I discovered the YMCA when my family lived in Shawnee, Okla. I was a 21-year-old stay-at-home mom to two young daughters, and my husband was working a very demanding job that required long hours and frequent moves. I quickly found my niche at the Y, going to kickboxing classes, Mommy and Me play dates and befriending more experienced moms who offered advice and support.
Whenever we moved, which was often, I always found the nearest YMCA and got involved, seeking something familiar, something stable for myself and for the girls. I eventually got my personal training certification and started working at the Pat Jones YMCA 10 years ago shortly after moving to the area.
We had a third daughter, and when I started working full time at the Y my older girls enrolled
the Y’s After School Program. My baby came to work with me, and my older daughters spent their time after school getting an afternoon snack, one-on-one tutoring and played games that taught them to be honest, caring, respectful and responsible. In the evenings after work we all came back to the Y for soccer practice, gymnastics or swimming lessons. The Y became our second home, the steady thing in our lives we could depend on.
The Y remained our constant, through my divorce in 2010, through our move to a small apartment across town, through my struggle to make ends meet and fill the role of both parents
for my girls. Even as I struggled to remain positive in the midst of uncertainty, the Y teachers would check in to see how the girls were feeling, to warn me when one of them had a rough
day, or just to encourage me when they had a wonderful one.
The last few years have been challenging in ways I never could have anticipated. I have watched my children live with the uncertainty that comes along with divorce. They cling to the familiar, and I am so glad the Y is here for all of us.
No matter what we are going through, I know the Y stays the same. When we are having a bad day we pack up and go to the Y to play. When the girls need help with their homework they get tutoring. When I have to work late, I know they are getting a healthy snack after school that will tide them over until we can have dinner. Our lives have changed so much, but the faces at the Y haven’t changed a bit. I see young moms who look just like I did back in Oklahoma. I see grandmas and grandpas who have baked my family Christmas goodies when I couldn’t find the time. And I see a community of people that will be there no matter what our future holds.