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Y Stories

Ladars Pic
"Since I was 10, the Y has been my safe haven—a welcoming place where people care about my well-being and treat me like family. As a young adult, I lost my mother and a close friend, causing me to fall into a depression and subsequent job loss. My health deteriorated. I began to experience headaches, shortness of breath and chest pains and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Although I couldn’t afford my membership, the Y kept its doors open to me through financial assistance. It saved my life. I was able to stay socially connected and relieve stress through regular exercise, which eventually eliminated my high blood pressure and the need to take medication. Now, I have the strength and endurance to keep up with my son. I’m so thankful to the Y for giving me the emotional, physical and financial support I needed to regain my health and peace of mind."

— Ladar, Father and Somerville Member
Y Story Jacob

“Our family’s move was particularly hard on Jacob who, because of Down syndrome, struggles with change. Because he requires one-on-one assistance with tasks, like dressing, I was relieved and overjoyed when the Y welcomed Jacob without hesitation for his first camp experience. The Y staff demonstrated patience and caring in helping him adjust. He’s formed genuine bonds with his counselors who challenged him to become more independent. As a result, Jacob participates in large group activities, gets dressed by himself and always strives to do his best. Now, I see a future where Jacob is able to live a largely independent lifestyle. The Y has definitely contributed to his bright future.”

— Colleen, Jacob's Mom

Watch Jacob's Story on YouTube
Jennifer Y Story
“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.”

— Jennifer, Somerset County YMCA Staff
MHFA
“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.”

— Jack, Somerville High School Junior

Dot
“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.”


— Dorothy, Member and Warrior

Watch Dorothy's Story on YouTube
Monique Hendricks SHY Y Story (9)
“I used to be so impatient with people in the checkout line when they fumbled with their wallet or took too long. Because of Parkinson’s disease, I’m now that person. I’ve been managing my symptoms with medication and neurostimulation. This March, I discovered the Y’s Delay the Disease program, which has been a real blessing. The trained instructors are welcoming and sensitive to each participant’s symptoms. They tailor activities to help us perform everyday tasks that others take for granted, like picking up a pencil or walking down a busy sidewalk. Delay the Disease energizes me physically, mentally, emotionally and creatively. Each step I take is a gift, and I can still pursue my passion for painting. In this program, I’ve found kinship and a productive way to delay the symptoms of my illness.”

— Monique, Artist and Member

Allan Catherin Mitch_HY (7) web

"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."

— Catherine and Allan Mitch, Members and Volunteers

Dr Sam Y Story

"A year ago, I broke my arm and worried that I would no longer be able to perform surgery or enjoy playing volleyball. My orthopedist advised me that the best medicine for healing was swimming, so I joined the Y. With the reassurance of Y staff, I started swimming with a flotation device. I was never embarrassed because the Y staff and members were so encouraging. Today I swim 60 laps 3-4 times a week, and always leave feeling happy, refreshed and stress-free. When I returned to playing volleyball, I played better than ever because my strength and coordination had improved through swimming. I tell everyone who will listen to come to the Y to swim with me. No matter your ability level, the Y can help you. It can change your life."

— Dr. Morsy Alsamadasi (Dr. Sam), Member

Suresh Y Story

“In 2013, after 10 years of being severely overweight and taking high blood pressure and high cholesterol medications, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I realized I needed to commit to an active lifestyle, not just for myself, but for my family. I started by walking at the Y. I became friends with members and staff who encouraged me to try the Y’s group exercise classes, so I did. It changed everything! As my strength improved, I even began to enjoy running—so much so that I’ve completed the Hop 5K twice and a 10K. By 2014, my health was so improved my doctors took me off all my medications. To date I’ve lost 40 lbs. and successfully reversed my diabetes. I have so much energy—I take six classes a week. I’ve regained my life and my health, and I owe it all to the Y and the fantastic people I’ve met here.”

— Suresh, Member

Watch Suresh's Story on YouTube

Megan & JJ Pruskowsi (7)
"It's great to be a part of the swim team because we love everything about swimming: competing, trying to get faster times and even practicing every day. We've made friends and met great people like our coaches who help and push us to always try, give and be our best. What is also really great about swim team is that our teammates encouraged us to volunteer at the Y. We both volunteer for Y swim programs for kids with special needs. It feels good spending time helping other kids with something we know and love like swimming; we feel like we're making a difference in their lives. The most rewarding part is seeing the smiles on their faces. The Y has given us so many opportunities to do what we enjoy, see friends, have fun, be our best and give our best to others. Everyone should be able to come to the Y - it helps everyone."

— Megan and J.J., Members

Jasmine
“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 the 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 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.”

— Jasmine, Member

Watch Jasmine's Story on YouTube

Bonnie HY web
“Back in 1973, as a newly divorced, single mom with a three-year-old son, I went to work full-time while also pursuing my degree at night. At the time, the Y was a lifesaver for us. I had comfort and confidence knowing my son was well cared for in the Y's child care and summer camp. It changed our lives in immensely positive ways. Recently, I lost both my beloved brother and my horse 'Destiny,' plus I tore my meniscus. I was in a bad place physically and emotionally. I needed healing, so, again, I turned to the Y. The staff is so friendly and welcoming - they go above and beyond to support everyone, because they truly care about your well-being. Now, I'm healthy and active again. And, just as important, the staff makes me feel important ... I feel a sense of belonging. The Y has always been there for me; it is such a blessing.”

— Bonnie, Member
Doug Clark SHY (2)

“In 2014 I was diagnosed with a stage-3 brain tumor, just months after winning my 7th consecutive national age-division triathlon title. Following two successful five-hour surgeries, doctors discovered a second inoperable stage-4 brain tumor. Regular infusions and medications made training difficult. A good friend referred my wife and me to the Y’s cancer recovery program, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA. I am grateful for the care and support of the Y staff and other LIVESTRONG participants, which have been therapeutic and motivating. I’ve returned to swimming and running and seen improvements in my endurance and strength. I’m determined to beat cancer. My goal is to repeat some of my past achievements and inspire hope in other cancer patients.”

— Doug, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA participant

Watch Doug's Story on YouTube

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“As a kid I wasn’t exposed to donating to charity, but later in life giving back was important to my wife and me. Our daughter grew up going to Somerset Hills YMCA and I’ve always found the Y to be a great way to unwind after work. To be honest, when I was first asked to volunteer, I didn’t think I had the time; but the more I learned about the Y’s cause of strengthening community, the more it resonated with me. Everyone goes through tough times in life. 100% of funds raised through the Y’s Annual Campaign go toward helping struggling local families. I volunteer and give to the Y because I believe that when you help someone in your own neighborhood, you’re not just helping that one person—you’re enhancing the community as a whole. It is truly rewarding.”

— Mark, Volunteer, Somerset County YMCA Board of Directors, Chair, Annual Campaign
SusanLawner

"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."

— Susan, Hillsborough YMCA Staff Member

Watch Susan's Story on YouTube

Bernadette Y Story

“Exercising at the Y keeps me strong. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, but 17 days after surgery I was back at the Y. My strength allowed the doctors to be aggressive with treatments, yet I never missed my fitness classes. I joined LIVESTRONG® to continue my recovery and it helped me physically, emotionally and mentally - what a gift. Then the Y gave my daughter an academic scholarship, relieving some of her school loan burden and allowing her to focus on studying. I thank the Y for its continuing commitment to families.”

— Bernadette, Member, Volunteer and LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA Participant

Wendy Y Story

“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.”

— Wendy, Member

Meryem Y Story

"I have a black belt in karate and I am used to exercising. But with three kids, including a baby, it's hard to stay motivated. I needed to do something, so I came to the Y. I am here twice a day, and sometimes three times a day, taking cardio classes or spinning. If time allowed it, I'd be here more. When you challenge yourself, you discover what you can really accomplish. I began by wanting to lose weight, but I've realized how important it is to feel good and stay healthy. The instructors give me confidence and encourage me. I feel better and stronger. When you feel good, you can be a better person and you have more to give your family. And for that reason, I will keep coming to the Y."

— Meryem, Member


Shana Y Story

“Shortly after joining the Y swim team, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My biggest fear was not being able to swim, but luckily a port catheter allowed me to get back in the water. The overwhelming support of my coaches and teammates helped me throughout my treatment, as did the swimming. It worked off any chemo drugs in my veins, any bad scans and any self-pity. I would leave the Y happier and healthier. The friends and personal connections I have made at the Y have touched my life in significant ways. I am so grateful to be a part of the Y.”

— Shana, Member


Mike Y Story

"My wife, Marcia, was a 50-year-old Y fitness instructor when she was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. When I told Marcia’s supervisor that I understood if they couldn't keep her on staff, he said they couldn't afford not to because the staff and members loved her and it would be inconsistent with the Y's mission not to support her. When she finally lost her ability to teach, the Y continued to open its doors and heart.  Staff drove Marcia to exercise class and assisted her in the fitness room. The Y gave Marcia a gift by allowing her to hold onto her passion for fitness and a sense of normalcy. It is truly a special organization that lives its mission of serving others."

— Mike, Member

Ed Y Story

“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.”

— Ed, Member

Brianna Y Story

"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." 

— Brianna, Member

Matt Y Story

“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.”

— Matt, Member & Volunteer

Chrissy Y Story

"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."

— Chrissy, Member and LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA Participant



David Y Story

"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."

— David, Coach

Annette Y Story

"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."

— Annette, Member

Angelina Y Story

"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. The Y has changed our lives by bringing us good things."

— Angelina, Member


Len Y Story

"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."

— Len, Member and Career Forum ‘Graduate'


Emilie Y Story

"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 my team raised $4,600, which was $2,100 higher than goal! Because of these experiences, I am a better swimmer, student, friend, and person."

— Emilie, Member and Volunteer


Kari Y Story

"I wish other people could see what I see and experience as a volunteer at the Y. Initially, I was surprised to learn how much need there really is in our community. It's always been important to me to make a difference in the lives of others, but to have an impact in our immediate community makes it even more meaningful. Many local families have fallen on hard times. When they receive financial assistance from the Y, they are genuinely grateful for the Y's steady, constant, comforting presence in their lives and to have a safe place for their children. I donate and volunteer so that, no matter what, we always have the Y."

— Kari, Member and Volunteer


Debbie Y Story

"I wish my family and I had joined the Y sooner. At first, I was intimidated by the gym and didn't know where to start. I thought the Y would be a place to help me stay healthy, but I wasn't aware of how it would also make me feel so motivated. I participated in the Y's Transformation Challenge, which dramatically changed my life. It helped me lose 12 lbs. toward completing my goal of 25 lbs. in 4 months. But, more than that, I found an amazing, encouraging community of staff, trainers and members who challenged me each week to try new classes like Spin, Zumba and Swimming. This led to overcoming my fears of how to use the exercise machines, try new classes, and how to eat healthy. The Y makes such a difference in my life."

— Debbie, Member


Arianna Y Story

"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"

— Arianna, Camper


Dan Y Story

"In society, some issues can be solved with money, and others can only be solved by rolling up your sleeves and investing your time. The value of volunteerism and the impact it has on improving the community can never be underestimated. Without exception, giving of your time should be part of each person's life plan. What better place to experience that than the Y? As a donor, I can see my dollars at work. As a volunteer, it's rewarding to see how many people benefit from the Y – from inspiring the potential of kids to motivating healthy lifestyles among adults of all ages and abilities. The Y is a safe haven in the community where you always feel good walking through the door."

— Dan, Member and Volunteer