The YMCA of Greater Louisville is recognized and supported as the community's leading nonprofit organization for Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. We give thousands in the Greater Louisville community a sense of belonging, and provide the tools, support and skills to live life to its fullest. Everybody has a Y story, so share yours with us today!
When Sudi arrived on her first day of swim lessons in the YMCA Safety Around Water Program, she was so terrified that she would not go near the pool. By her third lesson, with a great deal of coaxing, she agreed to sit on the edge and put her feet in the water. When she finally got in the pool, she clung so tightly to her instructor, Becky, that she left bruises. Becky tells this story with joy, because those bruises meant Sudi was able to face her fear.
In fact, Sudi has completely overcome her fear and has grown very confident and happy in the water. Now, instead of being afraid of the pool, she will jump into the deep end and swim around like a fish with a giant smile beaming the entire time.
Working full time and raising two school-age grandchildren on a single income is very challenging at times. Vernee is extremely grateful to receive financial assistance from the YMCA so that her grandchildren have a safe, nurturing place to go in the critical hours before and after school. For Erin, age 10, and William, age 8, that place is the Bullitt County Family YMCA School-Age Child Care program at Freedom Elementary.
Vernee is not only grateful to have the financial help, she also really appreciates the value of the program for her grandkids. "If it were not for the help of people giving annually to this wonderful program, I don’t know what I would have done. I appreciate that they are with trusted people and in a safe environment.” Vernee also loves that Erin and William are able to participate in healthy activities, have fun with friends and receive academic support while she is at work.
Maerose had the time of her life at YMCA Camp Piomingo last summer. She was awarded a scholarship to attend and would never have been able to go without that assistance. Maerose has an older brother who has autism and a variety of health issues. At times, her home life can become intense, chaotic and even terrifying. With a mountain of medical bills for his hospitalizations, tests, procedures, prescriptions and therapy, finances can also be extremely challenging.
It was a true gift for Maerose to have the opportunity to spend some time enjoying the magic of Camp Piomingo – making friends around the campfire, learning new skills and having a blast. She adored her counselors and gained so much through her experiences. Camp is still a daily topic of conversation in their home.
Maerose’s mom, Megan, is so grateful for this opportunity for her daughter. "I really appreciate how much Camp Piomingo helped my anxious child learn to believe in herself. Her week at camp was life-changing! She left a timid girl who lacked confidence and belief in herself and came home a much more independent, playful and confident girl. Thank you!”
Brandon came from a single family home and was raised in the west end of Louisville. In the eighth grade, he was introduced to the Black Achievers at the Chestnut Street Family YMCA. Achievers helped guide him to focus on his educational and career goals and overcome some life challenges. While in the program, Brandon received a YMCA Youth Character Award and was honored with the Walter L. Barnes Award for his community service. He served as a role model to other youth in the program.
Through the ongoing support of the compassionate volunteers and mentors in the Black Achievers program, Brandon excelled in high school and went on to receive scholarships to pursue his undergraduate degree from Tennessee State University where he excelled. After his 2014 graduation, Brandon married his best friend, Jasmin, and they had a beautiful baby girl. He is now working for Tennessee State and will receive his Masters of Education in the spring.
"The YMCA Black Achievers Program instilled values in me that left a legacy of greatness in my life. It continues to push me to be an exceptional role model. I am extremely grateful for the program and the mission of the YMCA.” You can support the Black Achievers Program through your gift to the YMCA Annual Campaign.
Ishara is a 16 year old boy who arrived in Louisville last August fromRwanda. He currently attends the ESL Newcomer Academy and lives near the school with his mother, cousin and eight siblings. He also participates in the Y’s after-school program at Newcomer.
The JCPS ESL Newcomer Academy is dedicated to meeting the unique linguistic, social and emotional needs of students who are in their first year or two of instruction in a U.S. school. Most of these students had limited prior educational experiences and are just learning the English language. The Downtown Family YMCA’s Newcomer Academy Program works to continue supporting these students in the critical hours after school through academic tutoring and team sports, including a thriving soccer team.
Ishara is an extremely talented soccer player with the potential to play on the college level. He is also very intelligent, but has had limited formal education and is struggling in some classes. The Y is currently providing him with a one-on-one mentor to help him study and complete assignments. The YMCA Newcomer Academy Program is also helping him develop discipline and accountability skills so he can be a well rounded student and athlete.
When Laura headed into the holiday season of 2013, she was at the top of her tennis game and loving her workouts at the YMCA at Norton Commons. She felt so fit and healthy. When friends noticed that she would flush bright red during warm-ups, they encouraged her to see a doctor. Labs were ordered and she was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroendocrine cancer. Overnight, she went from shopping for stocking stuffers to calling around the country seeking a specialist for this very rare cancer.
Laura walked into a cancer center in Houston and thought, "I don’t belong here. I feel too good to be so sick.” That changed breathtakingly fast as her disease progressed. Travel, tennis and the Y were replaced with doctors, hospitals and insurance battles. A doctor ordered her to stop going to the gym, which took away even more of her physical and emotional strength.
Then, someone told Laura about the free YMCA LIVESTRONG Program. Her oncologist signed the enrollment release, since she was going to be monitored. "It felt so fantastic to be back at my gym. When I started back,I couldn’t carry a basket of laundry up the stairs without having to stop and catch my breath. The program met me at my level and I was able to set goals. I felt empowered! I learned to have faith in my body again.”
For the past five years, Jackson has been participating in the Northeast Family YMCA Adaptive Sports program. Jackson’s dad, Tom, is very grateful for the program.
"The Adaptive Sports Program excels at doing exactly what it promises: allowing children with developmental disabilities to participate in a variety of sports with their peers. Each week, Coach Dan devotes all of his energy to making sure that each of the kids feels involved in the practices and games. We’re glad to see so many new faces each session as well as the familiar ones.”
For years, it has been the highlight of Saturday mornings for the entire family. "From the minute Jackson steps onto the field or the court, he wants to participate, which can be a challenge for him at times. Early on, he would often get tired or distracted and want to go sit down until coaxed back into the action. Not anymore. From the moment he comes downstairs on Saturday mornings, he’s ready to get his jersey on and head out. It has been a terrific experience - not just for our family but for the community at large. The YMCA is the perfect organization to sponsor this program, and we hope that it continues for many years.”
BUILDING STRONG FAMILIES
Kristen and Brent moved to Oldham County with their two children in 2007 and joined the Y before they had even found a house. It gave Kristen and the kids, ViviAnne and Cooper, something to do to stay active. The kids enjoyed going so much that they would ask their mom every day, "Are we going to fun today?” They loved spending time at the Y.
Then everything changed. Just before the age of three, ViviAnne was diagnosed with leukemia. Due to impending medical expenses, they cancelled their membership. A few days later, the Y called them to offer financial assistance so that they could keep their membership through this tough time. Through three years of treatment, they would visit the Y whenever they could and Kristen was very grateful. "It really helped the kids, but I think it helped me most of all. I was able to better manage my depression and anxiety.”
Today, ViviAnne is a happy 4th grader and has been out of treatment for 5 years. Kristen now works at the Oldham Y as their Wellness Coordinator and also oversees their LIVESTRONG program for cancer survivors. She loves helping others through her work at the Y.
Khalid was an overnight sensation in the YMCA Power Scholars Academy at Jacob Elementary. That’s because he learned the Power Scholars pledge in just one night and was able to recite it on request all summer long. During a visit of YMCA Board members and Directors, the 7 year-old promptly recited the pledge which says, in part:
"When there is injustice, I will take a stand. I will be ambitious. I will SUCCEED because I am and always will be a scholar – an educated leader for LIFE.”
Khalid was one of 100 elementary school children selected to participate in the first year of the YMCA School-Age Child Care Power Scholars Academy. This six-week summer program is designed to tackle summer learning loss in math and reading, but also works to foster physical, social and emotional growth.
Khalid said that besides memorizing the pledge, he was learning his multiplication tables and enjoying Friday field trips and visits to the pool. He’s a pretty good swimmer, he said, "but after a while, the water is too big and I’m too small.” There is no doubt that Khalid will learn to be a great swimmer if he puts his mind to it!
Elizabeth was an active kid and had tried many sports, but always ended up in pain and unable to finish a season. At the age of 10, doctors ordered an MRI and found that she had three different birth defects on her spine. After 2 years, the pain continued to get worse and doctors wanted to discuss surgery. Her mom, Leysa, was skeptical and saw that some people had improved through swimming. She looked at options around time, but feared they would not be able to afford lessons. Then she found the Southeast Family YMCA.
Elizabeth started swimming five days a week at the Y. Three months later, she made the swim team at school. Recently, she brought home a first place finish in freestyle. Her Y instructor, Brittany, was at the meet to cheer her on. "When Elizabeth saw her there, she was so happy, so confident. YMCA staff are great. They really care about kids and people in general." Leysa is very grateful to see how much stronger Elizabeth has grown. Her pain is almost gone and she may not need surgery now. "My daughter is back, acting like a normal kid. Her confidence has soared. Now she feels like she can do whatever she wants in her life, even with her health condition. As a parent, there is nothing more important."
Moriah Harris is a senior at Jeffersonville High School. For four years, she has been a part of the YMCA Diamonds Program. This free outreach program focuses on establishing goals and increasing self-esteem in high school and middle school girls. This program helps promote healthy choices and relationships, while encouraging leadership skills, volunteerism and community service. The Y also provides transportation for participants in Clarksville, Jeffersonville and New Albany to make full participation possible for more girls in our community.
Moriah used to suffer from low self-esteem but with the help of the Y’s Diamonds program, she overcame and persevered. The group discussions and activities have mostly centered on the importance of pursuing your education and making healthy life choices. This has really helped Moriah in her life goals. She knows first-hand what an impact this program can have and she has become an advocate for others, encouraging them to become involved. She hopes more young women will receive the same healing and hope that she has received. She takes every possible opportunity to reach out and offer other girls the chance to make the same kind of positive change in their lives.
This past summer, 4 year old Ella was playing in the pool with a 6 year old boy from the neighborhood. Kristina, Ella’s mom, was keeping a close eye from the pool deck. Ella had just gotten out for a minute when the boy yelled for help and bobbed under the water. Without missing a beat, Ella grabbed a pool noodle, dropped to her belly at the edge of the pool, handed him the other end of the noodle and pulled him to safety.
Kristina was astounded and asked her young daughter where she learned to rescue someone like that, Ella beamed, "YMCA swim lessons, of course!” When Kristina asked why she dropped to her belly, Ella laughed, "Well, duh, he might have pulled me in, too!” She had taken three sessions of swim lessons at the Southwest YMCA, where instructors taught proper rescue procedures. Kristina barely remembered it, but Ella had repeated the steps precisely and without a second’s hesitation.
As it turns out, Ella’s friend was not in as much trouble as he led her to believe. Still, if he had really been in danger, little Ella would have saved him. She proved that what kids learn in swim lessons at the Y has a profound impact. Every child deserves the chance to learn these same lifesaving skills.