Why I love the Vigo YMCA

My eyes opened and I jumped awake. Isabelle stood beside the bed staring. Then I remembered, we converted her to a toddler bed last night. Tapping my watch read 7:15 AM.

Time to get up.

A sleepy Isabelle followed me through the morning dusk. Scooping her up I immediately soaked myself. Then I remembered she started steroids last week. For some reason steroids make her pee like crazy. No matter what we put her in at night she wakes up soaked and usually the bed as well.

The remainder of the day Isabelle switched between bursts of energy and just lying around. 

Folding clothes this evening I took care of a pair of socks with a little rubber dots on them. We got those at Riley. I’m thankful to have my daughter sleeping in her bedroom not a hospital room.

I just got out the red duffel bag we always pack in case she gets admitted at tomorrow’s hospital visit. Packing for tomorrow I think back on today. One thing stood out. Though I worked a regular day at the church the evening turned out different because the YMCA closed for the holiday.

I usually teach a class Monday evenings at the YMCA. Having that class cut out of my evening created free time, yet it reminded me why I appreciate our YMCA. Especially with a Riley visit coming tomorrow.

Ironically the best explanation for why I appreciate the YMCA comes from my wife Ashley. She shared this in a speech last Friday. So I thought I would share her speech as I consider how the YMCA has blessed my life.

YMCA Gala Speech

Ladies and gentleman, thank you so much for coming tonight. I am honored to share with you a little on how the Vigo County YMCA has impacted my life and the lives of countless others. The YMCA is so much more than “just another gym”. We have other gyms in Terre Haute. So, what makes this YMCA different? I believe that the Vigo County YMCA’s commitment to excellence in the following areas of community, Christian emphasis, health and fitness, and youth services is what really sets it apart from other gyms.

I became a member of the Y about 4 and a half years ago after moving to Terre Haute from Dallas, TX when my husband Daniel took a job as a pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church. Now, I was not the fittest mom in town, but I had heard that free childcare was included in the cost of a membership. Score!

So, after dropping off our daughter with the childcare (and nervously checking in on her every two minutes like any sleep deprived first time mom would), my husband and I walked by the gym and saw what looked to be a group of senior citizens playing pickleball. Not to brag or anything, but I was the eighth grade girls PE pickleball champion. I don’t have a closet full of sports trophies so I felt that I needed to hold on pretty tight to this title.

Besides, with all the pickleball players being at least 30 years older than me, I thought I might have a shot at this. I was pretty excited to show off my incredible skills to my husband. Funny enough, it turns out that I had retained none of those skills. I was terrible. And they were all really good. Everyone was so kind and patient, just gently lobbing the pickleball over the net straight to me while I whiffed ball after ball. But since Zumba was on the other side of the gym and I knew that I definitely didn’t and probably wouldn’t ever possess any sort of hip swaying movements, I stuck with pickleball. And thankfully I got a little better.

I share this story because it’s humorous; or rather I’m sure it was humorous watching me try to play…but also because it represents the community aspect of the Y. I was immediately welcomed in and encouraged by the pickleball players but also by so many of Y members and staff. It wasn’t like any other gym I had been a part of. I gradually started joining other classes, making new friends, and growing holistically healthier.

When my two year old daughter, Isabelle, was diagnosed with leukemia last April, our family was loved and supported by the Y community. We received messages, cards, and prayers. Several of the Y instructors led their classes in prayer for Isabelle and our family. Y members brought meals to our house and babysat my older daughter on chemo days. The child watch workers at the Y organized, donated, and gave us gift cards for gas stations to help pay for the extra gas expenses of our weekly trips to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Another Y member did a fundraiser for us to help with other additional expenses.

One particularly difficult week, a Y friend hired one of the Y childcare workers to come to my house and babysit while another Y member gave us money to just go out and have a date

night. We have been so richly blessed by the relationships that we built through the Y and that’s one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about our Y.

It is not just another gym in town. I believe that the Christian emphasis at our Y is a big part of that. I still remember playing pickleball one day and also watching the high intensity cardio class on the other side of the gym. It looked way too hard for someone like me. And then the class ended with stretching and prayer. The instructor prayed at the end of class. Wow, that’s cool. I think I want to meet this woman who inspires everyone to push themselves in class to grow stronger, but also cares about everyone enough to pray for them. And, I started participating in that class. The environment in that class as well as so many of the other classes is full of hope, encouragement, and perseverance. Yes, there’s competition, but it’s friendly competition.

I love walking in to the Y, being greeted warmly by the desk worker and walking through the hallway to read an edifying Bible verse on the board and listening to the sweet sounds of the local Christian radio station playing. These things help to create a positive environment where all are welcome, regardless of your age, background, ability level, ethnicity, or religion.

The prayer room has also been a place of comfort and spiritual renewal for me. It is a quiet place where I can read my Bible and spend time in prayer. I’ve also utilized the prayer room to nurse my baby, meet with a friend and even take a nap during an especially sleep deprived season of life.

As I have talked about, both community and a Christian emphasis contribute to making the Y so much more than just another gym. A holistic approach to health and fitness is also a key component. It’s easy to go to another gym and just put in the time on your machine of choice, leave, come back, and repeat. In fact, that’s mostly what I had done in the past. I had my set thing…which happened to be the stair climber. Stairs for days.

Because I was immediately welcomed into the Y community and encouraged to join several classes, I became more well-rounded in my view of health and fitness. I learned proper techniques for lifting weights, cross training, the value of core strength and stretching, and how to train and challenge my body in ways that I had not previously. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be able to hold a plank for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, run 10 miles, bike a marathon, or enjoy lifting weights; I would have thought you were joking. The Y has been instrumental in nurturing my potential that I couldn’t even see.

My Y community, which I should call my Y family, taught me the importance of fueling my body properly with healthy eating. And while I’m certainly still a work in progress, I’ve never felt judged or looked down upon but instead I’ve been inspired to set goals and achieve them.

The Y’s commitment to health and fitness is seen through the variety of classes they have for all ability levels and ages, regular wellness checks free for members, the TOO group

which stands for Taking on Obesity group, as well as healthy living and fitness challenges held throughout the year to motivate individuals to live healthier lives.

I mentioned that the Y is dedicated towards serving all age groups and I would be remiss if I didn’t speak of the impact that the Y has on serving the youth in our community. By offering free tutoring programs through a partnership with Rose Hulman, teaching youth how to swim and dance, hosting free family friendly community events, developing an amazing summer camp with scholarships for economically disadvantaged youths, and providing after school programs at all the local public schools; the Y engages the next generation with its hope filled mission and values.

My children experience this while participating in the child watch program. My older daughter Christy, asks me almost every night if she will get to go to child watch at the Y the next day. Both children love going there, seeing friends, and learning new things. Christy especially loves making crafts. One of her favorite child watch workers brings special craft supplies and projects from home just for her. Christy is always so proud to show me what she worked on during child watch.

And as a mom of little ones, it’s amazing to be able to exercise, be encouraged by friends, take a shower, and do my devotions in the prayer room while my sweet children are enjoying their time in the child watch program!

In summary, I am so grateful for the positive impact that the Vigo County YMCA has had on my life. The Y stands as a beacon of hope in our community and I hope that you all will join me in supporting the Vigo County YMCA.


–Ashley Bryan, Presented September 1, 2017

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