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Have a Health-Conscious Valentine’s Day

February 14 is synonymous with many things: love, red roses, and chocolate and sweets galore. But it doesn’t have to be a sugar-laden day. Instead, take the opportunity to do something healthy with your loved one. Or if you’re flying solo this year, take the time to focus on you and your own health! We’ve put together a list of fun and easy ways you can make this Valentine’s Day a healthier one, while having a great time doing it. And don’t forget you: your local Y is always here to help you on your journey to health…on Valentine’s Day as well as the rest of the year.

  1. Get your sweat on! Treat yourself to a good exercise class to get that heart pumping. Your body will thank you for taking the time to move and focus on your own health. Bring along a loved one to make it even more fun.

  2. Go skating. Make the most of this cold winter weather by getting out on the rink. There are plenty of outdoor rinks as well as indoor. Did you know that both our Goderich and our new Bostwick Y locations both have NHL-sized skating rinks, with free skate times? You can make it a date night or fun family outing by lacing up that pair of skates and following it up with a warm drink.

  3. Make a healthy dinner. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about the sweets. From beets to tomatoes to strawberries, there are plenty of heart-conscious and healthy ways you can incorporate the theme into a healthy meal. As it turns out, some of the most naturally red foods are also some of the healthiest! Incorporating apples, tomatoes and cranberries into your daily diet can reduce the risk of heart disease dramatically. A quick Google or Pinterest search will give you tons of healthy meal options, even for those who aren’t culinary-inclined!

  4. Take a hike! Literally. Enjoy the snow by bundling up in warm clothes and heading to a trail or path. A quiet walk in nature is the perfect time to enjoy some intimate conversation as well as the company of loved ones. And if you’re alone, take a deep breath and soak in the solitude. If the cold weather isn’t your thing, head to a nearby indoor walking track. Many of our Y locations have their own walking loops.

  5. Stretch together. Studies show that regular yoga practice can help improve mood and life satisfaction, and that’s on top of the numerous physical benefits: increased flexibility, strength and blood flow, and improved cardiovascular and respiratory function. Grab your partner and yoga mats and enjoy a nice Valentine’s Day yoga session.

  6. Get pampered. Treat yourself to some pampering, like a massage, which has numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to helping with relaxation. You can even opt for a couple’s massage! If you’d rather stay home, treat your Valentine to a spa-at-home. Back rubs, at-home pedicure, foot massages – the sky’s the limit. End the night with a cup of soothing herbal tea and enjoy a great night’s sleep.



Health: it's more than just physical

Did you know… one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime? Even though this epidemic affects so many, the stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the biggest barriers for those suffering. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, we want to help break down these barriers, push to end the stigma, and open the door to talk about the big connection between mind and body.

At the YMCA, we’ve always believed that health encompasses more than the physical body. The foundation that the Y strongly supports is one rooted in the well-being of the whole person. It’s so important to our overall health that we feel good in every area. Focusing on both physical and mental health is what help us to lead healthy and balanced lives.

The Y believes in a healthy mind, body and spirit and as such we provide a safe and inclusive place where everyone is welcome.  We deliver programs at every age, and every stage, all designed to help create a healthy, happy you.

When it comes to helping end the stigma of mental illness, Bell Let’s Talk has some excellent tips on how every person can help. One of our favourites? Be kind. A simple kind gesture can have a rippling effect. You never know what kind of day someone is having or what battles they might be fighting, especially on the inside. Let’s not forget that mental illness is often not obvious or even visible. Be kind, understanding and empathetic. Today, and every day, let’s listen, be there, and be kind.


6 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season


There are many ways each and every one of us can give back this holiday season. Whether it's in the form of time, goods such as food or clothing,or by being mindful of where we spend our money, we can all help make our community a kinder place. We've compiled some great ideas that are perfect to share this time of year! Feel free to leave a comment letting us know how you give back. Happy Holidays, everyone!
  1. Give the Gift of Giving. This season, find a cause that’s important to your family member or friend and make a donation in their name! It’s such a meaningful gift and you’ll both feel great contributing to the greater good. The YMCA Strong Kids campaign ensures that everyone has the change to access our programs and services, from camp to swimming lessons to quality child care. Did you know that last year, we helped more than 135,000 participants? Anything is possible with the Y!

  2. Donate gently used items. Winter is here, and many Canadians don’t have the resources to purchase outerwear. There are many organizations that work to ‘bundle up’ the less fortunate in these winter months and they are always looking for help. This season, donate gently used coats, boots, hats, mitts and gloves to the less fortunate and keep everyone warm this holiday season. And if you have gently used clothes, toys, blankets and other things that you never use, clean them out and donate to a local drive or shelter! You’ll feel great de-cluttering and you’ll make someone’s day so much brighter. 

  3. Give your time. Give back this year by volunteering. Find a cause that you stand for and get out and help! There are so many charitable organizations that need more help over the holidays; reach out and bring family and friends along too. And if you’re looking to give back all year long, join us as a volunteer at the YMCA. We rely on the generosity and dedication of our volunteers to bring lasting personal and social change in our communities. If you’d like to volunteer and have fun all year, check out our website.

  4. Give your talent and skills. Give back by donating your talents or skills to a worthy cause. Whether that’s teaching guitar to less fortunate kids, organizing a resume building workshop for those seeking employment, or teaching a yoga class; it’s using the unique skills you have, to give back to the community!

  5. Be kind. Give back by doing Random Acts of Kindness! Random Acts of Kindness are the easiest way to brighten someone’s day and they take such little effort to do. Whether it’s smiling at the receptionist and asking how their day is or paying for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru. These little acts of kindness are so powerful and are so impactful.

  6. Shop local. Buy local goods and support local retailers that do good for your community. When you shop local, you help to grow and better your own community. This is done: by growing the local economy (the money stays in your community); by reducing environmental impacts from imports; from local businesses supporting other local businesses; and from local businesses having an investment in the community and wanting to better it! Next time you’re in a big box store, think about if you could purchase some items locally and make the decision to dedicate your spending to your community.




Participation, Empathy, Advocacy, Community, Empowerment

Peace Week at the YMCA is a time when we recognize and celebrate the amazing contributions that have been made for peace in our communities. Here at the Y, we believe that peace is more than the absence of violence. To us, peace is participating, showing empathy for others, advocating for inclusion and diversity, engaging in the community and empowering others through kindness, fairness and respect for all people. With this year being the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we are also showing our respect and honour for the efforts of the brave soldiers that helped fight for peace and end the war. We build stronger communities, a stronger Canada and a stronger world when we act for PEACE.

This Peace Week, November 17-24, we invite all community members to Act for Peace. All acts of peace, big and small, have the power to create positive ripple effects throughout the entire community! One act can influence and inspire whole groups of people to pursue peaceful acts themselves. 


 Each day of Peace Week, the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario will be challenging the community to complete a different Act of Peace. Whether it be taking a few minutes of peace in a local park, or donating to a peaceful charity, we encourage everyone to get involved and participate for peace. Join us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #YMCAPeaceWeek and #actforPeace to join in the daily challenges.

At each branch and child care centre, we will have a Peace Week banner, encouraging everyone to finish the sentence “To me, Peace is...”. Come out to any of our YMCA branches and child care facilities to write your meaning of peace on our Peace Week banners!

During Peace Week, the Y also hosts Peace Breakfasts, in which selected nominees are awarded a YMCA Peace Medal. This medal is given to individuals, youth and groups/organizations that, without special resources, status, wealth or position, demonstrate peace in their local, national or global communities. The Peace Breakfasts and Peace Medal Ceremonies are opportunities to celebrate others’ amazing contributions to peace.

This Peace Week, think about your actions, participate in the peace challenges, share what peace means to you.. and most importantly, keep your thoughts and actions of peace going all year!



Camp: Experiences and Memories that Last a Lifetime

Encouraging a shy girl to break out of her shell. Helping a little boy who has been bullied overcome anxiety and fear. Transforming kids over a summer or even a week. These are some of the stories we hear time and again from parents of Y campers. We love every single one.

At the Y, we accept every child with open arms, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to experience that summer camp life. Our leaders and counsellors love connecting with the campers and helping them have the week (or summer) of their life. Parents and caregivers also take great comfort in knowing their children are in safe and competent hands.

Whether it`s day camp or overnight camp, there`s a certain transformation to be found in children who attend camp. New friendships to be made, new skills to be learned, and many laughs to be had. And the growth, independence and skill-building that inevitably comes along with overnight camp is unlike no other.

Some of our greatest Y stories come to us from camp and we`d love to share them with you.


Mike's Y Story

My son Cohen is attending the YMCA-Fanshawe College Soccer camp this week. He can be very shy and anxious to try new camps and this week was no different, but thanks to the staff it`s been a week he won`t forget. Last night he scored his first goal of the year in soccer with his newfound skills and he just told me "I do not want to leave this camp, it`s been too much fun!" He also has made some great new friends. Thanks again to all of your staff. You truly do make a difference.

Lilly's Y Story

Dear CQE,

I just wanted to thank the staff there so much for the amazing experience of camp. My four years going here have been the best of my life and this place has become a second home to me because of the people there. The staff you have are the most kind, giving and genuine people I have ever met and really go out of their way to make sure that your time at camp is a good one. I am so grateful for that. Camp has helped me grow so much as a person and I don't think it would've been the same if the people there weren't as welcoming and open. I was able to be myself and be confident in who I am because of Camp Queen Elizabeth. So thank you so much for doing that for me and every other child who attends this camp summer after summer. Know that as a staff, you are making a difference in so many lives and that is so amazing.

Much love, Lilly L.

Rachel's Camp Story

When my daughter and I arrived in London from Alberta, we found it really hard to settle in and connect to the new community because it was so different from where we moved from. My daughter has special needs (anxiety, etc.) and often struggles in social settings. Last summer I started working at the YMCA and signed her up for a camp at Spencer Lodge. At first, she was so scared but after a while she made good friends, connected with the amazing counsellors and started singing camp songs even while home! The transformation I saw in her was HUGE and I felt so grateful. Then, later in the year when she was in swim classes and other Y programs, she would get so excited when she saw camp friends and I could see she really felt a sense of belonging and connectedness. As a mother, this made me so happy! My working at the Y is great for her too because she has such happy memories of camps and programs that she is really excited about the work I do at the Y.

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