Everybody has a Y Story

The YMCA of Dane County will be celebrated and supported as the community's leading nonprofit organization for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We give 39,800 members a sense of belonging and providing the tools, support and skills to live life to its fullest. Everybody has a Y Story, so share yours with us!

Brett C. from Northeast YMCA

Brett has been coming to the YMCA on and off for 8 years. It wasn't until his wife signed him up for the In Business Magazine's "Get Fit Challenge" that he got serious about his health. He says, "My wife signed me up for the challenge, and I filled out the application just to satisfy my wife, never thinking I would be picked as one of the 5 male contestants. Since the challenge began last March, I have been exercising at the YMCA about 4-5 days per week. I have lost over 50lbs since then. Because I have been able to utilize cardio equipment, I can see my feet again! I have not only lost 50lbs, but my cholesterol is better, and I am in overall better health. I feel younger and have more energy. I love that when I walk in the door at the YMCA, people greet me with a smile and engage me. Some of the staff knew I was participating in this challenge and have encouraged me until the end."


Updated 9/16/14

Mel F. from Lussier Family East YMCA

Mel has been a member of the YMCA of Dane County for over 2.5 years. During her time at the Y, she has managed to lose over 65 pounds by attending the variety of quality classes offered at the Y. In addition to losing weight and becoming healthier, she has made some great "Y Buddies" as well! They all met in Boot Camp classes at the East YMCA and have formed quite a team. They even recently ran the Madison Mud Run together in May. She says, "One of the perks of becoming a Y member is the camaraderie and support you feel with fellow classmates." 





Updated 7/9/14

Rachel H. from Lussier Family East YMCA

My participation in LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA helped me stay positive during cancer treatment. I was given the opportunity to build connections with fellow survivors while focusing on maintaining my physical capabilities. LIVESTRONG® classes provided a foundation of support and challenge during the 12 week program.

I looked forward to meeting twice each week; Sarah, our instructor, would begin each class with check-in. We would share our experiences, concerns and exchange valuable information. This was followed by a cardio segment on our choice of treadmill, elliptical, bike or recumbent bike. Next was strength training that covered all major muscle groups. I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was! In the final segment we focused on flexibility with stretching, modified to meet individual needs and relaxation exercises. All in all, it was a very well rounded program.

LIVESTRONG® provided the structure and motivation to keep exercising and improving in an environment where your needs as a cancer survivor are recognized.

Updated 3/20/14

Zeone S. from Northeast YMCA

I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. I participated in the September 2013 LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program. I was referred to this program from a friend and fellow cancer survivor who I play softball with during the summer. My body was very weak post treatment, and I wasn't able to do as much as I wanted to. My goal for joining the program was to work on my physical strength and to meet other people with cancer.

The program helped me reach my goals by pushing me to improve. It can be easy to settle into a routine and hit a rut that you never bounce out of. The instructors at the YMCA were excellent at providing a variety of exercises that fit me and challenged me on a daily basis to continually improve. I also enjoyed the social aspect of the group; it was wonderful being able to meet and discuss cancer with others who went through something similar to me.

A big milestone for me was when I realized I was was doing more than I thought I would be doing! A big wow moment in just the first few weeks was the variety of levels in the program. It left you with a sense of feeling lucky to be where I was at, but it was also motivational to have other participants to look up to and work toward their level.

Updated 3/12/14

Oliver B. from Lussier Family East YMCA

There is a child named Oliver B. who is in my swim class at East. Literally, last month, he would barely put his face in the water. There was one week where Olver was the only child who showed up for class. That day, he was able to front crawl on his own and even jump off the block. He is a guppy and very talkative but very nervous about swimming.

One month later, I can barely get him to keep his face above water or keep him holding on to the wall when I am not with him! I talked to Oliver's father after class and he said Oliver had a bad experience in a swim class when he was 2 and had been scared of swimming ever since. For the last month or so, Oliver's parents have been bringing him 2-3 times a week to the pool. His progress is amazing! 

I don't think I have yet seen such a dramatic change in a kid in such a short time in swim lessons.

-Lisa Braun, West Aquatics Site Supervisor

Updated 3/12/14

Jaren C. from Lussier Family East YMCA

I was always a slender person and could eat whatever, whenever, and as much as I desired. It wasn't unusual for me to eat an entire pizza while watching hours of football. I remember my dad telling me that one day it would catch up to me. Like most things my parents told me, I blew it off. Unfortunately my father was correct. Right around the time my wife got pregnant with our first child, I went from 155lbs to 191lbs! A coworker of mine not so politely said, "jeez look at the size of your gut now!" I was embarrassed and felt disgusted with myself.

I quit eating fast food and drinking soda. I also started walking around the block. After my son was born, I could no longer walk outside because he was too little for the jogging stroller. I was bummed. I had lost a few pounds and was starting to feel better about myself. Now what was I going to do?!

I took a tour of the East YMCA and they showed me the Child Watch area. I couldn't believe they would actually watch my child for 2 hours while I worked out, and I didn't have to pay extra! Sign me up! The people working in Child Watch seemed super cool and were passionate about the YMCA's core values. I asked for an application because I thought it would be a great way to give back to the community and save some cash on membership fees. I started working for the YMCA in June of 2013, and it has been a wonderful experience. It has given me the opportunity to spend time with a lot of great kids and form relationships with their parents.

Now that my child was in good hands, and I had a few hours to myself, I really focused on my training. My goal was to run a half marathon that was taking place on my 32nd birthday. The race was only 4 months away, and I could barely jog a mile without getting horrible cramps. I came to the YMCA 5 days a week and took suggestions from other runners around the gym. I was starting to see results of my hard work (I lost 30lbs and was running 60 miles a week) so I decided to test myself with a local 5k race. To my surprise, I finished 5th overall at a time of 20:34! I breezed through my half marathon and set my sights on the full 26.2 miler in the fall.

I got injured halfway through training, but the YMCA was great because it had a diverse group of cardio machines to train on. I used different forms of cross training such as swimming, elliptical, and stationary bike to help keep my fitness level high. I wanted to make my YMCA coworkers and friends proud. On race day, I finished my first full marathon in 3:31. I was in the top 10% of all the finishers, and I could have done it without the YMCA!

Updated 2/26/14

Poppy from Lussier Family East YMCA

After back-to-back pregnancies, I was terribly overweight, pre-diabetic, had Gestational Diabetes with both pregnancies, was teetering on the edge of Type 2 Diabetes, had Laryngopharyngeal Reflux due to extra weight pushing on my digestive system which gave me a chronic cough leading to debilitating sleep depravation, had serious back and knee pain, and I was depressed. Having two small children needing me 24/7, I felt trapped - I didn’t have the time to dedicate to myself for the changes I needed to make, not only for my health, but my self image, my energy level, and the example I wanted to set for my children.

A friend of mine challenged me to join Weight Watchers with her, and part of the challenge included meeting me at the Y for a Body Pump class. I was no stranger to the Y, but most of the time I just went to put my kids in Child Watch while I sat in the hot tub and took an uninterrupted shower.

By the end of my third week, I was starting to notice a boost in energy, positivity and patience. In my second month, I added a second Body Pump class. Then, I joined a Super Circuit class. Each class was different - I'd never know what to expect, and that made it fun. At that point I had NO back pain and NO knee pain. Losing the weight reduced the pressure on those areas, and building muscle strengthened them. I didn't feel like I needed a nap each day. At home, I tried to do anything I could to stay active. I’d play more active games with my kids so I’d be up and moving with them.

At that point, one of my Body Pump instructors approached me about becoming an instructor. I couldn’t believe it! I went through the rigorous training, passing with the highest score and am now teaching! From couch potato to Body Pump Instructor – talk about a huge life change! I reached my goal – SEVENTY-SEVEN pounds lost, and a clean bill of health! No Diabetes, no high blood pressure, perfect cholesterol, no Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, and I get the best sleep I’ve gotten in years! I’ve gone from a size 18 to a size 4. In November 2012, I couldn’t even do one push up, now I can do 53 in 60 seconds – on my feet! And I have the Y to thank. Without the facility, supportive staff and Childwatch, I’d still be chasing that goal as a pipe dream. Now I want to be that support and motivation for others. I want them to see that it can be done, I’m living proof and I feel AMAZING.

Updated 1/22/14

Kristi & Arbutus (Bootie) from Lussier Family East YMCA

I am so grateful for the program you have developed in Sun Prairie.  

I have to say, we hang on to our young people a little tightly, but the enthusiasm and exceptional optimism you bring to every adaptive experience has opened me to trust you with my daughter at every event. You present with such good judgment and appropriate events, Kristi has loved every one of them and wants more!  As you know, Kristi suffers with high anxiety, but she has tried so many new things at the Adaptive events, things she would only had imagined before.  I attribute these successes to you alone.  So, thank you!  

I have heard many, many comments of praise from other parents as well, so kudos to you. Thank you again, and keep it coming!

Updated 1/22/14

Elise from Northeast YMCA

Elise Penny has been a member of the NE YMCA for 3 years.  She attends Water Aerobics class.  I got to know her because she was always a little late for class and she always came in and dove in the deep end of the pool and swam down to the shallow to join class. She is a widow and would not be able to afford a membership without taking advantage of our scholarship program.

In the fall of 2011 Elise suffered a stroke.  Her daughter called me right away and said that Elise wanted the class to know what had happened and why she wasn’t there.  The members of the morning class called, visited and sent her cards while she was in rehab.  It wasn’t long before Elise was back in class.  She has trouble with her left side but the instructors and participants all help her and give her a lot of support. We are all happy she’s back in our YMCA community. – Becky Whiting

- - - - - - - - - - - 

I really appreciate my Y staff. I am a recipient of the community support program scholarship.  I am a widow on a fixed income, and the scholarship made it possible for me to join the Y.  In 2008 I joined the Water Aerobics class.  It provided regular exercise, caring teachers, and the companionship of fellow classmates.  Once a month we also have health topic discussions.  All was going well until in July of 2011 I suffered a severe stroke, which paralyzed my entire left side.  I couldn’t walk, talk, use my left arm, or eat without choking. 

I quickly began intensive therapy, and my therapists were amazed at my core and leg strength, which were products of my aerobics classes at the Y.  All of my swim-mates and teachers sent cards of inspiration while I worked at getting better.  It became my goal and desire to get home and back to my Y class!

When Harry Truman was President, the YMCA in Evanston, IL taught me how to swim.  And now the Y is teaching me how to use my body again but also teaching me determination. --Elise Penny

Updated 1/22/14

Kandi from Northeast YMCA

I joined the YMCA because my daughter, Sharon, is autistic.  I wanted to teach her how to swim, and the Y is one of the only gyms that have adaptive programs for special needs individuals.  So when we joined, I got her involved with the swim program right away.  The Northeast YMCA has a wonderful swim program.  Both of my girls have taken lessons there and have excelled in them.

I, also being overweight, wanted to lose weight.  Since my daughter is autistic, it was hard to keep up with her because I was too heavy.  She didn’t always listen when I said “STOP”!  I have had a couple of challenges as well.  I have hypothyroid disease, get migraines that cause me to stay in the hospital, and I recently had my sixth knee surgery.  My daughter goes through 27 hours of therapy a week, and then I have work 25 hours in between.  All of these are good reasons for not being able to lose weight but I think of them as excuses.  So I worked hard and started eating better.  I went to the Y almost every day now I am down 70 pounds!

It isn’t hard to come back when you are greeted with smiles and friendly members.  I have not met one person that I didn’t enjoy interacting with.  It’s my daughter Sharon that keeps me working so hard.  She works harder than anyone.  I also love that the Y works with the special needs community.  It makes walking into the Y feel like I’m coming home.

Updated 1/22/14

Julie from Northeast YMCA

Any mom can tell you that finding time for yourself is nearly impossible unless you decide to make a change.  That is where I found myself this past summer.  We had a family membership at the Y since April, and I had not gone once.  I had the usual list of busy-mom excuses, but by July when I was not fitting into my summer clothes anymore, I had enough.  So with the three kids in tow, I started working out in the Lifestyle Center.  By mid August I was pleased with the results, but wanted to learn more about the equipment and start focusing on what I considered to be the problem areas so I looked into personal training.  Lynn Brown started working with me and I cannot believe the changes.  I not only feel great, but I fit into all my clothes again, and best of all, I feel like I got a piece of me back.  The Y staff has been wonderful, and my kids love going too, which makes it easier to get out of the door in the morning.  Exercise is now part of my daily schedule, and I cannot think of one excuse not to continue living a healthy lifestyle.

​Updated 1/22/14

Gary from Northeast YMCA

About a year and a half ago my wife and I were sitting watching "The Biggest Loser" on TV. While watching these people knocking themselves out trying to lose weight, we were eating ice cream and realizing that we are the same as those folks prior to them getting on that show. My wife finally talked me into making a change in our lives so we joined the YMCA. I started at about 265 pounds. It has taken a lot of work and sweat but I now am about 220 pounds. I no longer have to take meds for high blood pressure. I used to wear 44 inch waist pants and 2X shirts. Now I wear 40 and just large shirts. My wife had always thought that I had "sleep apnea,” but that is no longer a problem. My knees used to always ache, but now I get around with very little pain. My wife has lost 20 pounds and about 2 pants sizes. It has been worth all of the effort. Without coming to the Y, we would probably still be just watching TV and watching everyone else change their lives for the better.

Updated 1/22/14