Thursday, February 25, 2016

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!

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