YMCA Stories of Impact


The Y has made a promise to strengthen community in the areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsiblity. To fulfill our promise we must live our cause every day, meaning we intentionally THINK, ACT and COMMUNICATE in ways that strengthen community. One way to contribute to fulfilling our promise is through gathering, sharing, and listening to stories from our staff, volunteers and members. With each story we connect emotionally with our promise to strengthen community and to engage others in the Y's life-changing work. Read the stories below...and then, TELL US YOUR Y STORY...Print the form here, and bring it to the Y!



The Y: A Regular Routine

Working out has always been a big part of my life. I ran cross country and track in Junior High, High School and College, then continued to run into my adult life. My weight always stayed in the 150 pound range. As time went on, I still worked out on a regular basis (but not as intense) but my weight slowly increased. I always thought that I could exercise off the food I was eating...I quickly found out that is not the case.

In 2014 my weight ballooned to 260 pounds. During that year I had two knee surgeries and surgery to repair a torn bicep tendon. While I was off work, and with the help of the Weight Watchers plan, I lost 70 pounds over the next 12 months. I’ve completely changed my eating habits and the food I eat. I give my wife much of the credit for my weight loss; she not only supported me, but every night she cuts my fruits and vegetables for my lunch the next day (she also lost 20 pounds).

Working out is a part of my every day routine; I’m at the Y 6-7 days a week to get some kind of work out in. It’s been 7 months since I reach my goal weight and so far I have kept the weight off. -Joe P.


The Y Pre-Diabetes Program: A Life-Changing Adventure

Last April, my doctor gave me a scare when she warned me that my sugar levels were getting too high and diabetes was looming in my future. I realized that some action needed to be taken if I hoped to reach my goal of living to 100. I knew from past experience that the general instructions to "cut carbs" would not work for me, nor would counting calories but I wasn't sure where to turn for help. I signed up for an evening pre-diabetes class I had seen in the Lakeland Health Currents publication. It was a good start, but I knew I needed more direction. The instructor asked if we had considered another class listed in the same publication. This was being offered for the first time by the YMCA and they were looking for people to commit to a year long program to stave off diabetes. I jumped at the chance to join them. Little did I know what a life changing adventure this would be!

We started weekly classes in August with Monica and Stephen, personal trainers from the YMCA. We met at a church not far from my home. Each week we weighed in and talked about the topic of the week in our group setting. We were asked to commit to a 7% reduction in weight and 150 minutes of exercise of our choice each week. I already had two different friends each willing to commit to an hour of walking weekly, so all I needed to add was an extra 30 minutes of exercise. Each class member was asked to keep a journal listing all the foods we ate each day and to record the fat grams in each. Based on my beginning weight, I was allowed 42 fat grams daily. I learned early that snacks were my downfall. I was embarrassed to have to write down all the junk food that had found a place in my daily routine, so I began to rely on healthy choices, like fruit, whenever I felt the need for a snack.  We were given a reference book to use to locate fat grams from meals eaten at home or in popular restaurants. What an eye opener that was!  I made major alterations in food choices, especially avoiding most fast food restaurants. I can honestly say that I never felt like I was dieting and didn't develop any cravings for particular foods. I weighed in at my yearly physical recently and my doctor was thrilled that I had managed to lose 32 pounds through the help and support of my family, friends, and this YMCA class.  I am confident that I will be able to continue on my path to wellness because I feel so good and refuse to go back to my unhealthy lifestyle! -Sandi P.


Weight-Bearing Exercise=0 OSTEOPOROSIS

Although I have been a member of the Y for more than 25 years, both here and in Livonia, where I lived previously, I wasn't really very serious until 2001, when I engaged the services of trainer Cathy Shaffer. I was preparing for the Mrs. Southwest MI contest, and knew I'd be judged on my fitness. She got me started on the right path, and then, when I actually won the pageant, I was awarded sessions with her for the entire year! She was knowledgeable and affirming, and then urged me continue with fitness classes afterward.

The Body Pump class is my favorite, as it fills my need for weight-bearing exercise to stave off osteoporosis; my mother had lost 7" in height in her later years. The music is motivating and fun, and Erin always emphasizes proper form and listening to your body to prevent injury. I appreciate the staff, their friendliness, and encouragement during my daily visits here.  (Even if some of them cheer for the wrong college team!) -Lou P.


Fitness, Exercise & Healthy Eating=SUCCESS!

After many years of being overweight and having high cholesterol, in November 2013 I made the decision to finally take charge of my life.  I started to eat better, exercise regularly and become more active.  I was working out at home, getting stronger and even saw results but wasn’t consistent enough.  So, February 2014, I had an opportunity to join a specialized group training class at the YMCA designed just for the Mom’s Club members. David Sundblad, who is the Mom’s Club class instructor, has done an amazing job at customizing and mixing up workouts with the circuit style training! It was definitely challenging at first but it has been worth every bit of it. I can say working with a trainer has made all the difference in achieving my personal fitness goals.  After a year of working out regularly at the YMCA, I have been able to transform not only my body but my mind as well.  Fitness, exercise, and healthy eating have become lifestyle changes for me.  During this journey I have lost approximately 43 pounds, lowered my cholesterol within a normal range, and decreased my BMI and overall body fat percentage.  I am grateful for David and his hard work, motivation, and dedication he provides. It's changed my life! -Sandra P.


Be the Best Version of Yourself

Working out has not always been a part of my life, in fact, I hated it because it was too hard. The Y has helped me change that mentality. Two years ago, I made the decision to no longer accept that I hated my reflection in the mirror. I decided that the girl on the inside deserved to like who she was on the outside. It was a huge commitment to allow myself to be ok with taking time to focus solely on myself. As a wife and a mom of 2 boys, I was used to putting my needs on the back burner. But, with the insanely generous help of Stephen, I began to realize that I was worth the time I was putting in. He helped keep me motivated and even gave me the confidence to use the weight room, the one place I thought I would never belong. Over the next couple of months, I found myself waking up and actually looking forward to heading to the Y. I was falling in love with exercise!

Two years later, I'm still going strong. Working out is no longer work, to me it's about as normal in my daily routine as brushing my teeth. It's the most rewarding addiction!

But the Y is more than just a place for exercise; because of the Y, I have not only gained the confidence, the health, and the fitness I deserve, I have also built many new friendships. The Y is my second home. The Y is truly a place for family and I love that my husband and kids can be actively involved in a healthy lifestyle right along with me.

I'm still a work in progress, and will continue to set goals for myself, but my biggest goal is to be an inspiration to others. Everyone is worth being the best version of themselves that they can be! -Kristin M.

A True Inspiration 
    Sam is a 24 year old young man with Down Syndrome who started working out upon approval from Stephen Rockette, Health & Wellness Supervisor, along with Monica Norton, his personal trainer & Healthy U Supervisor, a few times a week up through the present.
    He has gone from a preferred sedentary lifestyle to now actively participating in Miracle League Baseball, 5K Run/Walks, Special Olympics and 4H assisted horseback riding. Daily, he walks his dog and willingly helps out at home and school.
    We thank the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA staff for making his time at the “Y” a safe, fun and beneficial experience! -Susan and Steven Rice (Sam’s parents)

    In 2008, before Sam started training with the YMCA, his weight was 224.4 lbs. and his bioelectric impedance Body Fat measured at 59.6%. As of today, Sam is at 194 lbs. and his bioelectric Body Fat measured is 35.5%.
    These are incredible statistics and I give full credit to those he has been working with at the YMCA. He has always actively participated in our activities but the personalized efforts and time have made an incredible transformation in Sam in both performance and energy levels. I hope, with your support, they continue to help Sam improve. -Tim McDaniel, Adaptive Physical Education Instructor, Bert Goens Learning Center

Hooked on the Y
    Twenty-two years ago a friend brought me with her to a water aerobic class. I've been hooked ever since! Three or four days each week I have enjoyed taking water classes, gym classes, using the weight machines and doing the circuit. The instructors have always been well-trained and helpful, and all the staff (from office-to Welcome Center-to trainers-to housekeeping) are kind and friendly! Thank you for making the Y a great experience! -Pam M.

Never Too Old To Learn
    I moved here recently from Indiana. As a recent retiree, I was apprehensive about relocating to a whole new community, especially a small one where many people have lived their entire lives. I joined the Y, originally, in part, to meet others who have at least one thing in common with me--the love of physical activity (plus, also, the great facilties and classes here). What I got was so much more!
    I've met many, many people who are so full of life, kindness and friendship. People have welcomed me into social circles, crafts, recipes and fitness ideas. I've made wonderful friends with other members and staff alike. We are a kind of family here!
    In 2012, I learned how to swim at last, a lifelong dream of mine. In 2013, I joined the Y Welcome Center staff so I could spend even more time at the Y!
    Thank you, YMCA. You are a great asset to our community. -Ellen H.


Best Day of My Life
    I have been a member of the YMCA for 16 years and what keeps me coming back to the Y time and time again is the friendships that I have made. The YMCA has allowed me to spend time with my kids and help instill the Christian values of the YMCA; now at the age of 62, I am able to bring my grandkids to the Y and give them a chance to make new friends and learn the importance of exercise. -Darryl H. (Best Day of My Life)