a better mom. I know that my children are safe, that they’re learning, having fun and making friends. It allows me to focus on work without worry. The Y has changed our lives by bringing us all good things. ‘Thank you’ just doesn’t seem enough for all the Y has done for my family.”
As a kid, I was bullied in school and never felt like I fit in. At Y camp, I was relieved of harassment in a positive environment where the counselors displayed caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. My summers were full of friendships and fun. I never worried about being teased; instead I was encouraged to build character. I was inspired to become a counselor and a volunteer Y tutor during the school year. I’ve learned that no child is beyond hope and every child deserves to thrive. I’ve seen the difference I can make in the lives of others and I’ve grown as a person. I am indebted to the Y.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tamara felt so fortunate that her daughter could be engaged in learning and fun in the Y’s virtual after school care program.
“Adjusting to homeschooling as a result of the pandemic has many challenges. The Y’s virtual after school program provides an outlet for Kyndal to express herself, share her thoughts and interact with other children while having so much fun. The counselors give positive feedback which is uplifting. We are forever grateful for the YMCA and all of the opportunities that it has provided our family.”
Being part of the swim team has been so rewarding — I’ve made great friends who I root for and compete against. My coaches have inspired me to dream big, to set goals, to work hard, and to have a positive attitude…all while having a ‘splash’ of fun! Recently, I began to volunteer with the Y’s Saturdays in Motion (SIM) program, which helps children with special needs. I so enjoy playing with the kids in gymnastics and then in the pool. This year, I helped organize and run the SIM fundraiser. I am proud that we raised $4,600, which was $2,100 higher than goal! Because of these experiences, I am a better swimmer, student, friend, and person.
Swimming on the Y team since the age of 9 has helped me to believe in myself. I learned to set goals and to work as hard as I can to achieve them. The Y taught me responsibility for myself, respect for others and the importance of volunteerism. I was recently recognized by the National Girls & Women in Sports Association for excelling in sports, school and citizenship. I’m proud to say that, thanks to the Y, caring for people and my community has extended into all aspects of my life, in and out of the pool.
“Each day in the summer, I walk to and from camp at the Somerset Hills YMCA because my mom doesn’t have a car. It’s about 2 miles each way and sometimes I get tired, but I keep going because I have so much fun at Y camp. The counselors are so fun – they make me feel good. I’m always happy when they give me character cards for honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. This year, I can’t wait to go to sleep away camp – I am most excited about getting breakfast, lunch and dinner. I bet it will be yummy”
A Win After a Loss
After Marylin’s husband passed away in early 2020, she realized her health had fallen by the wayside, and she needed something to jumpstart a new and better lifestyle. And just at the right moment, Greater Somerset County YMCA’s Smallest Winner program was launched.
“I was considering the program because I lost my husband of 32 years a year ago, and the stress of having an ill husband in a chronic situation – your weight just kind of creeps up on you so when the Director of Group Exercise mentioned Smallest Winner to me, I thought, ‘Oh, nutrition, exercise, a trainer – these are all good elements here’ – so I decided to sign up.”
With a flexible schedule that worked with hers, Marylin began to bring her healthy habits back.
“The trainer’s schedule fit right in with mine, and I started to feel better from the first session. I used to work out, but over the last few years, my husband required a lot of my attention. So my whole exercise program went out the door, I hadn’t done anything for myself, really, because that’s just the way it was. And getting back into this, I felt like a million dollars almost immediately,” Marylin said.
Twelve weeks and 10.5 pounds lost, Marylin feels like a winner, with every intention to keep the momentum going.
“I knew even before I started this it was going to be a wonderful program. I knew having it over 12 weeks would be very sustainable, it seemed like that was going to work for me. And it did. It brought me back into good habits again – better habits, truthfully.”
YMCA member since 2010
Back Into The Swim of Things
Amanda enjoyed aerobics classes for more than 20 years before she tore her meniscus in her knee, and had to make a change to her fitness routine after surgery.
She was motivated to dive into the water at Hillsborough Y 10 years ago, and has been making a splash at Aqua Exercise classes ever since.
“I came here looking to do some kind of cardio, and the only place I could do it was in the water. So that’s what motivated me to get in,” Amanda recalls. “But what motivated me to stay was that I lost weight, I felt better, I was able to tolerate my arthritis better, the stretching was amazingly good, and I made friends. So, it was just a win/win all the way around.”
Going to Aqua Exercise at the Y had become her routine three times a week up until COVID-19 and quarantine – now she’s happy to finally be back in the water with her friends after, and has some feedback for anyone considering taking the class.
“If you participate in water exercise, you will feel better than you probably have in a long time. You’ll be stretched out, you can stand taller, you can breathe better, and it will just make the rest of your day better.”
“LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a lifesaver that brought me back to life. I don’t want to be a cancer survivor—wounded, but still alive. I want to be a warrior—to come back triumphant. That’s what I’ve been able to do with the help of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA staff. They are compassionate, empathetic and motivating. I discovered that I’m really good at all sorts of exercises and I’ve seen improvement in my range of motion, strength and balance. I don’t have the words to explain how grateful I am.”
Dr. Morsy Alsamadasi (Dr. Sam)
When I was in middle school, my history teacher showed me a video about a woman creating free outdoor food pantries in Arkansas. The video inspired me to do something for my community. That’s when I thought I should implement a Little Free Pantry in my own town to help provide food for those who are in need. The first one I made was outside of my school. But then I thought the Y is the perfect place to build one. As a Y member for years, one of the things I experienced here is a feeling of community and love. The Y is a place for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds. So, people who are in need can come here and take something from the pantry, and those who want to support the project can donate items to help keep it stocked. The most important thing about the pantry is that it’s anonymous. People don’t have to feel embarrassed if they need food, toiletries or other necessities found inside. They can just walk up to it and take what they need.
For more information about the Free Little Pantry, email Kate Russo at email@example.com.
More information about Somerville YMCA and the Y’s commitment to community can be found online at gscymca.org.
Megan and J.J.
“While I was in a shelter for abused women, the Y offered me financial assistance so I could become a member. I cried. For me, the Y was not just a place to work out, but a place to get my mental well-being back on track. Exercising, learning to eat healthier and getting positive reinforcement gave me energy and helped me cope. I gained the confidence and self-esteem I needed to go back to school and earned a 4.0! Words can’t express how great I feel. The Y saved my life.”
“I am former police officer and FBI agent, so staying in shape was important. In 1981, I came to the Y to work out three to five times a week. The fitness classes were excellent, but what kept me coming back were the friendships. The same guys have been coming here for years and we have a ‘breakfast club’ that celebrates birthdays together. Our families have dinners. We motivate each other. At 71, I am able to climb stairs, do yardwork and if I get hurt, I bounce back because I stay fit. To me, the Y is not just a place to stay in shape it’s a family.”
We all dream of retirement, but for many, the loss of routine can have dire effects on their health.
In fact, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health that looked at the rates of heart attack and stroke among 5,422 men and women, those who had retired were 40 percent more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those who were still working.
Kathleen O’Donnell, 62, wasn’t going to become part of that statistic when she retired from her job as a hospital administrator last March, especially after she realized the stress of her job had taken a toll on her health. Rather than stay home and remain stagnant, she decided to use her time wisely and get herself back on track to healthy living. That’s when she joined Somerset Hills YMCA.
“I was so stressed running a hospital for 25 years. The stress made me eat a lot – mostly carbs, and let’s face it, they’re comfort foods,” Kathleen said. “I got fat and I was exhausted. I was borderline for everything, including hypertension and diabetes. I was at the start of obesity – all things you don’t want going into your 60s. I knew I had to do something.”
A nurse practitioner by profession, Kathleen spent a career taking care of others, but now she needed to take care of herself. It was her brother, Tom, who inspired her to put her health first by finding a structured fitness program that she could follow and stick to.
The Y offered just that: A place where she could work out at the same time every day, five days a week. A Y member for a year now, she participates in group exercise programs including Zumba, barre and yoga, and also uses eGym, a strength-training circuit in the Y’s Wellness Center.
“I started with Zumba,” Kathleen said. “In the beginning, I couldn’t do it. I was out of breath and didn’t know what I was doing. But I kept at it.”
After only a few months of working out at the Y and improving her diet to include more vegetables and less carbs, both Kathleen and her doctor noticed improvements to her health. All of her borderline levels went way down, and she lost 25 pounds. She also notes being happier than ever thanks to the camaraderie and sense of community she found at the Y.
“I love being with people. That’s why I love the classes,” she said. “We’re all here for each other. The friendships help with stress and help me stick to the program. It’s not often I miss a class, but if I do, I’ll get a text from one of the girls asking where I was.”
So, what advice would Kathleen give folks her age who are still working or approaching retirement?
“Please put yourself first,” she said. “Even if it’s a 30 minute walk everyday – something to take care of yourself daily. Give yourself alone time – and very importantly – a better work-life balance.”
“Eighteen months ago, when my twin boys were 9 weeks old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The chemo, surgeries and radiation took a toll on me, and I wanted to feel healthy again. When I toured the Y, I learned about the Y’s free program for cancer survivors, like me, to help us feel and live better. This program helped me to heal spiritually, physically and emotionally. The kindness and support, especially from the trainers and those in my recovery group, has strengthened my faith in myself, in others and in the community.”
“We are so proud of our team. Our athletes have worked so hard to qualify for the New Jersey team. The USA Games bring out the best in them and inspires them to compete at their highest level of performance. Their achievements are only matched by the strength of their friendship, their determination, and their dedication to training, which fully embraces the mission of the Special Olympics and the Y.”
“This past June, I was the heaviest I had ever been and I wanted to get in shape. So, I signed up for a Fitness Assessment at the Y. I was inspired by the trainer who taught me to have realistic goals and set me up for success by encouraging me to try new equipment and classes. I lost 46 lbs. I am stronger, I have more energy and I sleep better. I love everything about the Y… that it’s a nonprofit, that members and staff are friendly and share such positive energy, that I had a wonderful life-changing experience.”
As a physical education teacher for over 40 years, Linda Klein was shocked and saddened when she received the news that she had Parkinson’s Disease three years ago.
“I was in denial. You think you did everything right, and then you hear this,” Linda said.
Being strong-willed and determined, Linda didn’t give up. She would not let her diagnosis get in the way of her love of fitness and all things exercise.
That’s when she joined Delay the Disease™ at the Y, a group exercise program that helps patients with Parkinson’s manage daily challenges, regain mobility and maintain their independence. As part of the program, Linda lifts weights and performs cardio exercises that help with flexibility and balance.
After only a few months in the program, she started noticing improvement with her mobility.
“I saw it first in my handwriting. It was getting better,” she said.
With the help of Delay the Disease, Linda didn’t have to give up her passion for exercising. These days, she can be found at the Y working out several days a week, taking Zumba® Gold, Chair Yoga and using the fitness machines in the Wellness Center.
“Delay the Disease and the classes at the Y help me to develop aerobic fitness, balance, coordination and strength, which all help delay Parkinson’s progress,” she said. “It’s good to be encouraged by the fantastic, dedicated YMCA instructors and classmates who also have the disease. I’m very grateful for the wonderful programs at the Y.”
Delay the Disease is one of several programs offered at the Y to help manage symptoms of chronic disease.
For more information about Delay the Disease, click here.
“In 2013 when I was laid off, the Y became my anchor holding me steady in unchartered waters – so much more than a just place to exercise. I continued to drive 50 miles to the Y for early morning spin classes and used the café afterward as my office to conduct my job search. Being in my 60s, I thought I was too old to be hired, but Career Forum built my confidence, encouraged a positive attitude, and helped me network. Best of all, I landed a job through another member who cared to help.”
Sister Regina Karen
YMCA member since 1983
Sister Regina Karen has been a member of Somerville YMCA since 1983. A healthy 82-year-old, she credits the Y with helping her stay strong, both in body and spirit. “Coming to the Y helps me feel alive! I love being in the pool, doing deep-water walking, talking to people. I also try to get time on the bike. I doubt that I’d be as healthy as I am if I didn’t come here, mixing with so many good people, seeing them push themselves to maintain their goals is very good for the spirit.”
Chris Kelly is a lifelong athlete. As a runner, triathlete and swimmer, Chris is in great shape. As a cancer survivor, he’s also a warrior. “After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I tried to stay as normal as I was before. I knew my body was getting weaker, but I had to continue my workouts. The Y’s U.S. Masters Swimming staff kept me motivated. They watched out for me. Every day they’d ask me how I was feeling. They understood the athlete in me wanted to push forward, but they were so helpful and accommodating when I got tired. I’m now in remission and back to racing. I’m even a better swimmer than I was before, thanks to the techniques I learned from the coaches in the Masters Swimming program. I’m so thankful for their support.”
Joyjit discovered a passion for running at Hillsborough YMCA’s Hop 5K in 2013. Since the Hop, he’s circled the globe running and completing five of the six World Marathon Majors in Chicago 2015, London 2017, New York City 2016 and 2017, Berlin 2016 and Tokyo 2018. This year he shaved off over 9 minutes, completing the Tokyo marathon at 3:02. Now he is looking toward Boston in 2019. He looks forward to returning to the race that started it all, the Hop 5K in June.
After my divorce, I needed child care for my three kids so I could find a job. Coming to the Y changed our lives. My children are thriving and learning through academics and enrichment. The caring staff and nurturing environment relieve stress in our lives and inspire my kids to be confident and responsible. The Y is our safe haven, our family.”
“Rather than searching for jobs alone at home when I was out of work, I made connections and got valuable advice at Career Forum. It helped me to land a new job. Plus, the Y’s reduced-rate membership was a huge benefit. Exercising made me feel better physically and mentally. Career Forum far exceeded what I could have achieved on my own.”
“My first day at the Y, I was so weak that I slid to the ground and needed help getting up. But that day, everything changed. In the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program, I was surrounded by people who gave me positive encouragement and reminded me that I still have life to live. I’ve regained strength and recovered spiritually and emotionally.”
“During the years I commuted to the city for work, the Y became a second home; my husband, daughter and I participated in a range of activities, from dance to Adventure Guides. The Y is truly where I gained a sense of community. So, when I was asked to join the Association Board it made perfect sense. I am fortunate to serve with tireless, talented and passionate volunteers who care so much about the Y’s mission. In my role, I help to ensure that opportunities are accessible to everyone in our community. The beauty of the Y is that it’s uniquely welcoming—it’s a safe place for people from different backgrounds and interests to convene. Our programs and practices foster the values of inclusion and respect. Personally, I am most passionate about providing support to those in our community who experience financial hardship. Funds raised in the Annual Campaign enable the Y to offer financial assistance to ensure everyone can live a healthy life. Witnessing everyday mission moments is what energizes me to serve and to give. The more successful our fundraising efforts are, the more people can benefit from all the Y offers. I want others to know that it’s the heart behind the gift that matters – supporting the Y can truly transform lives and our communities.”
In June of 2020, the Y was thrilled to reopen our Early Education Centers, and continue supporting families with a safe learning environment for children while parents work without worry. Across our branches, there are currently 73 children enrolled in the program; one in three of whom receives financial assistance.
Meet Merliza. When the Y had to close due to the health crisis, Merliza and her husband didn’t have a child care option so they couldn’t work.
“We were financially strained and worried about paying our bills – a very stressful time. Getting news of the Y’s reopening was a great relief. It meant that we could work again and my kids would be safe, learning and having fun with friends at the Y. Life has been so challenging. Especially now, we are so very grateful for the financial assistance we receive for child care that allows us to work and support our family. I don’t know where we would be without the Y.”
“I love cooking together with family, it creates a special bond. Time spent together in the kitchen is precious.”
Alexander and his mother live in Plainfield. Because of a disability, his mother is unable to work and, as a recent graduate of community college, finding a job this year has been difficult for Alexander.
“I had been helping my aunt with her business and her household but, sadly, she lost her battle to cancer in October. She provided us with money so we could buy groceries at the supermarket.”
Following his aunt’s death, a family friend who volunteers for the Y’s food security project began bringing food to Alex and his mom.
“It was such a relief and a blessing to get the boxes of nutritious food from the Y. It meant we didn’t have to worry where our next meal would come from.”
Alexander was so grateful for the donations of food that he decided to volunteer to help others in the community.
“Volunteering to distribute food is rewarding; it boosts my energy! The volunteers are treasures – they inspire me. Regardless of the cold or bad weather, they are always so cheerful. I feel lucky to work side by side with such positive people.”
Each time he volunteers, Alexander is heartened by people coming together with a common goal – to help each other – and to ensure the food helps the people most in need.
“Anyone who is hungry can come and get food for their family, and the interactions between the people getting food and the volunteers break down barriers and celebrate community. My mother and I are so grateful to the Y.”
Columba and Brian
“I could never have imagined the impact of this virus on my family. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my work hours were scaled back to just a few per week. I worried about paying bills and buying enough food to sustain my family.
During my son’s spring break from school, we learned that we could pick up breakfast and lunch each day at the Y. Since then, we have also received fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs and many other foods.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford food for my children. Receiving the food from the Y once a week relieves some of my stress because I know, now, we will have enough to eat and my kids won’t go hungry. I’m so thankful that the Y is helping the families in need.
As a single mom, the Y is such a blessing…from financial assistance for the after school care program to food donations…the Y gives us a sense of stability and hope.”
“After 30+ years working for the same company, I received a retirement package. Quickly, I realized I wasn’t ready to be a retiree and knew I would need help familiarizing myself with current job search techniques after not having interviewed in so long. In my search for employment support groups, I found Career Forum at Somerset Hills YMCA. I think Career Forum is a lesser known program that is unique to the Y. For anyone in job transition or thinking of looking for a new job, this program is a hidden gem and is extremely helpful. The volunteer leaders really engage with the participants to understand what they want in terms of speakers and topics. Luckily, I recently landed a job with support from Career Forum. Although I will be working, I hope to continue attending as my schedule permits.”
Catherine and Allan
“Volunteering for the Annual Campaign, we became aware of all the programs going on at the Y and that through donations, the Y is able to offer its programs to people who can’t afford them. We gravitate to the specialness here, and want to share the compassionate, welcoming spirit we’ve received with others. People are undeniably the best thing about the YMCA. There’s a cross-generational connection, I don’t think we’d find anywhere else. We’ve been so blessed by the Y, we’re happy to give back any way we can.”
The Y offers a place of community where people can build friendships and establish camaraderie with other members and staff. Without being able to talk to members in person, Y staff has been calling seniors and other vulnerable members to make sure they are coping well during this challenging time. After hearing that 81-year-old Virginia Panicucci – a Somerville YMCA member – couldn’t go to her healthcare appointments because she didn’t have a mask, Y staff was quick to help.
“My heart doctor said I had to go for a blood test, but I was frightened to go out with a handkerchief. I hadn’t had a chance to get a mask before I was quarantined,” Virginia said. “I live alone with no family nearby. When Christina at the Y called me, she asked me if I needed anything, so I told her I didn’t have a mask and needed to go to the lab for blood work. Within a couple of days, the Y dropped off a mask for me in my mailbox. It all worked out. I feel good to be a part of a great organization.”
“Before I started working at Somerset County YMCA, I practiced giving through actions, by volunteering. My own family has received financial assistance and experienced a loved one’s cancer diagnosis. I was deeply moved to learn that my donation would help cancer survivors regain strength, give kids with special needs a sense of normalcy and inspire people to live healthy lifestyles. I wanted to make a greater impact, so I joined the Hourly Club, committing the equivalent of one hour’s pay per paycheck to the 2017 Annual Campaign. I give because my gesture of philanthropy can inspire someone else’s bright future.”
Two-time cancer survivor Chris Corrigan uses her passion for writing to help others. A former attorney, Somerset Hills YMCA member and author of “Again: Surviving Cancer Twice”, Chris holds virtual writing workshops for participants in LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA, a support program for cancer survivors and their families. According to Chris, writing can help cancer patients – and others going through troubling times – cope with their experience.
“There are many paths to healing, and writing is one of them. Putting thoughts on paper helps lift the weight of the emotional experience. It gives you the tools to shift your perspective about your healing. It allows you to process your experience more than anything else. You don’t have to write a book, you can do it for your own self. Some people choose to put on paper the truth of their experience for their loved ones. Writing can help on so many levels. It’s very therapeutic.”
“My daughter, Meghan, has been attending the YMCA of Hillsborough camp for 2 years. I am a single mom working in a medical field and was about to lose my job due to Covid19 because I didn’t have any childcare and would’ve had to take a leave of absence without pay. Ben Green reached out and immediately provided assistance to ensure most importantly, my daughter was taken care of from a place and people we trust, but that I can continue to work and financially provide for her since I am her only source of income.”
And knowing our situation, with the donations provided, Ben walked out providing us with a huge box of food to keep us going during this time that was a huge blessing and great relief for us!
Without the YMCA and their support there is honestly no way we could keep going. I am so beyond grateful to them that words could never explain and I look forward to one day being able to give back to them to help other families and kids. You guys are amazing!!
Bridgewater resident Christine Wisniewski was laid off from her job during the COVID-19 crisis, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to help others. She and her father Bob are frequent blood donors, so when they heard Somerville YMCA was hosting a blood drive with the American Red Cross to help alleviate the country’s blood supply shortage, they knew they had to go.
“My father and I donate blood whenever we can, about two to three times a year. It’s a great time for us to bond while helping others. Being unemployed right now, I don’t want to be idle when there are so many people who need help in so many different ways. Giving blood at Somerville YMCA’s blood drive was an opportunity for me to do something proactive for my community during the crisis. Donating this time around was certainly different as everyone was wearing masks and social distancing, but the staff worked to make it as comfortable as possible. A certain amount of time has to pass before an individual can donate again, but if there’s another drive, I would go a heartbeat.”
“Volunteering at the Y during the COVID-19 health crisis has been an emotional experience. I understand, now more than ever, how important it is to help others.
Recently, I was helping distribute food to families in need. One woman’s eyes filled with tears as she expressed her gratitude. I wished for nothing more than to be able to give her a hug.
Volunteering is bitter sweet. While I love making a positive impact on people’s lives, I wish it was not necessary because people already had everything they needed.”
– Elizabeth, pictured here with her mother Linda
Kressie Moore is a lovely woman. She’s soft-spoken, kind and offers a calming presence.
She’s also a fighter.
Kressie, who is 68 and lives in Somerset, was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2018. Scared, especially after losing her mother just six days after receiving her diagnosis, she felt alone with minimal support around her. But when she enrolled in LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA at Somerville YMCA, she felt a little more at ease.
“Everyone who was there had different kinds of situations,” Kressie said. “But we all came together as a family to support each other.”
LIVESTRONG supports cancer survivors and their families through its no-cost program that provides opportunities for participants to engage in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person. Kressie joined the program after undergoing a mastectomy and receiving six months of chemotherapy, an intense treatment that makes a person feel rundown and experience other traumatic side effects.
“When I came to the program, I worked on my extremities,” Kressie said. “With all the treatment I went through, I had to build my body up again.”
During her sessions at LIVESTRONG, which are always held in a small group setting at least twice a week, Kressie learned how to use fitness equipment to make her body strong. Y staff showed her how to use cardio machines, such as the treadmill and elliptical, and gave her tips on how to keep her body healthy to help undo the damage caused by cancer.
For Kressie, it wasn’t just exercise at LIVESTRONG that helped her get strong again, but the people she shared stories and enjoyed a few laughs with at every session.
“LIVESTRONG strengthened me,” she said. “The staff opened my mind to coming to the Y. I love the program and the people here, too. Being around positive people really helps your healing.”
These days, with her cancer in remission, Kressie is feeling good, and spends a lot of her time making decorative beaded jewelry for other cancer patients. The Y invites her to every LIVESTRONG graduation to sell the pieces to benefit organizations that help cancer patients. She has also donated a few to LIVESTRONG participants who recently graduated.
Inspired by LIVESTRONG and to further her healthy living lifestyle, Kressie became a member of the Y with help from the Y’s Financial Assistance program.
For more information about LIVESTRONG®at the YMCA, visit somersetcountyymca.org.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]