Y Member Stories

Our members are amazing and each has a story to tell. The Y meets people where they are in life and helps guide them on a journey to reach and exceed their goals. Meet some of members below. If you want to share your Y story, please contact us at info@rockriverymca.org.

We recently got to spend several hours with Darrien at our first annual Puri Family YMCA Spin-a-thon. We were impressed with his positivity and dedication to his health. Darrien signed up to ride for 2 hours, but then he met Brent, our CEO, and learned that Brent was riding for the full 7 hours. 

“I got to 3 hours and I felt good. Sometimes you need someone to pace you. I wanted to be there to help Brent and push him to 7 hours. I think it’s helpful to have someone with you.”

Darrien was drawn to this event because he wanted to help. He has been a member of the Y since the Puri location opened. 

“I wanted to help the Y raise money. If one more person riding would gain more donations, while helping my health, it’s a no brainer. It made me feel good that Brent got a $1,000 donation to get off the bike, but he stayed on to seek more donations.”

Darrien can relate to that determination and perseverance. He made a shift in his lifestyle about five years ago. He had always been active, but he took his health to the next level and focused more holistically.

“When you’re young, you get ribbons or medals for a job well done. At some point you need to start grading yourself. I want to be great for personal gain. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Darrien is also focused on being there for friends and family.

“What if your family needs your help, what if a friend needs you? You can’t do anything if your body is in need.”

Darrien’s workouts include wearing a weight vest, holding dumb bells and walking on the treadmill at 2 miles per hour for an hour. He tries to avoid processed foods, drinks a lot of green tea and uses essential oils. 

“Mental health is impacted by what you eat as well. I believe we all need to be on guard and make our own brighter day. If I’m not focused on health and mental health, then how am I going to absorb information? I want to lead by example.”

Darrien admits that it’s not always easy.

“I’m not perfect – I struggle, too. I just try to be better than I was a second ago and go from there every day.”

We’re so happy Darrien signed up for the Spin-a-thon and made a deeper connection with the Y. He certainly helped Brent push to that 7-hour mark!
 

More Y Member Stories

The title of this story comes straight from Desiree. It’s the title of her future memoir and we love that the Y has a role in how it unfolds. Desiree is working to uncheck all those boxes on healthcare history forms she has to fill out when she goes to the doctor.

High blood pressure (check)
High cholesterol (check)
Congestive heart failure (check)
Post Partem Cardio Myopathy (check)
Stomach Cancer (check)

She has struggled with some big health issues. It came to a head on June 18, 2015 when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, ON THE DAY BEFORE HER SON’S WEDDING… in her backyard. She remembers feeling quite a blow when she received that news.

“I hadn’t been feeling well, so I knew something wasn’t right,” remembers Desiree. “I just knew I had to hold it together because I had a wedding to throw.”

A while after she completed treatment, she was in a waiting room and struck up a conversation with another woman. 

“She must have noticed my bald head. I keep it bald as my badge of honor,” said Desiree.

The other woman told Desiree about LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a program for cancer survivors to help them build strength and create a network of people for support.

“I thought it sounded pretty cool. I wanted to try it because I was feeling very depressed and isolating myself.”

Desiree just graduated from the program in August and says it changed her life. 

“It’s an excellent program. Being able to get out and meet people who understand what I’m going through is so helpful. Everyone is cheering for you and praying for you. They understand without having to say it,” said Desiree.

In addition to the LIVESTRONG sessions, she also did several days a week of aqua fitness classes. She has lost 14 pounds and 4 inches. She is also off of oxygen and it is easier for her to walk. Unchecking boxes!

“We can see that she is feeling way more confident about herself and her journey,” said Kathleen Hedrick, LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Coordinator. “She's really put in the hard work and it's paying off!” 

More than anything, Desiree says it’s the relationships she has built at the Y that have helped her through some tough times. 

“When I’m having a bad day, I send a text to Diane Robinson, our aqua fitness instructor, and she writes back a prayer or positive words. She doesn’t have to do that, but she cares.”

As for her fellow LIVESTRONG alums, she has a special place in her heart for them.

“They know how much I love them. They are so totally awesome. We are a tribe and family together. I wear my LIVESTRONG wristband with pride.”

Recently, Desiree got some more tough news – she needs a heart transplant. She says while she will continue on her health journey as she prepares for that surgery, it’s not going to stop her from trying new things. She has enrolled in the Artful Aging Tell Your Tale program. Perhaps, she’ll get a head start on that memoir, “Unchecking My Boxes.” 

With one month left of summer camp, the Ebens family is racking up the memories. Zoe, 9, and Noelle, 7, started the summer at Adventure Camp at the Northeast Family YMCA. Once their soccer season was over, they moved over to Camp Winnebago. 

“Every day they come home and are so excited to tell me all the fun things they have done,” said Oana Ebens, the girls’ mother. “They look forward to it every single day, and no matter how tired they are, they never complain about it or not want to get up in the morning.”

The girls love black hole slide, hikes, canoeing and sleepovers. 

“My middle daughter was so excited for one of the family nights to perform the skits for us. She’s my most shy one, so this is huge for her!”

Oana said she is thankful to have such a good option for summer camp in Rockford.

“The counselors are so well trained; they really keep everyone included and are so caring and fun.  As a full-time, working mom, their excitement takes away my mom-guilt of not being home with them more in the summer. They truly get a full summer experience by attending these camps and learn valuable lessons at the same time.”

Each Friday is when the bead ceremony takes place. This is an opportunity for the campers to reflect on the week with their counselors. Counselors award a colored bead for each core value the campers displayed during the week – caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith. Additionally, other beads are awarded for camp activities achieved. Oana said her girls are so proud each week when they come home with their beads.

When asked to rate her experience and if she’d recommend the Y to other families, Oana responded:

“I give it a 10 because my girls are just in love with the Y camps. I recommend Camp Winnebago to all my friends!

Schurby Lampley is known for his motivational spirit and determination around the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA, but he has had his fair share of hardship. 

In April 2014, Schurby lost his wife. From then, he had both hips and his left knee replaced, in addition to a congestive heart failure diagnosis in June 2018.

While at Crusader Community Health, Schurby was referred to the Health First Program offered at the YMCA. The Health First program is designed for adult patients who have become de-conditioned or chronically fatigued from their treatment and/or disease. The program includes fitness and nutritional components with an individualized plan for each participant. They work on cardio respiratory, muscle strengthening, and flexibility.

Through the Health First program, Schurby began to work out again and get his health back on track. “My overall goal is to stay out of the hospital,” said Schurby, after being in and out of the hospital six times in one year. “You know, you need to move it or lose it, so I am keeping my body in motion,” he said. 

Schurby said when he started the program, after 10 minutes on the bike he was tired, but now, he can easily ride a bike for 30 minutes. He gives props to YMCA trainers Shawn and Linette, who coordinate the Health First Program. His favorite part was seeing his progress with the testing done over the 12-week program. 

During his time in the Health First Program, Schurby was given the  “Most Determined Award.” Linette Rojas said, “Schurby was great and very encouraging to our other participants. He would always try to get them to go to other exercise classes with him.” 

After going to the Y two times a week during the Health First program, Schurby enrolled in the Y Silver Sneakers program. He enjoys working with Jane Johnson, the program coordinator, and said, “It is a great program and more people need to take advantage of it.” 

Although Schurby lost his wife, Wendy, over five years ago, he says she still is the source of his motivation. Before she passed, Wendy made him promise that he was going to take care of himself. After she passed, Schurby found a letter from her, which he still keeps with him today. The letter contains words of encouragement and reminds Schurby to stay humble. 

Schurby said, “I try not to let things stop me!” and that is true. He has worked hard on his healthy lifestyle with one goal in mind, to stay around a little bit longer for his children and grandkids! 

Stay motivated and healthy, Schurby! Everyone at the Y is cheering you on!

Less than a year ago, Holly Tubbs, a stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old son, set out to lose 100 pounds. 

After Holly’s son was born she stayed home in order to raise him. Her husband works 3rd shift in DeKalb, so Holly spent a lot of time at home alone without a car. She said she would cope with her emotions by eating and she wasn’t proud of the changes that were starting to happen with her lifestyle. 

Holly says she didn’t realize how much her life was affected until late July 2018. She was at Six Flags Great America with her family when she could barely fit on one of the rides. That was when she knew she needed to make a change if she wanted to keep up with her son and family. 

The next day, Holly joined the YMCA of the Rock River Valley in hopes of losing 100 pounds to get into a healthy weight zone at her height of 5 feet tall. 

“It has been so amazing. If it wasn’t for the financial assistance and day care, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Holly said. She enjoys that the child watch area allows her son to socialize and be around other kids. Additionally, the financial assistance the Y provides through annual campaign donations allowed her to get in shape without causing financial burden. 

When she started this journey, Holly said after 10 minutes on the treadmill she would have to stop. She pushed through and on March 1st, 2019, Holly met her goal of losing 100 pounds less than a year after starting her journey, weighing in at 140 pounds!

In the beginning, she was overwhelmed by the amount of weight she wanted to lose. However, she took it one day at time and it paid off! Holly appreciates going to the Y, saying, “working out is my ‘me time’ where I can decompress from the day.” 

The advice that Holly has to offer is to keep a positive attitude. “Do it because you care about yourself and body, not because you hate the way you look,” she said. 

While on the adventure, Holly used social media outlets to help with dieting and motivation. Instead of doing a “fad” diet, Holly focused on changing her eating habits and mindset for the long run. 

Throughout Holly’s experience, the availability of the three Y branches and child care services lead to her success. She loves being able to be more active with her son and having more patience in life. Another goal Holly has set is to run in a race, which she says she never would have done before joining the Y and losing 100 pounds! 

Way to go, Holly! Keep up your healthy lifestyle!

If you’ve met Dale Townsend, you probably remember that first encounter. He has a great icebreaker question that he asks everyone he meets at the Y.

“How close do you live to the Puri Family Y?” He shares that he is not the closest, but at 400 feet door-to-door, Dale is pretty close.

Dale went through cancer treatment four years ago that left him with impaired vision. He can no longer drive, so he relies on his wife and friends to get him around town. Dale takes pride in the one thing he can do every day alone – go to the Y. 

“The Y became a release for me. I have a certain amount of independence in getting there because I can walk.”

This retired engineer who spent much of his career building new McDonalds is a self- proclaimed introvert. He admits to not being very social and that it was not in his nature to strike up a conversation with people he didn’t know well. He decided to make an effort to change that at the Y. 

A couple of years ago, Dale saw a New Year’s Resolution board at the Puri Family Y. It asked members to post their resolutions. Dale saw an opportunity.

“I resolved to have a meaningful conversation with 100 people throughout the year,” said Dale.

He got to work, and at the top of the list was the icebreaker question.  Dale said he met all sorts of people from different backgrounds, with different opinions. He quickly began to make friends at the Y as he worked toward his goal. 

“It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.”

Dale’s involvement in the Y soon deepened as he joined the Puri Family YMCA Advisory Board. As a board member, he is able to offer insight to staff on members’ needs and wants. He volunteers his time and does what he can to make his Y a better place for all. 

Dale offers some advice for anyone willing to take it, “get involved – it will keep you from getting old.” 

Great advice, Dale!

16-year-old Ali Cushing lived out a big goal in April. She swam at the YMCA Short Course Nationals in Greensboro, NC. She represented the Stingrays alongside 1,400 of the best swimmers from across the country. Ali has been swimming competitively since she was six years old. She has been on the YMCA Stingrays for the past seven years.
 
“Making a national cut has always been a goal for her. Seeing her hard work, dedication and sacrifice pay off puts a smile on our faces,” said Jenny and Kyle Cushing, Ali’s parents.
 
As Ali prepares to swim the 200 free, the 50 free time trial, and the100 free time trial at a national level, she admits she is a little nervous.
 
“I am preparing and expect to be strong and feel strong for my races. I’m just really looking forward to the experience of being in the pool with elite swimmers,” said Ali.
 
Ali’s parents say swimming has provided a healthy, competitive outlet for their daughter.
 
“It has taught her about goal setting, work ethic, self-discipline, emotional regulation and how to deal with success as well as adversity. It also has led to some great friends and great coaches being in her life.”
 
Ali says the Rays have become a family to her.
 
“I love the team and our coaches. It is competitive, but also really team oriented. It has taught me about goal setting, persistence and how to self-motivate both in and out of the pool.”
 
Ali still has two years left of high school and a clear path to help her determine what comes next.
 
“My main goal is just to keep getting better,” said Ali. “My focus continues to be my process. Another goal is practice with purpose. If I work hard and work smart, all the other goals take care of themselves.”
 
The Rays are always recruiting new swimmers. Ali has some advice for her younger teammates or those who are considering the sport.
 
“Keep learning how to work hard. Have fun getting better. Swimming is a great sport because it is you and the pool. Meeting goals is worth the work.”

Stephen Peterson has been on a journey that has transformed his physical and emotional wellbeing. “When I got out of my own way, I realized my own success,” said Stephen.

It started seven years ago. Stephen was working the night shift, not getting a lot of sleep and making unhealthy food choices. His weight got up to 335 pounds, which was unfamiliar territory for this former college swimmer. Stephen decided to join the Y and start exercising, but years later, he still wasn’t where he wanted to be. 

Meanwhile, life brought new difficulties. He had three young boys and was going through a divorce. He had to make some tough financial decisions. 

“I went from fiscally responsible to paycheck-to-paycheck overnight. I gave up cable, Internet and going out to eat. I was going to have to give up my Y membership, too.”

A decision Stephen wanted to avoid at all costs because he knew the transformation he longed for would be so much easier if he had access to the Y. “I put my pride aside and asked for help. The membership team gave me a blessing and helped with short-term financial assistance. I was so grateful.”

Three months later, Stephen got a job promotion and a raise. He could now focus on his health transformation. With the help of a friend who was dietician, Stephen overhauled his eating. He increased his visits to the Y and seven months later, he was down 100 pounds!

“The Y helped me maintain a balance in my life and find motivation. I was going for fitness and exercise – I didn’t realize I would meet friends. I could see different people going through the same thing as me.”

You’ll find Stephen swimming laps, lifting weights, or running on the treadmill three to four days a week. On the other days he works out in his home gym. The Y is more than a place to exercise for Stephen, he is also a Jr. NBA coach for his son’s team. This role has helped him build even more relationships.

“I’m fortunate to have good people in my life. The Y brings people who normally wouldn’t be together – together. I love being a part of this healthy network of people. In fact, I’m always sharing my story and encouraging others to join the movement.”

Imagine a lifetime of fearing the water and never learning to swim – only to get news that the pool may be your only option to exercise. 

“I took a lesson as a child and hated it. It was cold and unpleasant. I never went back,” remembers Rosie. 

Fast forward to age 59. Doctors told Rosie that if she wanted to remain active and continue to exercise, the water would be her only option. In her 20s, Rosie regularly did aerobics and weight lifting. Getting her heart rate up continued to be a top priority, but she found herself barely able to walk from sudden intense knee pain in the summer of 2016. She knew two things – not exercising was out of the question and it might be time to face her fears once and for all. 

“Going to the pool or lake was never my idea of fun,” said Rosie. “However, I have always had a desire to learn to swim. I tried to learn when my kids were little, but the instructor told us to jump in the deep end during the first lesson to tread water. I said ‘nope’ and never went back.” 

In January 2017, after the news from the doctor, she tried again. She enrolled in adult swim lessons and found Christine, a swim instructor at the Northeast Family Y.  

“She was patient, never laughed at me, and made me feel comfortable in the water,” said Rosie. “Christine got me to swim a lap doing freestyle. I felt higher than a kite when I swam that first lap. Our instructor was our cheerleader.” 

After she finished the session, she thought, “now what?” The instructor told them to continue to build stamina and work on doing more laps. The goal was up and down seven times. “I remember that it took me 25 minutes to get six laps. It was excruciatingly hard.”

Even though she was swimming, the fear was still sitting in the back of her mind. 

“I always swim next to the wall – just in case I need to hold on,” said Rosie.

Rosie persevered and took on her fear. She now swims four to five days a week and has logged nearly 150 miles since 2017! She is up to 22 laps in 50 minutes.

“I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but to this day, I still dislike the water,” said Rosie.

Rosie believes she was finally able to conquer her fear this time because her motivation changed. It became a necessity for her health. 

Rosie also transitioned from Y member to staff member. She overheard a woman saying the Y was looking for aqua fitness instructors. She inquired and started teaching deep-water exercise in September 2017.

“I wasn’t looking for this opportunity. I’m so blessed,” said Rosie. “I realized that I missed out on so much fun with my kids. I hope I can encourage someone else with my story, so they can maybe take this step, too. To GOD be the Glory.”

We were so impressed with Rosie’s story. She only learned to swim two years ago. Rosie said she is thankful for the Y, Christine and her fellow aqua fitness instructors.

“I’m never in a bad mood when I leave the Y. It is filled with nice people. Everyone is taking care of themselves and doing something positive – it feels good to be a part of that.”

Rosie, we’ll be here cheering for you when you hit that 150-mile mark. Way to go!

Debbie has been on quite a journey this past decade that she loves to share with anyone she can. Eight and a half years ago Debbie weighed 280 pounds. She is seen above in the black dress on the left.

“My life was out of control - physically, financially and mentally,” recalls Debbie.

She remembers meeting a person of faith who inspired her to make a change. 

“I wanted to make my life and my daughter’s life better and stop the chaos and insanity of my life. I knew I needed to make exercise a priority in my life and that was hard.”

Debbie says she had struggled with weight for a majority of her life. She had even paid for a YMCA membership for six years without using it. She changed that. She started coming two to three times a week. It took her between six to nine months to build the routine and create the habit.

“There were days I just did not want to go and had to force myself to go. I started on the treadmill for 35 minutes. After four months, I tried the Elyptical trainer and almost died. I wasn’t ready and needed to step up my routine.”

She lost 30 pounds in six months without much of a diet change. She soon increased her visits to the Y and started eating healthier. By 2012, she was down 75 pounds. Her daughter started to join her at the Y and incorporated vegetarian cooking at home.

“By the end of 2012 I had lost 105 pound. I went from a size 26 to a size 12. I felt great and was happy.”

Debbie did fluctuate up and down in the years to follow, but her health has remained a priority. In 2014, she hired Cathy Everson, a personal trainer at the Y. She also started group exercise classes. She loves Body Pump, Body Combat, Hard Core Abs & More, Fit Camp and Barre. 

In all, Debbie lost 145 pounds! She loves sharing her transformation story and hopes it inspires others to take action.

“I want to show those who think that they cannot lose weight that they can. I know the struggles and what it takes. I can be a supporter and cheerleader.” 

Debbie does her best to keep herself motivated. 

“I say I NEVER want to go back to my old life. I was very close to financial ruin and bankruptcy besides being morbidly obese. I have found a deep faith and connection to God and Jesus and four years ago joined Central Christian Church. I give God all the credit for helping me make drastic changes to improve my life.”

Way to go, Debbie! Your Y family is proud of you and your journey. Keep up the great work!

14-year-old Seth G. recently accomplished a sought after milestone in TaeKwonDo – he was promoted to a black belt! Seth started learning and practicing TaeKwonDo four years ago with instructor Mr. Victor Fong at the Northeast Family YMCA.

TaeKwonDo means the art of kicking and punching. There are 10 ranks between white and black belts. Besides learning self-defense, the students also improve physical condition, flexibility and self-confidence.  

Seth says that TaeKwonDo has taught him perseverance and to be more disciplined. The dedication definitely paid off with this new accomplishment, but for Seth it came with mixed feelings.

“It was quite exciting, but not as much as I thought it would be. After how far I've come, it is more like a new step in training.” 

Mr. Fong, who has a second-degree black belt, enjoys teaching and watching his students progress through the ranks.

“Seth is a very dedicated and hard working student who seldom misses a class.  He is polite, has good manners and always has a positive attitude. I am proud of his accomplishments and progression towards a black belt in four years.”

So, what’s next?

“I will continue to learn. Not only will I keep practicing and learning new techniques to advance further in rank, but I will start learning how to teach as well.”

Seth now assists Mr. Fong with a beginner class and recommends it to anyone who is interested.

“The TaeKwonDo class at the Y is safe, friendly and thorough. Everyone can learn without stress,” says Seth. “It is more than just a class; it becomes a lifestyle and an aspect of one's personality.”

Way to go, Seth!

In my mid-thirties my lifestyle was pretty sedentary and my body showed it. I really needed larger pants and the bathroom scale told me I was nearing a milestone I didn't want to achieve. I had three young kids to keep up with and I knew I needed to make a change in my life. 
 
I began riding my bike again with my friend Mark Carlson. I started to lose weight and gain some muscle and improved body image. If he couldn't go, I often wouldn't either. I learned a big part of the exercise was enjoying time doing something I liked but I needed the support of a friend. When fall came the bikes would go into storage and my sedentary lifestyle returned. In the spring, we would get our bikes out again, try to regain our training and lose a few pounds of "winter" weight. After about five years this got harder. That's when I decided to take a look at the Y.
 
In the fall of 2010 I picked up a catalog of the Y's offerings. I saw a class called fxStrength for men. It was geared toward men of 35 years old with the idea that we need functional resistance training to fight the natural effects of aging. My friend John Johnson said he would join me in the class. 
 
I'll have to admit I was a little intimidated because I really didn't know what I was in for. We walked in that first morning and I saw the instructor, Jim Appino, sitting on a physio ball waiting for students to arrive. He looked like an Army drill instructor to me. I quickly learned he was a super nice guy who had our best interest at heart. We have become friends and John and I have been going ever since.
 
Jim taught us how to use the equipment at the Y as well as how to train. Almost immediately I was coming to the Y four or more mornings per week to practice what I was learning. I was making friends in fxStrength as well as in the Wellness Center. I started attending other classes and getting to know people there as well. Going to the Y was the best part of my day. I would get up year-round before the sun, no matter the weather, to see the people and to workout.
 
Jim suffered an injury while coaching basketball. I was able to jump in and lead the class for 20 weeks. This experience prompted a pathway to earn my personal trainer certification. In the last couple of years I have started running. Again, this was because of the influence of a Y instructor, Shannon Spiess. After attending one race as a spectator and then participating in one where I placed third in my division I was hooked. There was a team of Y members formed a couple of months later with the goal of running a half marathon. Now I run almost daily and usually one race per month. One of my best friends, Dan Alita, is someone that I really got to know through running. 
 
While training for that half marathon I got to know Melissa Burns the Executive Director of the Northeast Branch as we were both on the team. She asked me to join the Northeast Advisory Board. I was happy to jump in to serve the branch, my home away from home. As I learned more about the workings of the Y, I found that in addition to membership fees there are fund raising campaigns that help to make budgets. I also learned that many of the services provided by the Y are either subsidized, or free, depending on need. It was at this point that I was asked to become a donor and I am happy to give as I am able. I encourage others to join me in support of the Y.

Every conversation with Natalie reveals a new story and some fascinating tidbit about her life. A native of Canada, she moved to Rockford 13 years ago. She said she chose Rockford for the green space, a good YMCA and affordable housing.

She is definitely a Y frequent flyer as she spends 4-5 hours a day at the SwedishAmerican Riverfront Y. Between her own fitness routine and getting her kids from program to program – she invests some serious time at the Y, and we’re happy she does.

Natalie and her husband have 3 biological children and 6 foster children who are siblings. The children range in age from 3-26. Five of the kids are in swim lessons and three are on the Stingrays swim team. Away from the pool, you’ll find Natalie in the weight room, a group fitness class or running – anywhere she can. She is an avid runner and Vice President of the Wildcats Cross Country Team. She is also a former board member of the Rockford Road Runners, an active member of the Coyote Trail Running group, and race director of the Rockford Road Runners Fall Trail Classic race, held at Anna Page park on September 22.  *Side note – she will try to convince you to run with her if you find yourself in conversation with her.

“Running connects you to everything around you. It makes you feel better. It is something everyone can do, although many people believe they can’t,” said Natalie. “I like trail running and being in the forest. It is fun to do with the kids as we discover, jump in puddles and explore.”

Natalie likes running Ultra Marathons, which means they are more than 26 miles. Yikes! Last year she ran a 50-mile race in Peoria in 18 hours, which put her in the middle of the pack. She said it was a hilly race, which aggravated a previously torn meniscus. Prior to that injury, she has been on a 1,155-day running streak with a minimum of one mile run each day. The injury broke the streak and slowed her training, but now she is back with her eye on the Superior 100-mile race in Minnesota. She has qualified and is entering a lottery with a group of friends to run it.

Healthy living is a way of life in their household. There is no junk food to be found and everyone must be active every day. This is much of the reason why the Y is a home away from home for Natalie and her family. However, as Natalie shares there are so many reasons why she loves the Y.

“I like the people at the Y and the community feel. The Y enables people of all abilities and income levels to participate. My one son is special needs and they are giving him adaptive lessons. The adults here know my children, talk to them and play with them. In fact, they did little contests over the summer in the building with my kids. They rewarded them for reciting core values and understanding them. It’s nice that they do that.”

Natalie and her husband are striving to instill the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility in their children.

“They have to be people who change the world. I want them to know they are responsible for what happens. They need to step in and fix things. This is my most important job in raising them. We have made decisions to sacrifice so they can have experiences that we didn’t.”

Natalie’s life goal is to be happy and to see her children happy. Well, that and the 100-mile race. Please help us encourage Natalie and wish her well on meeting her goals!

We love seeing hard work, determination and passion on display in our youth members. If you spend time at the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA, then you’ve likely seen Avery. This 14-year-old has laid out a path to success. She wants to play collegiate basketball on athletic and academic scholarships as she pursues a career as a pediatric nurse. 

To accomplish her first goal, Avery is at the Y training most days on the basketball court.

“My workouts include getting warmed up with stretches, warm up shots, ball handling with my non-dominant hand, working on various offensive moves, and finishing with stretching or a couple of laps on the track. Some days I will also work on strength and conditioning, speed and agility.”

Avery started playing basketball in 5th grade and fell in love with the sport right away. She admits that she devotes all of her time to basketball. Avery will be a freshman this fall at Boylan Catholic High School where she hopes to play basketball all four years. 
 
We admire the path Avery has laid out for herself, but more than that, her ability to challenge herself to make it happen.

“What motivates me to push myself in life and in sports would be the goals I have for myself and people who have contributed to my success as a young athlete.”

Once such person is Gene Houston, Avery’s trainer. She credits him with helping her learn the game and hone her skills.
 
Avery says she loves the Y. 

“I like that I’m able to train, workout, play in games, and enjoy Subway when I visit.”

At the Y, social responsibility is one of our three areas of focus. We encourage our members and our community to give back so we may all become stronger together. Avery already understands the importance of helping in her community. 
 
At her former school, Maria Montessori, she was Student Council President and held a clothing drive for “RPS 205 Families in Transition.” 

“I started this clothing drive because when my mom and I volunteered, they didn’t have a lot of clothing available for the families, especially the teens, so I became determined to help out these families. My travel basketball team became involved and my entire school did, too. It made me happy to know that I could make someone see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.”  

We wish Avery the best in her high school career and beyond!

Weight loss doesn't happen overnight. There are no shortcuts or easy paths. It takes determination, inner strength, and a desire to change. Our inspiring story this month is of a YMCA member who has lost 192 pounds and is ready for more!

Linda S. Rascoe has been a member of the Y for the past 14 years. Since the beginning, she has focused on exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet to lose nearly half of her body weight. 

Linda has spent a lot of time coming up with a weight training set that works for her. It is constantly evolving to meet the needs of her increased strength and desire to stay on track. In the last couple of weeks, she has started adding rowing, the SciFit, and spin bike to her routine. She admits that it has been really fun to experiment with the new equipment and try things that she has never done before! Like most people, it can be tough to find the motivation to come to the Y, but she reminds herself how much of a difference it makes and knows it will continue to help her maintain her independence.

On top of exercise, changing her diet has been key to her weight-loss. Her greatest tool is counting calories. Linda writes down what she eats every day, which helps her feel in control of her journey. She has also been able to tell what food will be the most satisfying vs. the food that will leave you hungry.

Losing nearly 200 pounds is not an easy journey. Linda's faith in God keeps her going, along with the ability to keep her independence! "If I don't lose any more weight, I'm perfectly happy because I feel good!"

Great work, Linda! Keep it up!

Earlier this year the Y started a new group on Facebook called YMCA Monthly Fitness Challenges. The group was formed to inspire members to take their fitness to the next level, try new things, support one another, hold each other accountable and build relationships. One of our top users from the start has been Christine.  

Christiane has been a Y member for about 17 years. When her boys were young, the Y was their home away from home.

“I used the Y for fitness while my boys played basketball, flag football and went to Camp. We found a sense of community. I was a single mom and I didn’t want to be home alone. The Y became like a family.”

Christine’s kids are grown now and the way she uses the Y has evolved. She still loves the camaraderie in group fitness classes, but her focus is on becoming the strongest version of herself.

“I had a warped perception of what fitness should be as a former dancer. I now know that being strong and healthy is more important than being thin.”

Christine uses all three Y facilities. You’ll find her in a variety of group fitness classes and in the weight room. 

“The Y has awesome instructors. The amount of effort that goes into these classes is amazing.”

Christine has even shared her love of the Y with her sister and got her involved. 

“There is truly something for everybody and all fitness levels. That’s what I love about group fitness. We can all be in the class together – from beginner to advanced and all be challenged.” 

In fact, being challenged is what drives Christine. 

“I look forward to the next challenge on the group Facebook page. It keeps people inspired. It makes me want to try harder for myself, but also for those around me.

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