The Y. So Much More.

Karrie’s Story: Courtesy of the YMCA of Southwest Illinois


Clinton Community YMCA

Our day camp program is a very active outdoor program for children who are entering first through eighth grade. In the spring of 2012 a mom came to me and asked if we could try having her nine year old step-son attend camp. He would be at their home for two weeks in the middle of summer and they were looking for activities for him to be involved in.  The only issue was that he is legally blind; he uses a white cane, and has porcelain eyes. We agreed to let Elijah try camp and felt like our staff would make every effort to provide a great experience for him.  Elijah showed up for his first day and was quickly welcomed and accepted by the other youth.  One of the morning activities is a two-mile run that we do with the children who select that option. Those who chose to pass on the run, do either a shorter walk or a two-mile walk.

Eli wanted to do the run.  The trail system at Weldon Springs where Camp Osage is held is a rough, wood-chipped or grass trail. It has roots and mole hills and is not a smooth concrete path. A couple of our campers allowed Eli to place his hand on their arm and they talked him through the run.  He continued to be involved in activities throughout the day with the other campers functioning as his eyes.  At one point Eli stated to a group of girls who were sitting near him, “Wow, I’m really popular at this camp!” They replied that it was because he was “cool.” To which Eli responded, “And don’t forget that I’m cute too!”  The staff thought it was a funny comment… but, especially from a kid who had never seen himself.   Eli’s experience at camp was great and his step-mom came to a board meeting at the end of summer and did our Mission Moment.  The real accomplishment however was not what Eli got out of camp; it was what he gave.  His being at day camp allowed our other campers and staff to experience a very “cool” kid who happened to have a disability.  They got to know Eli for his ability, not his disability and they learned to look a little deeper than the surface to form an opinion.

Two Rivers YMCA (Moline)

Linder was selected to join Y Solutions at Edison Jr. High School when he was in 7th grade. According to his Y Solutions Coordinator, middle school was a struggle for Linder.  He had a hard time with authority figures and had a habit of saying things that would get him in trouble.  The first year he was in Y Solutions he didn’t get to go on a trip to a Bulls game with the group because he was acting inappropriately at school.  He learned a lesson quick that to succeed in Y Solutions he needed to change-and he did. He is currently a sophomore at Rock Island High School and has continued to be Y Solutions every year since Edison Jr. High School. He currently keeps his grades above average.  He also plays football for Rocky and was placed up on the varsity team this past season.

He has learned through the Y Solutions program to do the right thing and make good choices.  He has been guided by the Y Solutions Coordinator to get it together and you will see success.  Linder knows Y Solutions helped him get on the right path in middle school and he is successful today because of it.


Quincy Family YMCA 

Dan joined the Y in 2005 so he and his family would have a place to exercise.  Since joining, he has found that the Y is more than a gym.  Over the years, Dan has participated in fitness & exercise classes, been a Strong Kids volunteer and donor, and taken part in the Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Run.  His family is involved with youth sports, take swim lessons and use the pool for recreation time on a regular basis.  Along with an active way to spend time with his family, Dan has found the motivation to improve his health and wellbeing.

Since the beginning of 2012, Dan has lost 25 pounds through diet and exercise changes.  He has also dramatically reduced symptoms of disc problems in his back.  “I know this is a direct result of the core exercises I have been doing in the kettle ball suspension and the cross fit classes I have been taking.  I am convinced that these classes have improved my core strength and have made my back feel better than it has in years.  No more back problems for now!”

The hard work Dan has put into his health has certainly paid off in the last year.  But it’s more than the health benefits that keep him coming back week after week: “I enjoy the atmosphere, the people I work out with regularly, the staff and the facility itself.”

Bloomington-Normal YMCA

The Youth Fitness Intervention (Y-FI) program is a 12-week, physician-referred program engages children in physical activity, educates families about healthy nutrition and sparks long-term behavior changes. The program is funded by The United Way of McLean County and therefore available to families at no cost. Designed for ages 7-14, Y-FI partners kids with a registered dietician and a certified personal trainer who work to develop individual nutrition and exercise programs. Participating families also receive a Y membership for the duration of the program. Each one-hour session includes nutrition counseling, guided physical activity, goal setting and review.

Recently, nine-year-old Sydney, a fourth grader at Coleen Hoose Elementary School, successfully completed the Y-FI program, building numerous positive health and wellness habits. “Miss Sarah taught me that if I don’t know how to do something I should just try my best,” Sydney said. “I did a lot of things I hadn’t done before, like Zumba, kickboxing and yoga. But, my favorite is swimming because at the Y it doesn’t even have to be summer to use the pool!” Sydney’s mom, Lisa, is elated with the results of the program, especially because the benefits of Y-FI extend to the whole family. “The staff is very motivating, teaching us how to work out together and have fun at the same time,” Lisa said. “Sydney is stronger and her confidence has just skyrocketed. Y-FI is an amazing program.”


YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Human Services

Mrs. P had had a rough few months. Her miscarriage alone would have been enough – but the lack of support she was receiving from her mother and her husband’s own sadness about the child they lost became too much for her when she visited the YMCA one afternoon. She felt comfortable enough to confide in staff member Catherine about how depressed and exhausted she felt, and Catherine was there at first to just listen – and then to help Mrs. P take action. Catherine spoke with the mental health specialist also on staff about available resources to help Mrs. P, and she was then able to recommend group counseling sessions that were available for Mrs. P to attend at her neighborhood hospital.

A month later, Mrs. P returned to the Y offices to thank Catherine – the counseling sessions had really helped her and her family through their grief. Mrs. P and her family are now expecting another child.

YMCA of Rock River YMCA

The most important thing I learned about myself last summer is that I can accomplish amazing things with confidence and determination.  The Intern Challenge taught me that there are countless opportunities available in Rockford to get involved and to make change.

My fondest memory of the Intern Challenge was the board room sessions.  When a team succeeded at a task or made an impressive resource, it was great to celebrate together and see our hard work recognized and praised. In May, I will graduate with a degree in Nursing.  I plan to work as a Registered Nurse at Rockford Memorial Hospital and I would like to be a community health ambassador with the YMCA. The YMCA Intern Challenge made me proud to call Rockford my home.

West Communities YMCA (Chicago)

The Y has been a part of the fabric of the Limias family since now 19 year old Mario was just a child. Y membership took on a different meaning for him after a September 2008 car accident forced Mario to have to relearn how to talk, walk and even feed himself. While Mario did recover, the length of recovery he had to endure put him behind other children his age in terms of his abilities. A summer of volunteering at the YMCA in 2011, surrounded by caring and supportive staff, not only further improved Mario’s abilities, but also changed his outlook on his situation. He did so well as a volunteer that the next summer he joined West Communities as a camp counselor and the kudos have not stopped. Parents are amazed by his commitment and dedication to the youth as well as his ability to engage all ages. Mario, who still works for the Y to this day, credits the organization with giving him the opportunity to prove himself to others, but most importantly to prove his abilities to himself.