Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Kenneth Fights Obesity and Wins

"My name is Kenneth Sledge. When I started here in July 2015, I was…with no hope waiting for death to come. I was 535 lbs and unable to get out of bed. Since coming here, I have had weight loss surgery and lost 114 lbs, but how I did it was most important. I was too large for the machines, and the pool was all I had. The pool has become home and ...family."

I met Kenneth this morning for an interview at the Kerasotes YMCA at 8:30AM. This was the start of my day, but he’d already been here for three hours.

Getting to the YMCA Kerasotes facility early to exercise in the pool has become a daily way of life for Kenneth, who will often take multiple water fitness classes in one day. What seems like a lot of exercise for most, has become a God-send for Kenneth.

Before Kenneth started water fitness at the Y in July of 2015, he felt hopeless. He weighed 535 lbs and was unable to get out of bed. He felt like he was just waiting for death to come.

Trimming down!
He had suffered the loss of his wife ten years earlier to cancer. Food had become his best friend.

Because of his weight, his knees were in bad shape. His doctor sent him to the staff at Memorial Sports Care for physical therapy. As soon as they met Kenneth, they urged him to get into the water.

Since Kenneth was too large for the machines, the pool was the only choice he had. He would walk and jog in the therapy pool and do exercises his therapist taught him. Soon, he began meeting others and decided to try water fitness classes. Now he takes water aerobics, water fitness for arthritis, and water Zumba, and will spend 4-4.5 hours a day at the Y. I couldn’t help but to ask how he felt with this sudden onslaught of so much exercise! He admitted that in the beginning he was tired and sore, but was driven to keep going. He had to change.

Eventually, Kenneth had gotten in good enough shape to be approved for the weight loss surgery he wanted! Peoria Surgical Group performed the surgery, and he is down 114 lbs. He now gets about without his walker, something he used to depend on daily. He never uses motorized carts anymore.

Today, his health is better than ever. Most of his ailments are in remission or completely gone. His Type II diabetes is completely under control and no longer an affliction, his blood pressure is down, and his cholesterol is down. Most touchingly, he explains, “What people don’t understand is that the Y is as mentally therapeutic as it is physically. A lot of people come in here and talk to each other for hours. It extends their lives.”

Before turning around, the lifeguard joked and laughed with Kenneth. He's a main stay at the Y.

Kenneth went on to speak about the psychological effects of obesity. Since getting healthier, his entire perspective has changed. People no longer stare at him when he walks into a room. He used to be very limited in the places he went and only visited one grocery store where he felt comfortable. Not feeling singled out has made an enormous difference to his psyche. Now, he goes anywhere he wants.

Kenneth thanks the Y for helping him overturn his lifestyle and alter his health. He praises the staff and members for being so motivational and keeping him accountable. If he doesn’t show up, they will ask why. They would even double check and make sure he had a way to get to and from the Y! He has found community and comradery in his new Y family and like so many others, looks forward to his visit every day. He says, “This is home. That other place is just where I pay rent.”

Congratulations Kenneth, and thank you for inspiring us with your ambition, courage, and heart. We are so proud to have you in our Y family!

Interested in taking a dip in water fitness? Learn more here.

Kenneth poses with the pool he calls "home": the Hoogland pool at the YMCA Kerasotes facility. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Better Late than Never: 365 Workouts

Gary, a type II diabetic, is now insulin free. He set a goal for himself that would be challenging but attainable, and most importantly, he made it about a lifestyle change – not a quick fix. Gary committed to working out 365 days in a year. On “rest days” he will go for a 30-minute walk instead of his typical weightlifting and cardio routine. He lifts weights every other day.

A low carb lifestyle helps with his diabetes. He enjoys a lot of vegetables and meat, as well as low glycemic fruits. Though, he does not completely deny himself the good things in life. When it comes time for a treat, he subscribes to the “one bite method.” He will take one bite of a dessert and savor it, enjoying its aroma and flavors. He will tell you the way he feels now is a much bigger treat than taking another bite of dessert or pasta!

As part of his lifestyle change, Gary invested in an Apple Watch so he could track his vitals and performance. As he was getting in shape, losing a lot of weight, and losing dependence on insulin, his low heart rate was still not improving. Though critical, exercise cannot solve every medical problem. He was given a pacemaker, and now his heart does not go below 60 beats per minute. With all the fresh blood and oxygen flowing through his veins, his workouts are now even more enjoyable!

Not only did Gary lose 65 lbs, discover and treat a heart issue, and control his diabetes, but his cat also lost 3 lbs!

Read in Gary’s own words how he changed his lifestyle a little later in the game:

“On my 63rd birthday in 2012, I decided that I needed drastic life changes if I wished to continue to an excellent retirement. On July 8th of that year, I decided to start walking 10,000 steps a day. For the next two months I reached that goal, but my weight was still 265 lbs. I suffered from a severe case of type II diabetes. On September 8th, I went against my endocrinologist recommendations. I quit taking four insulin shots a day and eliminated all carbohydrates from my diet. Afterwards, I showed my endocrinologist that my blood sugars were normal so he reluctantly said I could do a low carb diet for only two years. I lost 65 lbs in two months while continuing walking 10,000 steps a day.
I learned that I needed to do more than just walking so I joined the YMCA in 2013. In June 2015, I bought an Apple Watch. I had had low heart rate problems for about five years and worked very hard to improve it to no avail. I ended up getting a pacemaker November 15, 2015.

That is when I decided to up my workout schedule to every day for a year. My Apple Watch tracks and records my daily activities every day. Each day, it measures the calories I burn moving, the number of minutes I do aerobic activities, and the total number of hours I get up and move – at least a few minutes each hour.
I rarely have days when I do not greatly overachieve my goals. When the Y is closed or I just need a slow day, I still take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes. I have now done this for over a year without missing a day and see no reason to stop.

It has been over four years since I took my last insulin shot, and I am still on my low carb diet. Life seems hard sometimes without eating bread, pasta, cereal and all grains. I eat only meats, dairy, and green vegetables. I do allow myself to cheat on this diet once a month or so and just eat small portions of these forbidden foods. I plan to eat well but smartly on Thanksgiving. I hope that reading this will inspire some people to learn to quit going on diets to lose weight and instead, change your diet for life so you can be healthier.

But most importantly, be sure to go to the Y as much as possible.”

Retired from the State Board of Education, where he worked on education for homeless children and youth, Gary understands the importance of the Y in our community. In addition to his workout, he enjoys coffee here every morning with his friends. Gary found an exercise and healthy eating routine that can worked for him. Start, and you can find one that works for you too!

Gary completed his goal of 365 days or workouts and is now hard at work on year two.

Become a Member or give the gift of Membership today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Kristi Finds a New Way of Life at the Y

"It started as a journey and turned into a lifestyle.

Several years ago, I sat with my husband at a restaurant after a doctor’s appointment. My knees hurt and after two rounds of medicine my next step was a steroid injection. That was my wake up call.

My family joined the YMCA shortly after. I began by walking laps in the water at the Kerasotes branch. When my legs got stronger I decided to try water aerobics. It wasn’t so bad. I was working at my own pace and soon keeping up with the class. I started noticing small changes. My clothes weren’t as snug anymore.

I was really starting to lose weight with the water aerobics and getting much healthier. So healthy, in fact, our family was blessed with a new little boy. I continued attending water aerobics after my pregnancy, but I felt stuck. Was this as good as it gets? My family physician suggested I visit the Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center to help me overcome the plateau. They gave me the tools I needed and the confidence to not give up on my journey.

The YMCA has become a part of my routine, and I spent many of my lunch hours there. I still do water aerobics, but now I’m able to swim laps, use the cardio and strength machines, and I’ve recently started attending a Zumba class. I’ve done everything at my own pace and have met many new friends at both branches of the YMCA.

My journey isn’t complete, but I’ve come a long way. What all started with one walk in the pool has created a much happier and healthier person. It’s not just a journey now. This is my way of life."

Want to start with water fitness? Check out our programs.

Monday, October 24, 2016

John Finds Intensity, Motivation, and Friends at the Y

John competed in his first Triathlon this August – the Dan Adaire, MD Memorial Triathlon. He placed 2nd in his age group. 

John is 56.

He also completed his first century bike ride this September.

No, this is not another story about a member losing weight, or going from weak to fit. John has been active since college. A few years ago, he amped up his workouts so he could challenge himself with running and biking, but generally, he’s been in good shape his whole life. He’s just extra focused right now.

Instead, this is a story about finding long term motivation.

John originally caught our eye because of his recent racing achievements and strong commitment to a more intense exercise routine at age 56. We wondered what his story was. When we found out, we found out what motivated him, not just for the past three years, but his entire life.

He’s been a member of the YMCA for a total of seven years. His office is downtown, so it is convenient for him to drop in at lunch time. He took a “Fitness Over 40” program that Memorial SportsCare hosted because he wanted to compete in running and biking events. Dr. Dan Adaire recommended that he increase the intensity of his workouts – that it would be good for him. John had heard about Ultimate Workout downtown, an hour long intense circuit class that uses cardio, body weight exercises, weights, endurance, core and more, and decided to give it a try. He’s been showing up regularly for the past three years.

Ultimate Workout, along with his triathlon training has prepped him for higher intensity workouts, events, and races. He says he loves the personal challenge. He doesn’t need to win. He only wants to do better than he did last time.

His goals for 2017? Compete in four triathlons and complete two century rides!

As we look towards 2017, we realize it’s easy to get started. What’s hard is to continue. So, we asked what advice John would give someone who needs help committing to exercise for the long haul.

“Just start,” he said. “It’s important, especially as you age. Make time to do it. The difference between people who work out and people who don’t is a lack of motivation. Find what you like to do and establish a routine. Don’t worry about other people and what they are doing. Go at your own pace. You will be surprised how quickly you can gain strength and endurance if you simply stick with it. Before you know it, you will be in Ultimate Workout.”

Besides finding something you genuinely enjoy doing, making time for it, and creating a habit, John also suggests, “Make goals.” Making shorter term, attainable goals can encourage you to keep going. Making long term goals can give you something bigger to work towards!

Finally we asked, “What motivates YOU?”

It was simple: 1. He feels better, and 2. He looks better. He says, “Who doesn’t want to feel better and look better? If you don’t, you’re silly!”

His wife Deborah also comes to the Y. She enjoys yoga, Strive Fit, and circuit classes. His children also grew up playing Y sports!

Today, John rarely misses class. If he does, he misses the people and his whole world is upside down. He believes there is something for everyone – every age and every fitness level – at the Y. He encourages people to try the Y and discover a program they can get into.

Not only will you look better and feel better, you will make great friends that make you want to show up. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fitness Instructor Celebrates 30 Years at the YMCA of Springfield, IL

Wendy Glisson is a mother of three, a full time marketing professional, a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and a face you look forward to recognizing at the Y. Wendy has been with the YMCA of Springfield, IL for 30 years.

What started out as a way to make extra cash while working her first full time job out of college, ended up being a long term commitment to the members of her local YMCA.

Wendy graduated from Eastern Illinois University where she majored in Communications and minored in Business Administration. She played volleyball, ran track in high school, and also taught fitness classes at EIU. When she landed her first full time job working for former Governor Jim Edgar (who was then Secretary of State), she decided to start teaching for the Y. The YMCA was close to her work and home, and teaching was a great way to supplement her income, fit in exercise, and make friends.

She started in September of 1986 teaching Low Impact Aerobics in what is now the Gymnastics room. Throughout the years she has taught many lunch hour classes, some morning, some off site, and a lot of aerobics and cardio centered workouts. Today, you can benefit from her experience and feel the burn on Mondays during Turbo Kick in the Walnut Room from 12:15 to 12:45PM. 

When asked what her favorite fitness fashion trend has been, she laughs and says, “The headband, and I still wear the headband! I match it to my shirt.” Though she has committed to the headband, her sources of music have changed, “I used to use a cassette player and boom box. Now I download CD’s and music to my iPod.”

The only time she took short breaks from teaching was during her three pregnancies, but she still stayed active. Wendy has been married to her husband Rick for 23 years. One of their first dates was playing racquetball at the Y. She has two boys in high school and a daughter at Ole Miss. Her daughter is majoring in Exercise Science and also teaches fitness classes at the university! Working at the Y worked well with family life. She would sign her kids up for Gym & Swim and other programs. It was a place they could feel comfortable too.

When asked why she has committed to the Y for 30 years, she explains, “It doesn’t feel that long. It’s gone by so fast! It’s the people. I love the people: the members, the staff, the people who take my classes. I met my best friend Cindy here.” She also loves that it’s so easy to drop in at lunch from work. She loves the Y values and how they complement family life. “I’m not muscle bound, and I’m not super thin. I’m a normal person. I love how fitness makes me feel, and I love encouraging and motivating people.

With the busy life Wendy leads, she exudes energy and calm at the same time. She is a picture of balance and is another positive role model for our Y members. She is a walking advertisement for the benefits of regular exercise. We are so happy she has wanted to motivate, encourage, and befriend us for the past 30 years. We are much better with her encouragement and friendship and are so happy she has done her part to create “A Better Us.” 

Interested in group classes? Check out the Y Schedule. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trainer Jim Wants You to Make Healthy Choices

The only currency required between an unhealthy lifestyle and a healthy one is choice!
"Nine years ago, after living an unhealthy lifestyle through my late 20's and early 30's, I decided enough was enough. I went from a healthy and steady 185 lbs in my 20's to 230 lbs by age 33. After spending a day playing with my then toddler daughter and finding myself completely gassed after a short amount of time, I decided a change in lifestyle was a must, not only for me but for my daughter. I dumped all junk food, including sugary drinks and fried foods, and started eating veggies and fruits. I drank nothing but water. I started to exercise up to 2-3 times a day, split between cardio and weight lifting. I noticed early on that not only was this new lifestyle changing my body, but it was also eliminating daily stress, which was a nice surprise and bonus. This is a lifestyle I continue to this day.

In 2014, I volunteered to coach the Lose Big program at the Downtown YMCA and fell in love with helping other people achieve their personal fitness goals. Clients who participated in my first two Lose Big programs/competitions, came in 1st place, and although I felt great pride in helping them achieve a much healthier body fat percentage, it was more enjoyable to witness them break out of old bad habits and push themselves over and beyond what they thought was possible. Change comes from within, not without. To see positive change in others based on their own choices is very satisfying.
The Y staff noticed how much I enjoyed coaching and encouraged me to pursue a certification in personal training. In August of 2015, I became a certified Personal Trainer through AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America). The YMCA hired me as a part-time Personal Trainer, and I absolutely love it! I love to work with people one-on-one, helping them to not only achieve their personal body composition goals, but to feel the benefits in their overall lives."

To sign up for personal training with Jim or another Y trainer, visit our trainer page today!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Brenda Makes a Lifestyle Change at the Y

We often hear that if you want to reach a goal, you have to make a plan. Brenda took the opposite approach.

“Part of my success was that I didn’t have a plan,” admits Brenda. “I didn’t count calories, or weigh myself regularly. I just knew I needed to make a change.”

That’s when Tracy, group instructor at the YMCA, invited Brenda to her 5:30AM morning class. “She didn’t tell me it was an advanced class at the time so I didn’t know! I was just competitive enough that I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”

Brenda took the class, and made 35lbs and 4 belt loops history. However, she did it over 6.5 months. Brenda doesn’t believe in fad diets or short term programs. She wanted a lifestyle change.

“I didn’t realize how badly I felt until I’d gotten healthy and fit.”

Together with her husband, who also lost 50lbs by changing his diet, she increased her activity level and made healthier eating choices. She notes, “No bread, no pasta, no sugar." However, the transition from a heavier, less energetic Brenda, to the healthier, glowing Brenda we see today included cheat meals. “We went to Florida. I still worked out, but I enjoyed my vacation. My diet wasn’t perfect during that time, but you have to be realistic and create balance. You have to live your life.”

She knew she would never get better in Tracy’s class if she only went once a week, so she started lifting weights at home until she felt comfortable enough to use the Y’s weight room. Now she runs to the Y, lifts, and runs home. She’s now stronger in class.

Brenda has been a member of Kerasotes since the facility opened five years ago. “My sons played baseball; they would use the gym. My husband liked the elliptical and likes to run. Before Tracy encouraged me, I would sometimes half-heartedly swim. I’ve always been athletic, but when the boys were at home, I would always push it back.”

When we asked what piece of advice she could give to working mothers she said, “Get it in… in the morning. I would sleep in, tell myself I would work out at night, and then night would come. I’d be tired and tell myself I would do it in the morning. I just kept pushing it back, but now I make my workouts a priority. Morning is really the best time, because the rest of the day will get away from you!”

She recalls a day when she and her husband were traveling. He mentioned he would like a water out of the cooler, which was in the very back of the vehicle, so they would have to pull over. Instead, she got up out of the seat, shimmied back over the luggage, grabbed the water, and maneuvered and stretched her way back up into the front seat. She sat down and gave her husband a water and a smile. He exclaimed, “I don’t think you could have done that 6 months ago!”

Interested in reclaiming your healthy lifestyle? Ask the front desk about a free wellness session today, and begin your journey to looking and feeling better.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Four Year Old Cal is One of Our Youngest Philanthropists

Before the Bromley family headed out to the YMCA of Springfield's annual Strong Kids Thank You Picnic, their 4 year old son Cal had a few questions.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

His parents explained, "We donated some money to the Y for kids who need it. We want to support the Y."

Cal replied, "Can I give some money?"

His parents said he could, so he went to his room and shook 40 cents out of his car shaped piggy bank. All night he had his money ready. During the presentation, he noticed one Y employee was mentioned as the "woman who counted all the money."

After the evening came to an end, Cal walked up to Sue, the "woman who counted all the money," and gave her his donation.

Sue told Cal, "Thank you so much. This will help other little boys and girls go to camp, go swimming, and do other fun things at the Y."

The Bromley family has been members of our Y for 5 years. Cal enjoys swim lessons, basketball and t-ball. His parents, Erin and Zach, love to work out at the Y.

The YMCA would like to thank Cal for his donation, and especially for his giving spirit. Our hearts are warmed by this - and every - young philanthropist!

Click here to learn more about our Strong Kids Scholarship Fund.

Tracy Uses Her Passion for Fitness to Help Others

Tracy has always been athletic and fit. She played sports in high school and made sure to fit in her lunch workout, but three children and time had changed her. About a year ago she found herself wanting more.

Fate stepped in and a friend inspired her to work towards a physique competition. Instead of settling for one, she did three last year!

Every day she wakes up at 5 a.m. and works out for an hour and a half. Sometimes she will also work out on her lunch breaks, but that's not all she does. She also teaches Body Conditioning at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Cardio Blast at 5:30 a.m. on Thursdays at Kerasotes. She is also more than happy to sub for other instructors.

This is on top of working a full time job, being a mother to three children, and a wife to a husband who is in the military and frequently abroad serving our country.

When you ask her how she does it, she offers up a very important tip, "Eight full hours of sleep every night. I wake up at 5 a.m. to get my lifting and cardio in so I make sure to be in bed by 9 p.m."

With a serious regimen six days a week, Tracy knows how important sleep is to recovery.

"After having three kids, I never thought my body would look a certain way, but that's not true. When I started seeing changes, I got so excited. I realized if you make the right choices, and put in the work, you can have the body you want."

Today, at the Y, Tracy fuels her fire by helping others reach their goals. "I don't mind texts and calls. I don't do this for the money. The women I help tell me I help keep them accountable. I want women to know they belong in the weight room too. They shouldn't be afraid to lift. I want women to be confident."

A self described energizer bunny, she says it's not just the lifestyle that keeps her going. She loves the unexpected "thank you's." For Tracy, it makes it all worth it.

Tracy has coached "Ramp It Up" and will be a coach for the Y's new program, "Total Body Transformation," a 90 Day Intense Weightlifting Challenge designed specifically for each individual's needs and goals. Tracy is excited to give participants the tools they need to change their bodies and their lives.
If you're interested in Total Body Transformation, click here. Also, be sure to rise with the sun and take Tracy's group class. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nate Tells Us Y Strong Kids Matters

Here it is..... The official start of the seemingly endless Strong Kids reminders. You're reading this because you don't really know what Strong Kids is about. Well.... in a nutshell this program offers an outlet and opportunity to under privileged kids through the YMCA. Your donations help supply scholarships for membership, summer camps, sports, and the other endless activities the Y offers. As well as providing programming for the mentally or physically disadvantaged. Just to give you an idea here are the numbers for last years assistance.
'Last year we served 18,507 youths at the Y. We provided 2,101 youth scholarship memberships and nearly 200 summer camp weeks to underprivileged youth ages 5-14. We also provided programming to an additional 312 participants who are physically or mentally disadvantaged. We do this amazing work with your generosity and support.'
Everyone's got their own reason's for giving back. In this case, the reason I like Strong Kids so much is because it has had a direct positive impact on my life and the life of my family. I am just simply wanting to give back what has been given to me. When Rachel and I moved to Springfield 15 years ago we were broke. Right out of college, single income with a stay at home mom, no family support system, and very little room for the non-essentials. We found the YMCA and the Strong Kids Scholarship opportunities and all of the sudden we were able to provide our kids with things that we thought were just simply out of our reach. Not only our kids but also for Rachel and I as well. This is where our kids learned to swim, play soccer, baseball, even a little karate. They've gained so much confidence from all of the staff -- from the day care ladies all the way to the summer camp counselors. My kids have almost literally grown up inside this YMCA. This program has given us so much more than a monetary scholarship. It has given and continues to give my kids a wonderful childhood. Rachel and I were lucky. We saw first hand how this program helps our community and the kids in it. This is Y this program means so much to us.
Fast forward to now.... Rachel and I are both well into our careers. Our kids love sports, reading, art, and genuinely care for others. My son is working to join the swim team. My daughter wants to be a professional soccer player. They know nearly every Y staff member by name. Rachel works the front desk once a week, I've coached soccer, baseball, football, and have had the wonderful opportunity to teach Ultimate Workout. We are there almost every single day..... This place has become a fixture in our life. We've found an escape, found friends, found a community, and found sanity.
People have taken notice of the effect this place has had on our family. A very good friend of mine from Monitcello, IL brought this to my attention. He saw how much the Y has had an impact on our lives. How much our kids lives revolve around the Y. His literal statement was, 'Every community needs a place like this. They just don't exist much anymore.' Because of what he's seen through the eyes of the Johns family he's now working with his city officials to get a YMCA brought to their community. Imagine.... generosity of our Y members 15 years ago helps a single family. That family's growth helps inspire others. One of those inspired brings a whole new facility to a community that will serve thousands of other families. That's more than charity... That's real momentum for awesome."
Create some awesome, and make a difference in your community today. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Special Needs Programming Boosts Sadie's Skill Set and Self Esteem

Meet sweet and sassy Sadie. Sadie is a nine year old, second grader at Rochester Elementary school that has Down syndrome. Her disability doesn't hold her back from doing ANYTHING! This girl is absolutely amazing!

Sadie and her family have been members of the YMCA for about five years. When her parents joined the YMCA, they enrolled Sadie in swim classes. Her parents felt it was imperative for her to learn how to swim. Sadie didn't just learn how to swim, she has mastered this sport. Her mother recalls her being invited to a school friend's swim party last year. Sadie was one of the only children at the party that could swim on her own. Sadie looks forward to her once a week swim lesson. She is a strong, confident swimmer thanks in part to the Special Needs Adaptive Program, (SNAP) at the YMCA.

In addition to swimming, Sadie also participates in the YMCA' s Bowling Program, Saturday Strikers. This program is geared towards individuals with physical or mental disabilities and is financially underwritten from funds raised for the YMCA's Strong Kids Campaign. She enjoys her time at the bowling alley and it is yet another sports she can play.

Sadie is also active in a wide range of Special Olympics competitions. She has participated in the soccer and basketball programs as well as softball, track and gymnastics. She loves dancing and takes tap, ballet and hip hop in addition to being a participant in the Special Needs Cheerleading Program.

Additionally, Sadie has competed in the "Miss You Can Do It" pageant and "Miss Amazing" pageant. These are both pageants that are specifically designed for girls with disabilities to help build confidence and self-esteem.  She is also involved in the United Cerebral Palsy's Horseback Riding program. There really isn't anything this kid has not done.

Staying active and busy has helped Sadie stay physically fit as well as increase her socialness and mental capabilities. All of these things help boost her self-esteem and determination. Her mom says she likes to keep Sadie busy! Yes, Sadie is busy, but I don't think Sadie would want it any other way!

Learn more about the Springfield Y's special needs programming

Building Confidence & Support: Strengthening Abilities through the Strong Kids Scholarship Fund

If you walk into the Strike and Spare West Bowling Alley on any given Saturday morning, you will find it hustling and bustling with about 60 individuals that participate in the YMCA’s Saturday Strikers Bowling Program. This program is more than just bowling; it is an opportunity the Y has used for over 30 years to provide those with special needs a chance to grow and develop new skills. This program provides 42 weeks of bowling at no cost to its bowlers. In some circumstances, the program also pays for transportation to the bowling alley. This is all funded through donations to our Strong Kids Campaign.

There are so many that benefit from this program. Three such individuals are Jerry, Rebecca and Renee.

Jerry is a 10 year old boy who has been diagnosed as developmentally delayed with attention deficit disorder. His adoptive parents say that being in school was hard on him because he was bullied for being different than his classmates. They made the decision to have him home-schooled by his sister. Although Jerry’s family has been Y members since 2010, they only recently enrolled him in the bowling program.

Jerry is quite a bit younger than most of the bowlers in this program, however, he gets along famously with everyone. He often encourages others to do their best either by a shout-out or high-five. His parents have seen a dramatic difference in him since he has started this program. The highlight of his week is coming every Saturday to meet up with his friends and play the sport he loves. As his confidence grows, so does his independence. His parents feel this was one of the best decisions they have ever made for him.

Renee is a 41 year old woman who has been in the Saturday Strikers Bowling program for the last three years. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in high school which caused serious short-term memory loss. She records everything on her cell phone and frequently refers to it so she knows where she is expected to be and what she is supposed to be doing. Although Renee is independent and enjoys her job working for the State of Illinois, her real connection to others is through this bowling program. She says the bowling program has empowered her, giving her more confidence and self-esteem. She grew up knowing she is a little different but with this group she sees that she is just like everyone else.   

Rebecca is a 40 year old woman who spent a lot of time as a young child in and out of residential institutions. She was taken away from her mother at a very young age and luckily landed with her current parents who love and care for her. When they adopted her at age 15, life was extremely difficult and it took a long time for everyone to adjust to their new roles. Rebecca had anger issues, but her adoptive parents have helped her learn the skills she needs to deal with these issues. One of Rebecca’s biggest challenges is organization, so when she organized her bowling team to compete in the Special Olympics, her mom was ecstatic. Rebecca and Renee, along with two others, brought home a Gold Medal last year. They are looking forward to competing again this year and are hopeful they will be just as successful.

Jill Steiner, Human Resource Director for the Y, has led this program for ten years. She says, “Each individual brings something unique to the program and, together, all the bowlers make every day so much brighter. Each of the bowlers, their families, their support and caregivers, and our many friends of bowlers give it life, purpose and a very bright future.”

Learn more about the Springfield Y's special needs programs.

Gaining Independence: Ruth Builds Strength and Confidence

In 2013, Ruth thought she had pneumonia. It turned out that it wasn’t pneumonia, but that she needed open heart surgery.  The surgery itself was a huge wake up call for her. After her surgery, Ruth was referred to Memorial’s Cardiac Rehabilitation located in the same building as the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA. This program allows cardiac patients to be monitored by a nurse while growing stronger using the fitness equipment within the YMCA. She worked with Grace, a nurse with Memorial’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, to rebuild her strength.  Despite her hard work, she was still having issues with balance and coordination.

Grace felt Ruth could benefit from the services provided at Memorial SportsCare. As luck would have it, Memorial SportsCare is also located in the same building as the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA.  Ruth continued her journey with Josh at Memorial’s SportsCare and it was there that she saw really big changes in her life. Josh challenged her to work hard and get stronger. The therapy not only made her physically stronger, but increased her confidence. She had been using a cane (which she affectionately calls Ethel) for the past three years and felt that she would never get rid of it.  Josh was confident she would eventually walk without it. He challenged her to leave “Ethel” in the lobby and walk in unassisted. This was terrifying to her, but she trusted Josh. Now, she leaves “Ethel” at home and is so excited about the independence she has gained.

Her husband is a heart patient as well, and he is the motivation for her to get to the Y three times a week. They spend about four hours at the Y using the different equipment. Ruth likes to use the elliptical machine and the NuStep Recumbent Trainer. She admits she doesn’t love working out, but she knows the exercise is so important and has given her the freedom, the coordination, and the confidence to be able to do so much more in her life. 

Ruth is looking forward to the Springfield Heart Walk that will take place on May 14th at Lincoln Park. She is excited about being able to participate in the walk without her cane. In September, she and her husband are taking a trip to the Smokey Mountains. She said her goal is to go hiking with no walking aids. She can’t wait to say she did it. She radiates pride with the accomplishments she has attained. She looks and feels great!

Building Strong Careers: Billy Gets His Start at the Y

Billy grew up in a single parent home with his father.  When he turned 18, he and his father had a falling out and Billy moved out of his father’s house. He moved in with a friend and his family. The mother of the friend knew Billy needed something to occupy his time so she went to the Kerasotes Branch to see if they could add him to her membership. The staff at the Y told her to send Billy in and he could apply for a scholarship membership. Billy thought he was just going to get a membership to a fitness facility.  But what he got that day was invaluable friendships and skills he still uses today.

The membership personnel were so impressed with Billy that they asked if he would like to apply for a front desk job at the Y. He did and was immediately hired. Billy says, “The Y really started the good things in my life rolling.” While working at the front desk, he developed many long lasting friendships with his co-workers and members. He says, “Working at the Y never felt like a job. It felt more like a place to go and be part of something bigger.” In addition to working part-time, he also took a full-load of college credits. Although it was a busy time, it allowed him to save enough to buy his first car. He says he still has the car to this day and that car is a constant reminder of his first job and the lessons, friends and “family” he made while he was here. 

Billy spent most of his time at the front desk, but he also spent some time working in Child Watch.  Growing up as an only child he didn’t have a lot of practice with younger kids. He says it is in Child Watch that he discovered his true calling. He says, “God put kids in my life so I could see the value they add to me and what I add to theirs.” He has taken that love and those learned skills and extended it into his personal life.  Billy serves as a youth minister for the Pasfield Southern Baptist Church.  He spends most of his Sunday afternoons with a group of young boys teaching them life lessons and the importance of God and faith in their lives. He says he really enjoys this ministry and wouldn’t have realized he enjoyed working with kids if not for his experiences at the YMCA. 

A lot of things have changed for Billy since he first stepped foot into the Kerasotes Branch. With encouragement from his supervisor at the Y, he received his associate degree in Math and Science from Lincoln Land Community College. He has since reconciled with his dad and moved back home. Currently he is employed at Marine Bank as a Personal Banker. As a member of the Y, he enjoys taking yoga and the body conditioning classes as well as spending some time in the gym playing basketball. Billy says, “The YMCA is really more than a place to work out, it’s a place where the employees really make a difference in someone’s day.” For Billy, the Y has made more than a difference in his day; the Y has made a difference in his life. 

Interested in working for the Y? Check out our current job opportunities

Building Strong Bodies: 75 lbs Lost

Jamie decided in July of 2015 that she needed to get healthy. She knew she needed to change her lifestyle by eating healthier and introducing exercise into her life. Before July, she had never even thought about exercise. She knew she couldn’t do both so she concentrated on what she was putting into her body first. She started to eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats. To her surprise, she lost quite a bit of weight. 

She was certain in December 2015, that it was time to introduce exercise into her routine. She knew she needed cardio and weight lifting to help tone and get her into shape and help her reach her weight goal. She surveyed her friends for the best wellness facility to help her on her fitness journey. 

She decided to join the Springfield YMCA. When she walked in, she immediately felt she was in the right place. From the front desk, to those assisting her with learning the equipment, everyone was so friendly and accommodating. Jamie has taken advantage of the personal training offered at the YMCA and is so glad she did.

Since January she has been working with Natalie, a personal trainer at the Kerasotes Branch. She works with Natalie once a week and then does her own workouts four days a week. Natalie is behind her every step of the way whether it is a monthly fitness challenge, a reminder of the importance of food journaling or an encouraging word to keep her lifting heavier and longer. Jamie says, “I love working with Natalie because she is a great accountability partner, and she is realistic in her expectations of me; but all the while keeps me really motivated."

She also loves that she is a member of the YMCA. She feels like it was the socially responsible thing to do as the YMCA isn’t just a gym. It's great place for everyone regardless of age, income or background. It allows individuals the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Jamie says, “I am sure glad I have made the decision to join the Y. It has made a world of difference and I can’t wait to go every week!”

Congratulations to Jamie for her hard work and determination and for making the Y her choice for getting healthy. Feeling like you need help jump-starting your journey? Check out our trainers

Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 YMCA Strong Kids Campaign Video

Throughout Springfield, countless people know the Y for adult fitness or youth sports. It seems every child learns to swim at the Y. But there’s so much more to our Y than gym and swim. We are exercise and education, volleyball and volunteerism, preschool gymnastics and preventive health. The Y doesn’t just strengthen our bodies, it strengthens our community.
The Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause dedicated to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Fortunately, where some see obstacles, we see opportunities for our members, volunteers and staff to make a difference. But we need your support to make it happen. No other organization can impact as many people as powerfully as we do every day.
Last year we served 20,430 youths at the Y. We provided 2,949 youth scholarship memberships and nearly 200 summer camp weeks to underprivileged youth ages 5-14. We also provided programming to an additional 212 participants who are physically or mentally disadvantaged. We do this amazing work with your generosity and support.
For only $50, you give two children with special needs the opportunity to learn to swim. And, $150 provides a child a one-year membership to the Y! ‪#‎ForaBetterUs‬

Thursday, March 31, 2016

71-Year-Old Looks Forward to Completing 71 Marathons and Inspires Us Every Step of the Way

Chances are, you’ve seen Don at the Y, and chances are, you’ve read about him in the paper at some point.

Don likes to run… a lot.

In fact, his nickname, which is also stated on his business card, is “The Flying Turtle.” Consistency and commitment can get you far… very far.

Don Van Houten didn’t even start running until he was 57 years old, but he had ridden his bike to the East Coast. An “Iron-Man-friend” told him, “If you can do that, you could run a marathon.”

Don told another friend, “I’m going to run a marathon.” The friend replied, “That will kill you.” Don said, “Well, we’ll see.”

He joined the Y in 2000 so he could start training for his first marathon. That was in Chicago in 2001. Since then, he has completed a marathon in all 50 states. It took him over 10 years. For 3 years he completed one a month! His next goal is to catch up to his age… he is 71 years old. Unfortunately, his doctor told him he would need a hip replacement, but, fortunately, that was 8 years ago without incident.

Did we also mention he’s biked across the US and canoed from Minneapolis to the Gulf of Mexico? (Just to mention a couple trips.) And right after retirement at the age of 62 he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail for 5.5 months. He ran/walked from Riverton to the state of West Virginia. He is also a cancer survivor. Listening to Don talk about his endurance feats is overwhelming but most importantly, it’s completely inspiring. His smile, good nature, and sense of humor light up the Y and are a manifestation of our mission.

He told us, before you embark on an endurance endeavor, you may need a few things:
“1. Be physically able (train), 2. Be financially able (save), 3. Make the time (schedule… or retire if you can) and 4. Find a supportive spouse (or at least a tolerant one)!”

Yet, he also clarifies... "Family always comes first."

At the Y, we preach a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. Don lets his spirit carry his body through his journeys, and we can’t help but follow along with our hearts. We are lucky to have him in our Y family. He reminds us not to let our thoughts or personal barriers ever get in the way of our dreams.

And Don’s mantra? “I would rather wear out than rust out.”

Interested in getting in shape for your next feat? Consider a Y membership today. Or better yet, personalize your fitness for your goals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DuBois Elementary School Teachers Lead by Example and Work Fitness Into Their Day with Help from the Y

DuBois Elementary School was one of three District 186 schools that received the 2014-2015 Sangamon County Excellence in School Wellness Gold Award, an award that recognizes schools who put forth extra effort to provide a healthy, safe, and prosperous environment for students and staff.

This award inspired the principal and staff at DuBois Elementary to do more to make their school a healthy and safe place. Christina Taylor, a second grade teacher and member of the Y approached us and asked if we would be interested in bringing Zumba and Hip Hop classes to DuBois Elementary once a week. YMCA instructor Yenny Jimenez was all for it!

Yenny spent eight weeks from December to January going to DuBois School to provide Zumba and Hip Hop instruction for a class of teachers. About eleven of the DuBois teachers participated in the program. Christina said, “It was a great way to build community, let stress go, promote health and do something as a group.” Jenny Nolting, a teacher at DuBois Elementary and class participant said, “It was great fun, my co-workers kept me accountable by coming to get me to go to the class, and it helped bond the teachers together.” Christina and Jenny both felt that the biggest advantage of this program was that the instructor came to them. There were no excuses not to participate in the program. In some ways it was effortless.

The Y's mission of strengthening communities in the Springfield area is evident in this program. We congratulate this group of teachers on their dedication and commitment to making their school a healthy and safe environment, and for leading by example.

Group Exercise Classes help you make friends and stay accountable. If you are looking for a non-judgemental, inclusive, and social way to get into shape, check out the Y!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jamie Gives an Inspiring Account of Her "Lose Big" Transformation

"Confidence. Empowerment. Control.   

The YMCA Lose Big program involved so much more than losing weight. 'Losing Big' really meant gaining what I had lost within myself.

My clothes were getting tighter and tighter, my face was getting round and swollen, and my dimples were no longer noticeable. I had lost confidence in myself to look and feel good in my own body.

I felt powerless, weak, and exhausted, and it showed. It showed at home. It showed at work. I just existed, and I was too tired to worry about anything else but going through the motions of life.

I had gotten to the point that I allowed food to control me. Sugar controlled me. Diet Coke controlled me. I craved it. I had no concept of portion sizes. I would overeat and think that I would just try again tomorrow. However, the next day came and the cycle would repeat. I had lost the ability to be in control of myself and my food choices.

What I had lost in myself, I had gained on the scale. So, when I saw that the YMCA was doing the Lose Big program, I thought, "What more do I really have to lose?"

The beginning of the program was tough. Kicking the soda habit, reducing portion sizes, and nearly eliminating sugar was like sending an addict through detox. Add that to several more workouts per week, and my body wanted to cry.

However, after the first week, I already felt so much better internally. I felt energized and motivated. I began to feel healthy again. This, along with a lot of encouragement from my family and coaches, gave me the willpower to keep going and going and going some more. As I started losing, I really started gaining so much more.

I gained confidence. Slowly but surely, my clothes began to fit again, and I even had to purchase new, smaller sizes. My face and body became more defined. I began to feel good about myself again for the first time in a long time.

I gained empowerment. I no longer was afraid to join new group exercise classes. In fact, I began to enjoy the challenge of learning new exercises. My energy transferred from the gym to home to work, and the positive effects showed. I felt alive again for the first time in a long time. I became a much better wife and mother.

I gained control. By tracking my food intake and staying accountable to my coaches and myself, I realized that I am the one who decides what to put in my body. I am the one with the choice to make myself healthy or not. I am in control.

When I first started this competition, I never imagined that I would be the winner. Thirty-two and a half pounds and 18.4% weight loss later, I am proud to say I am the winner of Lose Big! Reflecting upon the the past eleven weeks, I have learned that what I have lost in the past can be transformed by what I have gained in the present, and only I am in control of my future!"


If you're ready to start your life changing journey, click here

Friday, February 26, 2016

1000 Workouts: Experienced Exerciser Places Trust In Y Personal Training

Margie Hindman has been a member of the YMCA for 25 plus years. But that isn’t the milestone we are celebrating with her. She just bought her 100th Personal Training Package. That means when this package is completed, she will have had her 1,000 personal training workout.

Margie has been working with YMCA’s personal trainer, Alan Satterly for the past 8 years. Margie says that she used to be intimidated by working out, but Alan has helped her gain the confidence to tackle any machine. She uses a variety of machines and classes in her personal training workouts. Rowing machine, spin class, treadmill, and Nordic Track to name a few. Margie says that it is sometimes hard to improve on your own. Alan was that person that just pushed her far enough to attain her personal fitness goals.

Margie feels so strongly about the benefits of personal training, that she has in fact given some of her sessions to other members so they can reap the benefits of personal training. Margie recently competed in a mountain bike race in Marquette, Michigan. Alan designed her personal training to prepare her for the event. Not only did Margie finish the race, but she came in first in her age bracket.

If you see Margie around the Y (and chances are you will), congratulate her on her dedication and determination. We are proud of you!

If you are interested in signing up for personal training sessions, call Cindy Kropid at the Kerasotes YMCA (217-679-1625) or Elena Holler (217-544-9846) at the Downtown YMCA.

Former SPY Swim Team Member Ryan Held Sets Fastest Times in NCAA Season to Date

Congratulations to former Springfield Y Swimmer Ryan Held! He continues to blow us away… or should we say out of the water!

On Wednesday at the Men's ACC Championship Ryan led off the 800 Free Relay for NC State. They posted the fastest time in the NCAA season to date. Just earlier that evening they posted the fastest 200 Medley Relay time in NCAA season to date with Ryan anchoring!

He then went on to win the 50 Free Thursday in 18.92 (third fastest time in NCAA's this season) and led off the 200 Free Relay (fastest time in NCAA's this season). He has the 200 Free today and 100 Free tomorrow for individual events and likely a relay each evening to wrap up the ACC Championship.

Help us cheer Ryan on! Catch him each evening on ESPN3 at 5p CST, where finals will be streaming. You can also check swimswam.com to read stories and see pictures and video.

We are so proud of our SPY swimmer and feel so honored to be a part of his journey! #ForaBetterUs

To learn more about our swim team click here.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Young Member Wants to Join the Military, But First Needs to Get Fit

This is Riley, waiting for the plane that will take him to Basic Training.

Riley joined the Lose Big Challenge this year with his parents. His goal was to lose enough weight to be fit enough to board this plane.

He joined Coach Carrie's team at 234.5lbs. Last Friday, Feb. 19th he weighed in at 219lbs. On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, he weighed in at an astounding 209lbs and was able to leave for Basic Training!

Riley reminds us that if you want something bad enough, you will go out and get it! The Y is honored to be a part of his journey. We are so happy Riley reached his goal and wish him the best of luck at Basic Training.

The Y is always there for whatever dream or goal you may have, no matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are from. Join the Y today and let us offer you the support you seek. How can we bridge the gap between today and a brighter tomorrow?

Good luck Riley! We can't wait to hear from you!

Dorian Loses 100 Pounds and Gains More Than Muscle

Meet Dorian. Most Y Kids know Dorian as their beloved Group Leader in Before and After School Care at Ball Chatham. What they may not remember is that Dorian wasn’t always as agile and fit as he is today!

Since working at the YMCA, Dorian has dropped an astounding 100 lbs. Two years ago he weighed in at 285lbs. He lost the weight and dropped down to 169lbs! After this initial weight loss, he knew he wanted to fill out his physique and put on some muscle. Today, Dorian sits at 185lbs of lean body mass.

He says he loves to take fitness classes and makes sure to get his weight lifting in. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he focuses on abs and upper body. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he does lower body. Every day he fits in cardio.

His favorite time to work out is 5:30 in the morning! His good friend Jamal often picks him up at 4:30AM. They get coffee, lift, play basketball and enjoy the steam room. He credits Jamal with getting him into fitness and offering support.

Dorian has completely changed his lifestyle and his body. He sets a positive, healthy example for our Y kids and is a result of the Y mission. He has built a healthy spirit, mind, and body.

Interested in starting your own journey to health? Visit the Y today. Discover support, guidance, motivation, information, and a better you. 

Kris Says the Y Changed the Trajectory of His Life

Kristen was 10 when he first stepped into the Downtown Springfield YMCA. Kristen’s parents wanted to find a safe place for him and his brothers to go while they were working. They hoped the YMCA would be the place to fill some unsupervised time. They hoped the YMCA would be a safe place to keep them out of trouble. What they didn’t know was it was a place that so much more was going to happen for their son.

They applied for a YMCA scholarship and became members. His father owned a car dealership about six blocks from the Downtown branch and Kristen would walk to the YMCA every day which was not only a long walk, but a somewhat dangerous one. Nonetheless, he spent his summers and some after school days at the YMCA. He said this is where he learned some of his best life lessons.

In addition to the many activities that took place during the summer program, Kristen says he can remember long summers sitting in the Youth Lobby listening to camp personnel talk about wrong and right decisions and that what you do when people aren’t watching you is as important as when they are watching you. He will admit he had a temper and would occasionally find himself in a physical fight with another camper. He said he would always remember what Miss Anna, a YMCA personnel that is still with the downtown YMCA would say. “It takes a bigger man to walk away, than throw a fist.” This resonated with him and shaped his attitude and approach to life.

He has turned the negativity of fighting into something incredibly positive. In addition to taking Tae Kwon Do and staying fit at the YMCA, he also trains and travels with The Garage MMA. Kristen also believes that giving back to his community is so incredibly important. Kristen is a job coach for United Cerebral Palsy. He says “life is a fight – everything is a fight.” 

He takes those words to heart as he fights for people of different disabilities. His role as a job coach is very rewarding. He believes his client can gain independence, be productive and be included in the community. He makes sure his client gets to and from work and also helps him monitor his diabetes through healthy eating.  

Today, Kristen is married to Saundi and they have two beautiful children. Krysten is 6 years old and Kristopher is 8 months old. Kristen says his family is everything to him. They, too are YMCA scholarship recipients thanks to the funds raised by The Strong Kids Scholarship Fund. This fund ensures that individuals interested in being a part of the Y family are able to join the YMCA and this is done through generous donations from the community and members. They live fairly close to the Downtown YMCA which enables him to run to the YMCA for his fitness regimen. So, what use to be a scary walk to the YMCA as a child is now a welcomed and invigorating run. Raising two young children can be exhausting, so Saundi looks forward to her time at the YMCA by taking Zumba, and Body Conditioning classes. Their daughter, Krysten enjoys the ballet and tap classes and is looking forward to taking gymnastics this spring. In addition, the entire family will be taking swim lessons this spring.

A lifelong dream of Kristen’s is to join the Army National Guard. He will continue his “fight” and will be leaving shortly to make this dream a reality. He says that he doesn’t know where he would be today without the compassionate, guiding presence of the YMCA in his life. Kristen is truly a YMCA Strong Kid!