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Good things happen when we give kids a chance!

"Over the years I have heard about kids at the Y who were given a helping hand and how it contributed to meaningful and positive experiences. Even though the inner strength of my own family was very strong, we were a large family of 10 with little means so can empathize as I also benefitted from outside experiences. This is why I believe so strongly in the cause.

This past year I was the captain of a team for the “YMCA Sweat for Strong Kids” event and embraced this role (as did my wife). We brought our community of friends, family, Y members and Y staff together and formed “The Spinners” (which keeps growing as interest keeps gaining). We all contribute and share the responsibility of raising funds for YMCA Strong Kids. It’s a fun, sociable, positive way to get involved and help provide others with experiences they might not be able to afford otherwise. It’s very rewarding and I’m proud to be a Spinner." - Jim's Y Story


I have more energy, I'm happier and I'm healthier than I have ever been.

"I am a happily married, mother of three, caregiver to my aging parent, working full time average Canadian woman. And just like every other hard working mom, I put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. This is my Y story…

My family has been members of the Bob Hayward YMCA since March 2012. The reason we joined was simple – we wanted good quality swimming lessons for our three children, that was affordable. The YMCA filled that need for us and we got our kids started in the swimming programs.
When I turned 40 I kind of had an ‘awakening’ and realized that I was overweight, unhappy and unhealthy and if I didn’t do something about it soon – that I would probably end up staying this way. So I made the decision to change my life. I started a great nutrition plan and started using my YMCA membership!

The first class I went to was Boot Camp and I managed to make it through the whole hour alive. I received some really positive motivation from another participant that changed everything for me. I started talking to other members and talking to the instructors and asking questions about my form and how to do the exercises better– I became a ‘regular’! The staff at the front desk recognized me and my kids – they would greet us as we came in and make us feel like we were important and special. Little by little, I was building a supportive community of friends. People that motivated and encouraged me. People that I care about.

When I look back at how my life has changed, I am so thankful for my YMCA community. The instructors have provided so much support and encouragement. My work out buddies have become my friends, and I cannot imagine a better place to work out. The Y is a great place for me and my family. My kids see how active I am now and they want to join me in my classes. I have more energy, I am happier and I’m healthier than I have ever been.  Thanks for listening to my Y story!" - Wendy

The Y gave me the balance I was looking for.

"I am a 38 year old police officer, married with two active children. Balancing shift work, a busy home life and staying healthy was challenging.

Being introduced to YThrive made my life easier. My workouts became more productive in a shorter period of time. Staying active at the YMCA has eliminated my high blood pressure and has given me the balance I was looking for." - Marc

Gary's Y Story

"In June 1983, my wife and 3 children bought me a 60 day membership to the Y for Father's Day. Each year I remind them that their gift is one that keeps giving and giving. As a result of the good example set by their father (me!), my two sons and daughter have been active in the pursuit of mental and physical well being as well.

When I joined the Y I was 33 years old and had never had a gym membership in my life! I was fortunate enough to connect with some great guys in the weight room and had some really good coaching. Within 3 years, I became a member of the OPA (Ontario Powerlifting Association) and completed successfully in Powerlifting.

The positive impact of the "Y" in my life (especially after a painful divorce) is that it became my place to relieve stress and channel my energy to something positive. I can no longer push the heavy weights by my philosophy is don't let what you can't do prevent you from doing what you can."

From one practice to another.

 “Growing up in the mountains I have always enjoyed the outdoors and the rigor of physical activity. I pursued a very demanding academic career and later a medical and surgical practice which did not allow me to devote the necessary time to achieving the level of fitness I so desired. Now that my practice is slowing down (I’m currently 70 years old) I joined the Y and am taking the time for my own ‘practice’. With the help of an excellent trainer at the Y I have improved my fitness exponentially and I now ski moguls top to bottom without stopping, I swim and run further than I ever have before, and I participated in a Triathlon, coming in first (in my age group). Thanks to the motivation and support I receive at the Y I am excited to continue competing in the future.”

Strong Kids make a Strong Family

“We have four girls and I had to quit my job due to extreme stress. This was very difficult because it left our family with a big reduction in our family income. Our Y didn’t judge us when we went into the branch to register ‘just one’ kid to go to summer day camp. They were so wonderful and supported ALL the girls within our budget. It was such a hard year and YMCA Strong Kids helped my girls have an amazing time during an otherwise very tough summer.”

You make my heart sing

“I have never felt better since I’ve started back at the Y due in great part to the amazing instructors. Because of their smiles and encouragement I can now lift groceries and sleep without pain. Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you! You make my heart sing! p.s. No more back pain!”

The Y is like a family for me. I know them. They know me.

“My daughter and I have a second family at the Y and I’m the kind of person if I like it, I stick with it.  I was born in Afghanistan but because there is always war the Red Cross moved us to Russia and now to Canada. My daughter and I were shocked when we first moved here but after some time we started to love this place for the safety and the people. The Y has been there for both Eloha and I from the start. I’ve taken English language classes and my instructors were the best in the world! My daughter comes to the Y (she is in grade 5) and she loves the cooking classes, the gym, and the art programs. When I come to the Y I forget my troubles, I see my friends and we talk about what is on our minds. I love it here!”

 Taylor’s Y Story

“I am a single mother and go to school full-time. My daughter Sophia sees her dad on weekends so I have a lot of responsibility raising my her. The Y is great and Sophia loves everyone at Child Care. I am so grateful as I wouldn’t have been able to go to school without the Y. The Child Care Educators ensure Sofia is safe and that she (and I ) are learning.”

Locketa’s Y Story

I’ve been a Y member for 30+ years. Although I’m 80 years old, people say that I don’t look a day over 50! Over the years, I brought my son to swimming lessons and I’ve been a member of various YMCA committees. During my working career, I had a stressful job which resulted in high blood pressure. I found that physical fitness on a regular routine at the Y helped control my health concerns.  he Y was like a family. I gained friends who would take the time to call if I didn’t come in on a particular day. I am a strong advocate for the Y and believe it is an important part of the community. 


Just imagine how the Y has changed my life

“I am an only child & live with my parents who are incredibly supportive and help me set life goals. I have some difficulty writing and found it hard to find employment after I was done school. I enrolled in an employment program and they arranged an 8 week placement at the Y. At first I was very shy but everyone was very nice and greeted me with open arms. After my placement I was hired as a staff member and my Y family continues to help and support me every day. The Y has brought me out of my shell and I’m much more confident today. My supervisor sees my strengths and asks me to help out with various tasks at the front desk, in child minding and with computer and technology. I now have a lot of friends and love coming to work. Outside of my work hours the Y is teaching me how to swim- my instructor is great and I’m doing really well. Just imagine how the Y has changed my life. WOW!”


“Last May, I found myself unemployed which put both a financial and emotional strain on my family. My two daughters attend the YMCA After School programming but when I lost my job we had some tough decisions to make. The Y was flexible with our family so that we didn’t lose our spots and we came up with a plan which was convenient and allowed us to save money at the same time. Now that I have found employment, my girls are back full-time and we’re back to having some breathing room with our expenses. The YMCA has always been ‘Convenient’, ‘Accommodating’, ‘Respectful’ and ‘Entertaining’. In other words, they C.A.R.E..”

Setting the Stage

"With the Y, I am setting a pattern for my kids to include physical activity in their lifestyle. The scheduling works for our family and the kids are always excited to come. Every one of my boys gets in a good mood when I say we are going to the Y! It pretty much saves my sanity.

Why I go? It was really important for me after having my kids to get back to my ‘prekid’ weight. Also, it felt good going to the classes and getting my confidence back. I see us being members forever."


CQE is my second home

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 YMCA 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.


Belonging is just the beginning...

"It’s hard trusting just anyone with your child, especially when your child has special needs. Our first son Jackson was born with Down syndrome and when it was time for me to pursue my career, Y Child Care was the only place I wanted him to go. The Y put me at ease and made my son’s sense of belonging a priority. I like that the Y follows healthy eating guidelines, that their educators are well equipped with the knowledge and tools to help make every child feel safe and loved, and that the Y values inclusion and modifies programs so that every child has the ability to learn and grow. We now have our second son Blake enrolled in Y Child Care and we really feel our kids have developed a sense of community by being at the Y- I love that and I feel that’s how it should be."

Paying it Forward

"My Y connection, I learned, began long before I volunteered at the Y. My mom tells me that our Y story began when I was 3 and she had just adopted my baby sister. All in one week our lives changed; my Paw was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, my Gaga with Cancer, and my Great-Gramma had a stroke and died. My mom had to stop work because of her own illness and our world was turned upside down.

My family always tried to help others and we volunteered at the food bank, shopped for neighbours and those sorts of things but now WE were the family who needed help. It was an eye-opening experience because we didn’t realize how hard it could be for people to get the help and we also didn’t realize how much what WE had done for others made a difference in their lives.

Even though things felt like there were crumbling apart for my mom, she didn’t want me or my sister to feel what she felt, or to feel left out. This is when we went to the Y and we went A LOT! The YMCA subsidized our family membership and we were able to once again feel like we belonged. My sister learned how to swim here and we both went to Y camps. The Y gave us fun family time and now as a teenager I want to pay it forward so I choose to volunteer at the Y."

My future is a lot brighter now!

“I grew up in a military family and am a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. I was honoured to be awarded a Peace Keeping medal and a Kosovo medal! After serving my country for ten years I was left with physical injuries, neuropsychological issues, memory and cognitive issues as well as pain. I knew I needed to get back on a healthier track and turned to the Y for help. The Y impacted me in so many ways! The staff helped me reduce stress and pain from my injuries, reduce my blood pressure and helped me sharpen my mental preparedness and confidence. If it wasn’t for the Y aquatics team I would have drowned in a canoe accident last summer. I’ve not only increased my overall health and wellness but lost 80 pounds and recently completed a biathlon!”

The Y is our classroom! Our family learns & grows together here.

"After working in construction and suffering an injury requiring surgery, my husband decided to go back to school to become an IT professional. As a homeschooling family, with four very social and active kids, it was difficult to make ends meet. I am thankful we were able to join the Y as a family despite our financial struggles. Thanks to YMCA Strong Kids, our kids were able to take swimming lessons, make many friends and learn new skills through the Y programs.

My husband also realized that exercise was essential to success in his studies and faithfully went to the Y throughout the week (and still does!). He graduated at the top of his class, found a great job he loves, and has never been stronger. Working out has become a natural, essential part of his routine.

And finally, I can’t forget me! As a homeschooling mom I am very busy and it’s often hard to make time to exercise. I love that I can trust the Y staff with my children while I am running on the track or at a class as I can then focus on myself for a just a little while. Working out has helped me keep up with my every day physical demands and has also greatly improved my mood and outlook on life. I am forever grateful to the Y and the impact it has had on my family’s health, education and well being.”

The more obstacles we overcome, the stronger we become!

“Weseley was born with half a heart and as a result has physical limitations. Last year, despite being nervous, his mother Amy enrolled him and his sister for a few days in Y March Break Day Camp. She was comforted to know that the Y was prepared to support Weseley with an inclusion counselor. Ray, his counselor, carried an oxygen tank with him at all times and was there for Weseley with whatever assistance was required. He made so many friends and had so much fun in the first few days that his mom enrolled him for the remainder of the week. Weseley had overcome so many barriers and surpassed what they thought he was capable of! Amy was so happy with their Y experience and that makes me proud to be a Y camp team member.”
Jerad’s Y Story

My confidence. My life. My Y!

"Now that I am 85 and retired I think about my “Y” experiences from my maturing years. I had joined to broaden my contacts and that I did! I was very insecure and had low self-esteem as a teenager and it was at the Y I discovered I possessed attributes that others found interesting and attractive. During the war, and immediate post war years, our local Y was very vital to the community and it was in the late 1940’s that I met and married a young woman who was part of the same Y social group as myself. It was also at the Y that I got involved in new social ventures and volunteered to be the Master of Ceremonies for a large presentation at the YMCA/YWCA Centennial International conference in 1950. This was a great boost to my poor ego and it was said that I did a really good job! This definitely contributed to successes in my later career years. The Y has impacted my life in so many ways and gave me the confidence to express myself honestly and openly. That’s my Y!"

Dreams do come true!

“After much careful thought and consideration I decided to go back to University and pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. My husband and I were anxious about finding appropriate care as we have two beautiful, precious daughters. Our one daughter, Victoria, has severe autism and requires constant support and supervision. We worried about finding the right care as she requires extra support as well as a staff member to physically escort her on and off the transportation vehicle. After being refused child care at several reputable centres in our area, the Y accepted us with open arms. The Y Educators have become part of our family and have even attended meetings at school, communicated important information between myself and other providers as well as requested, obtained and provided support with ‘All Kids Belong’ when Victoria needed it. I couldn’t ask for better care! I am so grateful! The Y taught my daughters to become understanding, compassionate human beings and allowed me to focus on school. Dreams do come true!”

I’ve gotten back on track!

"I’ve always been the overweight short girl and due to my weight have dealt with severe headaches, constant back pain, knee problems, pelvic pain and severe depression. I decided it was time to make a change and joined the Y. I’ve since lost 50 pounds and have made many new friends at the Y. The YMCA is the perfect place to be!"



The Y is like Tetris. It fills in all the gaps.

“Life isn’t always easy, but it’s beautiful. The Y has helped me accept this. I grew up in an average family with my mother and father and I love travelling and new experiences. Because of family circumstances and challenges I found it difficult to grow as an individual and deal with different stresses. My involvement with the Y then began in 2012 when a friend suggested I try it out and since then I’ve been hooked! I have volunteered in child and youth programs, housekeeping and aquatics, participated in the Hong Kong Exchange, and now I’m proud to say I’m an assistant site director for day camp. Everyone knows the Y logo, but my WHY of the Y is that it has provided me with good opportunities, continual growth (both personally and professionally), and given me a global perspective & awareness. The YMCA of Western Ontario has made me feel valued, given me community and helped me strategize in a healthy way. If the Y could play tetris it would be an excellent player; it fills in the gaps that otherwise couldn’t be filled. What the Y has done for me, can do for others!”

I am a Y Ambassador.

“The Y has provided me with so many opportunities. Without YMAP I would have missed out on programs, making connections and meeting new people. I moved to Canada from Colombia 4 years ago I participated in YMAP for 3 years. The best part? I now volunteer in the program that taught me so much! The Y gave me my first volunteer experience and it has been so exciting! I tell my friends at school about YMAP and how it can help them too. One of my best friends Camila has now joined and YMAP is helping her make connections too.”

*YMAP is a program offered at the YMCA that helps to “Map the Way for Newcomer Youth”

The Y is safe, comfortable and makes US feel important.

“I moved back to my hometown after being away for 15 years and as a single mom of 2 beautiful boys we were looking for a community to fit in with. The Y has been a lifesaver! With our limited resources we moved into a small apartment and I started to make choices about how to live as the ‘3 of us’. This is when I decided to join the YMCA and the impact of that one decision has forever changed our lives.

We live in a very small apartment and one Christmas the boys asked if they could have a bedroom from Santa. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible so we changed our thinking and made the Y our second home. My kid’s friends will meet us at the Y and they join programs together- the Y turns into this big living room with laughter, friends and lots of fun! I will join in a yoga class while my kids are playing and this is so important because it promotes fitness and self-care for my kids.

The Y couldn’t be any better for a single mom and I’ve tapped into various branches for different programs and made it work for our family. The memberships work so well for us and financially the Y is affordable as we wouldn’t be able to swim, workout, do karate, and much more for even a fraction of the price. As a family we have already had so many Y moments. The magnitude of the gestures that Y staff exhibit are so huge- they impact so many people. I have to be solid for my kids and that’s my WHY the Y!” -
Kimberly's Y Story

The Y has been my lifeline!

“My involvement with the YMCA keeps me and my mind active. Ten years ago my health took a turn and I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney failure. Even though I was quite ill, I kept active because I believe exercise is key and I would come to the Y between dialysis treatments. As a result of the shape I was in, I was chosen to receive a kidney transplant and was given my ‘beeper’. I couldn’t have been happier as I have 5 children of my own and wanted to be around to see my 14 grandchildren grow. I remember the day my ‘beeper’ went off like it was yesterday (February 10 is now my second birthday). I was volunteering at the Y and wasn’t even sure what the sound was at first. A Y staff (a Y friend actually) came over and we found my ‘beeper’ buzzing away and I knew had to be to the hospital within an hour and a half so the organ would be viable; a whirlwind of emotions spun around me and I had to go! Y staff is like family and they helped me gather my items and made sure I had a ride to the hospital. What a better environment to be at than the Y when it went off?! After my surgery I continued to be active and the Y instructors showed me various exercises to help with my healing. The medical professionals were so impressed with my recovery that they are now using some of the techniques the Y taught me. The Y really is a helping hand for people; it is a social and emotional support and continues to contribute to my healing. They wonder where I am if I’m not there and the Y is what I was looking for- a community!” - Dianne's Y Story


I was transformed. I feel alive again! 

 “For the better part of 20 years I trained and dedicated my life in the hopes in making the Canadian National Women’s Ice Hockey team. In the end I did not make the team however, through the years I learned much about life and living and am grateful for that. In spite of this, and other experiences, nothing could have prepared me for the traumas and devastating events of the past 6 years. These tragedies and events downed me. For years my emotional, psychological and physical injuries prevented me from living even a skeleton of my previous life. My spirit was broken and my sense of self was shattered.

One day I built up enough courage and strength to go to the YMCA and walk through the doors. I wasn’t sure what to expect nor what I was looking for. I was hoping that I would at least be able to swim once again so I got a membership and began to swim. After that first step and first class at the Y I slowly began to go to more classes- aquasize, yoga and light aerobics.

I was transformed.

The encouraging and positive energy of the staff and members was life-giving for me. In conjunction with a Brain Injury program, the Y has allowed me to begin to see myself as a member of society again. After my first week at the Y I texted my sister: I feel alive again.

I am so grateful that there is this community to be a part of and to be able to heal and grow here.” - Catherine's Y Story


I've seen myself develop into an athelete and the healthy individual I have always dreamed of! 

"I have transformed from an individual with sporadic work out habits to a person with a commitment to exercise and healthy living. I was so inspired by the atmosphere that I became a lifeguard (at age 30) so I could be employed at the Y (and I was). Although over the years my relationship with the Y has changed (member to staff to member) my commitment has never waivered. I originally joined 22 years ago when I was newly married for the fitness programming but it has been the people at the Y, both the members and staff that has made the real impact on my life- and my families too! Through these relationships I have found my second family at the Y and it has provided the fun and productive healthy environment I had always been searching for. My daughters who are now in university grew up at the Y and found their love of sport here. Now that my girls are in university and members of their respective varsity squads they continue to hold Y memberships to further their athletic training in the off season. Fitness has become engrained in my family’s lifestyle; in an era where one’s health has become a serious issue I truly believe this is the greatest gift one can give- the gift of health. Thank you YMCA for my gift." - Pam's Y Story

I was once the youngest... and now... 

"I’m 71 and have been a member since 1975 (when I was somewhat younger). I live in the country with a couple horses, a couple cats, and oh yes, my wife. Without warning I had very sudden heart surgery (which had taken 20 years to actually happen) but because of my years of playing “Y” floor hockey and exercise, I came through 2 operations in 2 days with no after effects. The Y has provided me with sheer enjoyment of playing floor hockey with the guys. I was once the youngest and now… well, I’m still having fun."
-Tony's Y Story 


Navigating my new country.

“Moving from Afghanistan to Canada gave my family a new life. My home country had turned into a place that people feared because of the violence and bombings; it was a scary place. Since I was 8 I had worked in a clothing shop and a restaurant to support my family. When I came to Canada I attended school for the first time and my mother, brother and sisters found what we came for – a new culture, new people, and new opportunities. I had never been to a Y before and now it is part of my life! The Y has helped me with my English (I can read and write in 7 other languages; my mother taught me all of them), given me opportunities to go skating, camping, swimming, bowling and I have met a lot of good people. The YMAP program has truly helped me navigate my new country and I am grateful for that.” -Miraj's Y Story

*YMAP is a program offered at the YMCA that helps to “Map the Way for Newcomer Youth”


Kindness.  Acceptance. Friendship.
That’s my Y!

 “I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 2 years ago and coming to the Y has been a lifesaver for me. It gives me the mobility that I need to fight through this disease. With aquafit and aerobic exercises it helps to keep my joints from stiffening up. The very first day I joined, I was made to feel welcome and accepted not only by the caring and helpful staff, but other Y members that greeted me with such kindness. I have developed many deep relationships with many of these ladies, and look forward working out with my “Y buddies” every time I come. The classes are fun, challenging and geared to improve my fitness level. I can't imagine my life without the YMCA.” - Connie's Y Story

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