Find Yourself at the Y.
The Y is many things to many different people. At the same time, however, there is a common thread – an underlying, emotional foundation – that binds and strengthens everyone connected to the Y – no matter what, who, when or where. We may be different things for different people, but everyone is inspired by and drawn to the Y for the same emotional, spiritual and physical reasons.
Meet some of our Members and read about their impact stories. Have a story you would like to share? Please fill out the form below.
The Townsend Family
My Friend Denny
Submitted by Alyse Kominakis
Denny Slivka has been a member of the Y for the past 13 years, but I have only gotten the pleasure of getting to know him for the past two. Nonetheless, in that short time, Denny has showed me what a difference the community at the YMCA can make.
Denny refers to his Y friends as "not really my friends, but my family." He is here usually 4-5 times per week, always on pickleball days, but often he comes in just to visit with his friends. He has regular rounds that he makes; first he visits "his girls" at the front desk, sharing a joke or a treat. He will stop along his way down the hall to talk with other members that he knows from his days as a girls softball coach (often wearing his "You don't scare me, I coach girls softball" tshirt) or that he has gotten to know in his regular visits as a member. He pauses at the wellness desk to check in on the staff there, then he'll stop and talk to Christy, move next door to give Joel a hard time or share with him his latest Birky-themed pun, and finally he'll pop his head into the Wellness Office, always first asking "Is this a meeting, or...?" before he takes a comfortable seat in one of the vacant chairs.
It's there in the Wellness Office that I've heard stories about his life and family members, received a meatloaf present in a Tupperware, or been given gifts for my kids. Whenever you try to return the favor, Denny chokes up and talks about how grateful he is to have his family at the Y. Denny's wife is in poor health, basically unable to leave the house, so Denny comes solo to visit us. We've exchanged a few recipes; since his wife can't stand for long periods of time, Denny does most of the cooking at home, hence the meatloaf gifts, a thank you for sharing a new twist on an old favorite. He doesn't have grandchildren of his own, so he brings candy, stuffed animals, and small trinkets for his Y grandkids,including his favorite redhead Bonnie.
Denny says that we make his days, but visits from Denny make mine. I feel so lucky to be a small part of a big place that provides so much community and connection for those looking for a friend.
In a world where we often underestimate the power of community and human connection, Becky Fry's journey at the Valparaiso Family YMCA stands as a testament to the life-changing impact it can have. Through her unwavering dedication and the support she received from the Y's staff and fellow members, Becky found not only a safe haven but also a place that saved her life. From her transformational experiences with Personal Trainer Robyn to the invigorating Tae Kwon Do classes led by José, every encounter at the Y became a stepping stone on her path to health, wellness, and personal growth.
Becky's remarkable story takes on even greater significance when we consider how her time at the Y played a vital role in saving her from heart damage during an unexpected health emergency. Through the guidance of her personal trainer and the newfound strength she gained from her fitness routine, Becky's heart was fortified both physically and emotionally. It is a powerful reminder that the Y is not just a place for exercise but also a sanctuary where individuals can find the support and resources necessary to overcome life's challenges. Becky's unwavering spirit and determination are truly inspiring, and her story encourages us all to take that leap of faith and embrace the potential for transformation that awaits within the walls of our local YMCA.
Becky Fry's journey at the Valparaiso Family YMCA is an inspiration to us all. Her unwavering dedication to personal growth, the support she received from the YMCA community, and the profound impact on her overall well-being serve as a reminder that our local YMCAs are more than just fitness centers—they are beacons of hope and sources of transformation. So, let Becky's story ignite a spark within you to take that leap of faith, step out of your comfort zone, and discover the incredible power that lies within you at your own local YMCA. You'll be glad you did!
Tyler’s Grandma beamed with pride as she shared the many accomplishments of her 19-year-old grandson, Tyler – D1 athlete playing hockey at PNW, Presidential Honor Society, studying to become a Department of Natural Resources Officer, and a passionate fisherman. Tyler grew up in Wisconsin and on December 29, 2021, Tyler was visiting friends in Wisconsin during his school break. Driving back from ice fishing, Tyler was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
Tyler suffered severe brain injury, so much so that the Med-Flight crew did not think that he would survive the transport to the University of Wisconsin-Madison hospital. Upon entering the hospital, Tyler was asymptomatic, but tested positive for Covid. Nobody - Mom and Grandma included - was allowed to see Tyler for 21 days. His Mom and Grandma were shown a 15-minute video camera, one time per day from their hotel room next door as Tyler was fighting for his life.
Tyler was in the Neuro ICU with AFib, seizures, not able to regulate body temperature or heart rate and underwent 3 brain surgeries and 400 stitches in his head, among other complications. His Grandma shared, “churches all over the world were praying for Tyler.”
On February 15, Tyler was transported by ambulance to Shirley Ryan in Chicago. Tyler was wheelchair bound, not able to communicate or eat, and had no control over his body other than an occasional thumbs up. Doctors speculated that Tyler would remain in a vegetative state and advised his family to consider future decisions. Tyler and his family continued to fight and keep hope.
Eventually Tyler was able to come home. Still wheelchair bound, Tyler continued to fight and began physical therapy. At the same time, Tyler’s Mom received the recommendation to contact the Y for further help for Tyler.
Tyler’s Mom is a single Mom who works 12-hour days, while Grandma cares for Tyler at home. The Y worked with the family, using Annual Campaign funds to support the family so that Tyler can get the one-on-one training with Y Personal Trainer, Cariann, that he needs.
Cariann, met with Tyler’s doctors to develop the training plan to help Tyler to address both physical weaknesses and mental weaknesses. Three times per week, Tyler and Cariann work to help Tyler regain coordination, strength and balance and to regain use of his left arm and leg. Additionally, Cariann incorporates exercises such as cards and counting to help Tyler also work his brain. Tyler fights to regain the strength for everyday activities. The discipline of a D1 athlete has helped Tyler to keep fighting. And his support network of doctors, family, and the Y keep him motivated and going. “Tyler is a fighter and an inspiration.”
For all that he has miraculously overcome, Tyler still has a long fight ahead of him and amazing optimism. When asked what is next for him, Tyler without hesitation shares his desire to one day drive again, continue with his education, and swim in the Y pool. We are proud that the Y is a part of Tyler’s support network.
Nathan and Angel
Nathan and Angel are a part of the vocational Life Skills program at Valparaiso High School – learning skills to use after they graduate. This program is a stepping stone to working independently.
You’ll see Nathan and Angel working hard around the Y vacuuming and cleaning windows, tables and mirrors. Nathan and Angel shared they like to help and enjoy smiles from members. They also enjoy watching members play pickleball on their break!
Their instructor shared that members have been welcoming and the staff has been great and very kind. People will smile, say hello and share praise over a job well done.
They Y has been a great space for Nathan and Angel to enjoy, learn and grow!
Pat has always lived an active lifestyle with a passion for community volunteerism, and playing and coaching tennis. What many people don’t see behind this cheerful, giving and determined woman, is that she has battled Rheumatoid Arthritis for nearly 50 years.
When she turned 69 she realized her knees were in bad shape and she had to step back from tennis and her Y membership. At 74 she had double knee replacement surgery and came back to the Y after rehabilitation. She joined for the SilverSneakers program, but found she was ready for a different kind of challenge – Personal Training!
Pat’s personal and physical wellness took off when she started training with Melissa. She was surprised and excited by what she was able to accomplish, she “could do things she never would have done” on her own. She is now training with Tony two times a week and loves it! This experience has showed her that fitness and well-being “isn’t a goal, it’s a process, a commitment.”
Pat takes her commitment seriously and even trains when Tony isn’t available for sessions! She loves that the staff have gotten to know her – it helps keep her accountable. What’s more is that the staff is constantly inspired by Pat! The Personal Training room lights up just a little more when Pat walks in for her sessions.
Pat loves that the Y truly is for everybody, all walks of life, and all levels of fitness. The staff is experienced. The people are friendly. She is partaking in what the Y has to offer and loving it!