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.

Y Member Stories

“Dad, did you used to have a six pack? We saw pictures.” It was a question 43-year old Brian Amling’s children asked him one day out of the blue. Brian was always active playing basketball and other athletics in high school and college. Then, “life happened,” he tells us about getting married, having four children and working 60 hours a week. The healthy living mentality took a back seat for 10-15 years.

He decided it was time to make a change, “I want to be there someday for my future grandkids and be an example for my children.” From 2017 to 2019, Brian attend the YMCA every day and lost 30 pounds within the first year. He then turned to weight training and gained most of it back in muscle weight the following year. He started going to Puri early weekday mornings; and Northeast on weekends. At first, his exercise commitment was short and moderate, but very consistent.

“I made time every morning for 15 minutes of cardio; it would be treadmill running, elliptical, or stationary cycling. I also began an every day light-moderate strength training routine. Over the next several months I began to challenge myself more and more by trying to see how far I could run in 15 minutes.”

Brian explained how consistency is one of the toughest things when starting to get into a workout routine. “When I first started going to the Y, I would have to push and motivate myself just to work out. 15 minutes per day is all I started with. I progressed daily to see how much I could do. It became like a personal mantra for myself. I kept pushing myself. I am almost grumpy now if I do not get to workout for as long as I would like to.”

Brian tells us the YMCA has changed many things for him and his family. 

“I was out of shape and overweight. The Y has completely changed my life. I now have a running streak of 6 months. My mind-set became that I wanted to challenge myself every morning to set the tone for the rest of my day. In early 2019 my mindset began to change again. Instead of seeking a challenge to set the tone for my day, I began to truly enjoy the process.”

Brian was successful with not only his fitness achievements, but with forming friendships with others within the Y community as well. “I am enjoying the friendships with my early morning crowd at Puri, the Puri staff, my weekend friends at Northeast, and the Northeast staff. By going to the same Y location at the same time I have formed great relationships and have inadvertently created accountability with the people that know me.”

Brian loves getting his kids involved with the Y as well. “I think a lot of people my age who have kids feel guilty about working out and taking the time away from family. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bring the kids along and do it together.” His two daughters go with him on the weekends and his two sons play basketball. “I have been fortunate to be involved as a parent and coach in the Jr. NBA program. It is a great program for kids to learn the basics of organized basketball and have some fun. I love having the kids come up to me asking for advice. It's cool to feel like you've maybe made a difference and helped out.”

To anyone thinking about making a commitment to exercise, Brian gives some tips on how to stay motivated and accomplish life goals. “Join the Y and just make a 15-minute commitment per day like I did and see where it goes. If you cannot make it to the Y every day, do your 15 minutes by going for a walk or whatever you enjoy. As a former exercise beginner (like all of us are), I see now that newcomers sometimes see the more advanced folks who are now enjoying the process and try to emulate that pattern right away and burn-out / quit. My advice to you, is do not do that. The hardest thing is the consistency. The everyday grind. There are some days you just don't feel like doing it. But you power through and do it anyways. In the end, you will feel great with your accomplishment.”

Now that Brian has transformed his body, his kids have a new way of looking at dad. They say, “Dad has a 6-pack again.”

We received this letter from a local mom and we found it so inspiring that we just had to share it.

"I would like to share one of the many reasons I love the YMCA. A little back story….
My daughter, Liviana, who is now 9 years old, was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Motor Coordination Disorder about 18 months ago.  Many people don’t know it, but dyslexia affects SO much more than reading. People with dyslexia struggle with things such as directionality, sequencing, and crossing the midline, as well as many other physical things. Through my research on how to best help my daughter, I came across the idea of Tae Kwon Do.

For the past year, Livvy has taken Tae Kwon Do at the Puri Family YMCA. When she first started she was very weak. She could barely do a sit up, and she had a very awkward gait to her run.  She certainly struggled with the “forms” (sequence of moves) that she was learning. 

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were able to sit and watch her class. We were moved to tears. She is certainly far from the “best” student in the class, however, I would dare to say she’s come the farthest! We were able to witness her doing very difficult sit up type exercises with very little struggling. She knows the forms almost naturally. She never once kicked with the wrong leg, or turned the wrong direction. And I think the biggest gain is her running! She has gained so much speed and she no longer looks awkward while doing so!!  

I will say, though, the most important change I’ve seen in the past year, is her confidence.  On any given day she has to work SO much harder than many of her peers, but she does so with a constant smile. She knows that she struggles with some things, but she never lets that get her down!  

Thank you, Puri YMCA, for bringing Tae Kwon Do to our locations!"

Lora N.

You may have seen his photo on the front page of the newspaper recently for winning the Excalibur Award for his service to the Y and our community, but Mike Broski prefers to operate behind the scenes. He is a long time Y member and volunteer who has helped our association achieve many successes. Mike’s Y story begins like many other members – as a kid.

Mike’s family joined the Y when he was about five years old. It has remained a regular part of his routine as an adult. He also used the Y to build a stronger relationship with his daughter, Suzie. 

“We would go to the Y to play basketball against the guys.  We probably won 90% of the 2-on-2 games that we played; where I was known as “Old School” and she was known as “The Girl.” We had a blast and played nearly every day.”

Building relationships has been a theme for Mike at the Y. 

“I met one of my closest friends, Skip Trotter, at the YMCA several years ago. I also started running with a group of people (aka - the Grey Pack) 20 years ago. We would meet at the YMCA every morning to run together. Many of those guys that were part of the Grey Pack are still my good friends today. Over the years, I have continued to meet new people through classes who have become good friends.”

Mike does the FX Strength class on Monday and Thursday mornings, and runs daily. He attributes the class with Jim Appino to increasing his strength and flexibility. Perhaps something that will help him achieve his 2020 goals – to run every day and reach 1,000 miles again!
The regular workouts keep Mike coming back, but it’s not what he loves most about the Y. 

“As a board member, I appreciate that everyone who wants to belong to the YMCA has the ability to do so with scholarship assistance.” 
Mike started volunteering with the Y many years ago on the Strong Kids Campaign as a fundraiser. He was so good at recruiting new supporters that we asked him to join the Board of Directors. 

“I said no.” However, we didn’t give up. We asked him again the next year and he said yes.

“The YMCA has become one of the most important projects and boards for which I have volunteered. I have gained so much from working with the staff, the members and other volunteers in terms of real-life experiences and a feeling that together we really are accomplishing something and making a difference.” 
Mike has a message for people who are considering becoming a volunteer with the Y. 

“There are so many volunteer opportunities at the YMCA and you can work with whatever age or demographic that interests you. If you volunteer, you will be part of a highly committed team that includes Y Staff, other members, and like-minded volunteers all working toward reaching a common goal of helping others achieve a healthy spirit, mind, and body.

Thank you, Mike, for all you have done for the Y and our community! We are blessed to have you on our team!

We love getting to know our Y members because they always impress us with their stories. Will definitely falls in to that category. You may have seen Will working out at the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA. He has been a Y member off and on since he was a kid, but has been a daily regular for about five years. We were surprised to learn he is in to endurance races and is always training for the next one.

Will completed his second full Ironman recently. It’s a 140.6-mile race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run! 

“It sounds daunting, but after sufficient preparation and training, the race is really the fun part. The grind is the 15-20 hours of training every week and the race is really the reward. I completed this year’s race in 11 hours and 29 minutes, which was about 20 minutes faster than last year for me.”

Will said the swim was tough this year because the water was really choppy. It took him about an hour for the swim, then he moved on to the 5/6-hour bike ride through the hills of Madison where he was able to shave off some time. So, after seven hours, then it’s time for the marathon.

“I’ve always considered myself a runner but after the swim and bike, my legs are usually shot. The run becomes a mental challenge as well as physical. The thing that I’ve learned is that you can never stop and you have to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly. The crowds around State Street and the capitol are phenomenal and help keep you motivated. At the finish line Mike Reilly (an Ironman legend) calls each athlete’s name as you cross and says: ‘Will Hoff, YOU are an Ironman!”

Will works out with friends to keep himself motivated. “I have met some wonderful, like-minded people at the Y and formed some long-lasting friendships. We typically work out early in the morning, when the Y opens. Sometimes it's hard to get out of bed, but knowing that friends are there and counting on you to show up helps motivate you. If any of us miss a day, you can count on a text message from the group giving you a hard time!”

Will says he does endurance races to test his limits. “It's amazing how much your perspective changes as you progress through endurance distances. My first goal in triathlon was to complete a sprint or Olympic distance race. I was pretty sure I could do it, but I didn't think that I'd ever be able to complete a half Ironman. After completing an Olympic distance race, I set my sights on a half Ironman and then a couple years later, a full. I think we are all capable of way more than we think and until you really test and push your limits, you’ll never know what those limits are.”

Will’s next goal is to complete three half Ironman races (70.3 miles) in 2020 in under five hours each. He also has a 200-mile bike ride on his radar.

“The Y helps support my goals by being a consistently positive place to be. The same smiling faces I see there every day make me want to get out of bed on a cold, crummy day and go work out with my friends. The community that’s created there is something I can’t find anywhere else.”

If you need a push to get to kick start your fitness journey, or maybe you are trying to get to the next level, Will has some great advice. “If I can do it, YOU can do it! I’m not a great athlete, but I just try to be consistent and dedicated. Come to the Y! Join a swim group. Join a fitness class. Hook up with a run group. Join a spin class. The training you’ll get and the friends you make will keep you motivated!

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!

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!