The YMCA is more than a gym. It's a community. Meeting new friends, gaining the support you've always wanted, and finding inspiration in others is what we're all about.
To read about these Y members stories just click on their image. If you have a story you want to share, pass it on! Simply contact our Digital Media Specialist, Maegan Shinkle, with all leads.
Maegan Shinkle, Digital Media Specialist
In early December, 2013, a beloved man named Greg passed away very unexpectedly after a soccer game. He was 34 years old, a new father, and a loving husband. The autopsy revealed that Greg had suffered from an enlarged heart, which caused him to go into sudden cardiac arrest.
Greg was an unusually caring and outgoing person. His family describes him as passionate, smart, funny, thoughtful, and, above all else, loving. He put others before himself as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Greg moved every person he met.
Greg's sister-in-law, Erin Policinski, is the Aquatics Director for the Southeast Monroe County YMCA. When she and Greg's friends and family learned about the American Heart Association's half-marathon in Cincinnati, they agreed to form a team to raise funds for the AHA and remember Greg's life and spirit.
Erin has been a runner and triathlete for years, training with the YMCA Endurance team since 2009. Her sister Anne, Greg's widow, is also a runner, but needed the support of her friends and family to make it through this particularly emotional race. "I wanted to be there to support my sister," Erin explains. "Being out there with her was a small way to begin to repay all the years of support she has given me."
Greg and Anne had run this race together years before, so this was also a way to honor his memory and remind his surviving family that they weren't alone. 35,000 people braved brutal winds and a wind-chill of 14 degrees to run/walk in memory or support of their loved ones who have been affected by heart disease. Erin Policinski views running as a form of therapy.
"Knowing that we all had his memory with us was helpful as we battled to finish this race," Erin reflects. "There were definitely tears knowing that we had a personal story with this race and cause. Nothing will ever heal this wound, but I personally believe that this was a step."
Erin credits the YMCA Endurance group for helping her stick with her journey toward better health and technique: "Five years ago, I unknowingly started a journey that I wouldn't have been able to stick to without their support, training plans, and encouragement." Several members of the Endurance group donated money, and even ran in the race for Greg's team. At this race, Erin set a personal record (PR) for the 10K portion of the race.
In Erin's words, "The Y Endurance group is one that welcomes everyone and then manages to get their hooks into you and never let you go. Somewhere in the last five years, I became a runner and a triathlete. A slow one, but a runner nonetheless." Without Endurance, she says, she wouldn't have been able to do such a challenging race. "And that means that I wouldn't have been there to support my sister and remember Greg. Finding this group with these people is a gift I am so thankful for."
Tyrone Morris had always been athletic and enjoyed the physical benefits of playing team sports. However, 17 years ago a back injury left him not only unable to play sports but made it hard for him to even move.
Several years and corrective surgeries later Tyrone was surprised to find himself heavier than he had ever been. His wake-up call came when he was vacationing with his son and they had taken a jet ski out for some fun on the water. When the jet ski tipped over and he and his son both ended up in the water Tyrone began to panic because he realized he would not be able to get himself back up on the jet ski. He couldn’t believe that he had
let himself go to the point where he could not help his son or himself.
Tyrone decided right then that he would change his life. He vowed to lose weight without any medicine, pills or gimmicks. He joined the Y and began working out with the determination that all his years in athletics had given him.
“I wanted myself to see and I want my son to see that you can do anything as long as you stay focused”.
Tyrone set his goal to lose 200 pounds and in no time he was feeling like an athlete again.
On Mother’s day, 2013, Jennifer gathered her family in front of their Church to take a photo. It was that photo that changed her life. “I looked at the photo and thought, ‘who is that?’ I didn’t recognize myself.” On that day, Jennifer weighed in at 420 lbs. She had been prescribed to several different medications for diabetes and weight related issues. She was unhappy, worried about her future, and most importantly worried about how her weight had and would continue to affect her time with her children. So she made a choice to make a change.
After speaking with her doctor she decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Preparing for surgery she lost 50 lbs. yet was unable to lower her A1C levels to a safe number necessary for surgery; which is why she joined the YMCA. “The YMCA saved my life; it was the only way I was able to get the surgery in the first place.” After joining the YMCA and meeting employees such as Aquatics Instructor, Anne, and Northwest Wellness Coach, Guadalupe, Jennifer was able to lower her A1C rate and receive the surgery on June 20, 2014. Today, Jennifer weighed in at 260 lbs. rocking her wellness goals, having lost 160 lbs. and reduced her number of medications by over half since that Mother’s Day. When she’s not taking classes or doing her aerobics workout in the pool Jennifer likes to walk the track,
“I do a mile and a half now when before I couldn’t make it around once.”
Feeling more like herself, Jennifer is now a volunteer for the YMCA knitting club that provides items to sale during our Holiday Bazaar, enjoys activities such as volunteering with her son’s Boy Scout troop, and looks forward to joining our Page Turners book club.
“It’s something I could have never done on my own. Without the Y, I would never have been able to keep it up.”
If you have been to the Y recently you have seen Penny; quiet and shy, but as her friend and workout partner Barry describes her, “a powerful presence.” Penny finds the strength to come to the Y everyday, which can be a challenge with the obstacles she faces. When Penny was 14 she lost her leg in an accident at home. Dealing with the loss of her leg at such a young age made life even more difficult, and eventually contributed to her overall decline in health. Last year, Penny lost her cousin, who was only 32 years old. Not wanting to face the same future, she made the decision to have weight loss surgery in May.
Since her surgery, Penny has moved to Bloomington from Spencer to take advantage of the greater opportunities here.
This Y was better able to accommodate her disability and allowed her to work up to two hours of cardio into her routine
between various machines and swimming. Barry says, “she made the decision to change her life and she inspired me to do the same. I know we have all gotten to a place where we feel like giving up. I know what Penny has overcome, all of her fears -- if she can do this anyone can.”
Recently, Penny has achieved another goal, she has lost enough weight she qualifies for a new prosthetic. Her new leg will allow her greater mobility and flexibility to further her fitness journey. While Penny is nervous about the time off she will have to take for the surgery and fitting of the new leg, she knows the life-long benefits will be well worth it.
Hear more about her journey from Penny in this video.
With many available activities at the Y, Kevin and his son, KJ, have taken a special interest in the swimming pool at the Northwest YMCA. Kevin first heard about the Y when a few of his friends noticed how interested his son, KJ, was with swimming. Kevin got KJ signed up for a membership through the YMCA’s scholarship program and has brought him to the Northwest Y every chance they get.
When KJ turned two years old his mother and Kevin began questioning his delay in walking and speech. Shortly after, KJ was diagnosed with fetal valproate syndrome, which led to high functioning autism. After a few of his friends noticed how much KJ enjoyed swimming, they suggested Kevin bring him to the Y.
In their time at the Y pool, his dad has noticed a new independence in KJ. Feeling more comfortable in the water, his dad no longer has to act as a safety net for his son. “We are at the point where he is ready for further training,” said Kevin.
The pool and swimming have been wonderful for KJ; even Kevin has noticed that his son’s focus and speech have grown stronger. He thinks they have found something that KJ can really enjoy and focus clearly on. Kevin said, “We deal with a lot, but for the two hours we are in the pool, we don’t think about any of it.”
The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program has helped Mark Magnuson take control of his health.it was time to make the commitment to reduce his weight, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high stress levels that were all symptoms of crossing into a Type II Diabetes – a common condition that can be a gateway to other costly health problems.
“I want to be around for my family. I couldn’t allow my struggles of health get in the way of taking care of my family.” Mark believes the program provided him with a holistic approach to make positive changes that hold him accountable for his actions through food journaling, calorie and fat content of his food intake, and the addition of weekly activity.
“I feel good about reaching my weight loss goal. I am 1/3 of the way there and already have taken 6 inches off my waist.” Mark’s Lifestyle Coach helped him to learn about calories and fat grams, portion control, discovering food alternatives so not to feel deprived and adding exercise which has been an important piece to the formula for weight loss. At first, Mark says he could swim 10 laps in 30 minutes, but within a month -20 laps in 30 minutes.
“Mark was a rock star participant for himself and for the group”, said Cheri Landrey, YMCA Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach.” Mark took on the challenge to make changes that would make a positive impact on the rest of his life with an outstanding attitude. Mark was wonderful in the group setting, offering healthy food alternatives and positive encouragement to all. He is a true example of -YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL.”
After graduating from IU, Pat and her husband had careers in the corporate world that took them all over the country. When it came time for retirement they decided to come back to Bloomington. Pat recalls a
friend from the Y in Connecticut recommending the Y in Bloomington so when she relocated here she
immediately joined. Pat realized that she had reached a point in her life where she needed to be more active and pay more attention to her health, “to keep the body going and the mind moving!”
Not long after joining, Pat began to participate in Group Exercise classes. Now her routine has grown to
include both land and water classes as well as yoga, Page Turners, strength machines, and the Weight Loss Class. Pat was pleasantly surprised by the number of former classmates she has reconnected with through the Y and enjoys making new friends in her classes. She credits the physical strength she has gained since joining and the emotional support she receives from friends here for getting her through three different
surgeries. "Friends, Fellowship, and Fun, The Y is part of my social circle."
Most people tend to take much of what they have for granted, we were not much different. We went about our lives not being truly
appreciative for what we had. On May 31, 2014 our family suffered a great tragedy that literally stopped us in our tracks. My husband Travis was struck by a drunk driver. The hospital told us that he would need grueling physical therapy for his injuries and would be off work for an extended period of time. I wondered if my husband would ever be able to walk again and how it would affect the dynamic of our family. Would we be able to pay our mortgage, bills, or daycare. Ultimately, I wondered how all of this stress and chaos would affect our son Tanner.
As soon as Travis awoke from surgery the same feelings of worry came rushing to him as well. The first phone call he made was to Jen Smallwood, the Director of the Center for Children and Families where our son goes to daycare. He explained our situation and that with him no longer working, we could no longer afford daycare. She told us not to worry, and that we would find a way to make sure that
Tanner got to stay in school. The YCCF completely funded Tanner’s daycare for the first 6 weeks of Travis’s recuperation. There is no way for us to show how much love and appreciation we have for this organization. They stepped in and took one of our biggest worries off
our shoulders right from the start. They ensured that Tanner’s routine was able to stay consistent and that he was still able to get social interaction with his peers and teachers. His development has skyrocketed during this time. The YCCF is responsible for making sure our son has had his normal, happy, and fun life while things at home weren’t quite so great. We will never be able to repay them for the kindnesses they have given us but the smile on Tanners face when we pick him up from school lets me know that he
appreciates them just as much as we do.
Law school brought the Woolf family to Bloomington, church brought them to the Y. Carolyn and Trevor Woolf were on their way to Denver with three-year-old Shyla and two-week old Juniper when they got the news Trevor had been accepted to IU Law School. The news came during
move-in week in Bloomington, and between looking for a place to stay that was suitable for a growing family, planning a cross-country move, and Carolyn herself completeing a Master’s in Philanthropy, the family had to find support in a new town. Carolyn heard about the Y from a
new friend at the Unity church. Within two weeks of moving to Bloomington she had her older daughter enrolled in YMCA preschool and knew they had found, in the Y, a safe, supportive
environment where she could study and spend time with baby Juniper. As the family prepares for their next adventure taking them to San Diego, they reflect back on all the Y has given them.
Carolyn says, “nothing can replace the community we have at the Y.”
The Otten Family
Justin and Irena have the typical boy meets girl and fall in love story, except in their story the boy was from Indy and met his girl when he was in the Peace Corps in Macedonia. After starting a family together in England they moved to Bloomington in 2012 for a research position that turned into a job. Justin and Irena’s daughter, Vera, had lived in more places in her three short years than some people do in their whole lives. The family tried preschool at the Y but in the beginning it was just too much transition for Vera and they took her back out. The next year it was a completely different story. Vera, now four, was ready for the Butterflies class. She loves coming to class everyday now to see her friends and teachers, learn new skills and swim. Vera has also participated in the various dance classes at the Y and Open Gym at the YMCA’s Gymnastic Center. The entire Otten family loves to take advantage of all the Y has to offer, from preschool, to the Wellness Center and family swim time. They feel grateful for the generosity of those who give to the financial assistance program. The assistance helps Justin be able to complete his PhD while Vera thrives in preschool and the entire family enjoys time together.
As a teenager, Adriana fell off a third story balcony and suffered a frontal lobe injury. Lasting effects of the fall included damage to her short-term memory, pragmatics, ability for motivation, and the ability to feel full.
After the accident she became depressed from loss of motivation, dramatic physical appearance changes, weight gain, and the loss of independence.
Years after, Adriana struggled to find the fitness routine that best suited her. Her decision to join the YMCA and begin taking Zumba Gold is what changed her life.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life for myself. I have so much fun in Zumba. Kim, the instructor, said it flat out the first time I came to class, ‘It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re moving and having fun, you’re doing the right thing.’ That’s my new motto – as long as you’re moving and smiling, you’re doing something good for yourself.”
“I know it was almost 20 years ago, but I used to not to be able to remember what I had for breakfast, the fact that I can follow the dances now and I remember all the steps, and I get sweaty when I do it, and I feel fabulous at the end…I couldn’t get that somewhere else. Not at Curves, not from a Zumba video in my living room, not in the basement at my school, that’s something that the instructor brings and the community among the classroom. I have a group of friends in that class that are just my Zumba friends. They give me a hug every Monday, they give me a high five when we do a dance well, they commiserate with me when we don’t like the steps to something, and at the end of the 45 minutes they’re still there. IfI’m not there they’re going to ask me ‘where were you?’, and I haven’t gotten that anywhere else…and that’s a really special thing.”