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Moms, Don't Forget About You

This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all the moms among us. We’re also reflecting on a few of the inspiring and heartfelt stories we’ve heard from Y moms. Whether it’s being able to offer affordable, quality child care through our YMCA Strong Kids program, easing a burden, or helping a mom focus on her own personal health, we’re with our moms every step of the journey.

The stories we're sharing today show us that when we choose to focus on our personal health, it can have a rippling effect on every other area of our lives, including our family members. We are so proud to be a part of these amazing journeys and transformations.

And, if you’re still not quite sure how to celebrate the moms in your life this year, we’ve got a few ideas.

Wendy’s Y Story

I am a happily married mother of three, caregiver to my aging parent, working full time average Canadian woman. And just like every other hard working mom, I put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. This is my Y story…

My family has been members of the Bob Hayward YMCA since March 2012. The reason we joined was simple – we wanted good quality swimming lessons for our three children, that was affordable. The YMCA filled that need for us and we got our kids started in the swimming programs.

When I turned 40 I kind of had an ‘awakening’ and realized that I was overweight, unhappy and unhealthy and if I didn’t do something about it soon – that I would probably end up staying this way. So I made the decision to change my life. I started a great nutrition plan and started using my YMCA membership!

The first class I went to was Boot Camp and I managed to make it through the whole hour alive. I received some really positive motivation from another participant that changed everything for me. I started talking to other members and talking to the instructors and asking questions about my form and how to do the exercises better– I became a ‘regular’! The staff at the front desk recognized me and my kids – they would greet us as we came in and make us feel like we were important and special. Little by little, I was building a supportive community of friends. People that motivated and encouraged me. People that I care about. 

When I look back at how my life has changed, I am so thankful for my YMCA community. The instructors have provided so much support and encouragement. My work out buddies have become my friends, and I cannot imagine a better place to work out.

The Y is a great place for me and my family. My kids see how active I am now and they want to join me in my classes. I have more energy, I am happier and I’m healthier than I have ever been!


Erin's Y Story

I am a 34 year old married mother of two boys, 3 and 6. While on maternity leave with my second child, we purchased a YMCA family membership. My energy levels were low and I needed some motivation. I had two children to watch over and 50 lbs. to lose.  My eldest son has tons of energy and the Y’s mini combo was a perfect fit for him and the bonus was that it gave me the time I needed to exercise and have some one-on-one time with my newborn. The Y offers such incredible kids programs that my sons still beg to go to. 

Over the years we have used the Y for swimming lessons, karate, high ropes, supervised playground and numerous drop-in programs. The wonderful staff at two Y locations know my boys by name; that gives me the opportunity to focus on my health without feeling guilty when I drop them off. 

The frequency of our visits helped me to get to a healthy weight quickly, the energy to keep up with active little boys and run a half marathon when my son was only two. I never would have thought that possible!  I could never have accomplished that without the Y. 


Sarah's Y Story

"I can say that because of the YMCA,  I'm in the best physical and emotional health that I've ever been in."

Watch Sarah's story here


Fun Ways to Keep Kids Active and Healthy This Summer

Warmer, sunnier weather is finally here! This means it’s time to start planning out Spring and Summer activities. For some families, it means outdoor sports season has begun. Or maybe it’s time to book that summer trip or favourite camping site. It can even simply mean fun days spent in the backyard or at the local park or pool. Whatever your plan is, we can probably all agree that physical activity and fresh air are super important, especially when it comes to children.

The Y is passionate about promoting healthy habits and lifestyles and some of the ways we do this are through our fun and unique children's programming, swimming lessons, and camps. On April 28, branches across the Association will also be opening their doors with special, planned activities specifically for YMCA Healthy Kids Day. Check out your branch Facebook page for more details or ask a staff in branch.

To keep the momentum going we’ve compiled some great ways to make sure your kids are staying healthy and physically active this Summer, no matter their age or stage.

5 Easy and Fun Ways to Keep Kids Busy and Active

  1. Get outside as much as possible - Summer is the perfect time for warm days spent outside! Some easy and free activities for kids include running through the sprinkler, riding bikes, skipping rope, or playing with friends in the backyard. Many of us like to also enjoy get-togethers or backyard dinners with family, friends or neighbours. These are great opportunities to let the kids run around together and burn some energy while adults socialize. It’s a win-win! Also, if your child is signed up for a Y summer camp, they will definitely be getting a ton of fun outdoor time.

  2. Move your bodies: Look for activities you find enjoyable that also get your heart rate up a bit. For children interested in sports, soccer and baseball are both popular summer activities that will get kids active and moving. This warmer weather is also a wonderful time for outdoor family activities. Bike riding, swimming, hiking through a local forest, or a nice walk in a park are all great exercise ideas that can be made even more special when you do them together. If you’re looking for ideas, why not check out your local Y for children’s programs or family swim and gym times.

  3. Try something new: Use this season as an opportunity to try something new. Yoga, rock climbing, camping, karate, or bowling or laser tag on a rainy day. Have you checked out all the local parks or conservation areas? You’ll never know what new favourite spot you’ll discover.

  4. Make it fun: Think outside the box, especially to beat any summer boredom that may come up. Why not plan a fun scavenger hunt for kids? You can do this easily in the backyard, or, if you have a larger group, do it in a nearby park. A simple list of items found in nature, like this one, is all you need. Print out copies, pass out some little baskets or paper bags and you’re good to go! Other fun ideas for kids: make water balloons, go berry picking, dig for fossils, fly a kite, or set up an obstacle course – this can be done indoors on rainy days. Day trips are another exciting adventure you can do as a family. Head to a splash park (many local free parks also have water features) or plan a beach day – pack some healthy snacks and a lunch, grab some beach gear and toys like a beachball and frisbee, and head to your closest beach. Don’t forget the sunscreen! For rainy day fun, hit up the Y and spend the time playing together.

  5. Join some friends: Have your kids invite their friends over to play outside, plan a meetup in a park, set-up a neighbourhood game of soccer, or host a backyard barbeque and get-together. Watch the kids instantly create games and have fun.

However you decide to spend your summer days, make sure kids are staying active, getting lots of fresh air, and straying hydrated. Have a tip to add? Share it with us below.


Celebrating our Volunteers!

Every year in April, we celebrate National Volunteer Week here at the YMCA. While we’re always grateful for our volunteers, this is the time to really step it up and shine a light on the commitment, passion and time our volunteers put in. We are incredibly lucky to have volunteers in all areas of our Association, from Child Care to Health and Wellness, in our Newcomer Services and at Day and Residential Camps. We even get extra support with Administration and lots of helping hands at our events like SWEAT for Strong Kids and Jordan’s Run the Runway.

In 2018, more than 800 volunteers gave almost 40,000 hours of their time to the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, teaching yoga classes, reading books to children at camp or helping keep our facilities clean, safe and inviting. From all walks of like, we appreciate our talented and dedicated volunteers.

So, when you see a volunteer during the week April 7 – 13, 2019, or any other day really, please take a moment and thank them for what they do. We certainly could not do what we do without them!

Watch out for postings on social media and events at your home branch next week to celebrate our volunteers!

Please join us in saying THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!


Have a Health-Conscious Valentine’s Day

February 14 is synonymous with many things: love, red roses, and chocolate and sweets galore. But it doesn’t have to be a sugar-laden day. Instead, take the opportunity to do something healthy with your loved one. Or if you’re flying solo this year, take the time to focus on you and your own health! We’ve put together a list of fun and easy ways you can make this Valentine’s Day a healthier one, while having a great time doing it. And don’t forget you: your local Y is always here to help you on your journey to health…on Valentine’s Day as well as the rest of the year.

  1. Get your sweat on! Treat yourself to a good exercise class to get that heart pumping. Your body will thank you for taking the time to move and focus on your own health. Bring along a loved one to make it even more fun.

  2. Go skating. Make the most of this cold winter weather by getting out on the rink. There are plenty of outdoor rinks as well as indoor. Did you know that both our Goderich and our new Bostwick Y locations both have NHL-sized skating rinks, with free skate times? You can make it a date night or fun family outing by lacing up that pair of skates and following it up with a warm drink.

  3. Make a healthy dinner. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about the sweets. From beets to tomatoes to strawberries, there are plenty of heart-conscious and healthy ways you can incorporate the theme into a healthy meal. As it turns out, some of the most naturally red foods are also some of the healthiest! Incorporating apples, tomatoes and cranberries into your daily diet can reduce the risk of heart disease dramatically. A quick Google or Pinterest search will give you tons of healthy meal options, even for those who aren’t culinary-inclined!

  4. Take a hike! Literally. Enjoy the snow by bundling up in warm clothes and heading to a trail or path. A quiet walk in nature is the perfect time to enjoy some intimate conversation as well as the company of loved ones. And if you’re alone, take a deep breath and soak in the solitude. If the cold weather isn’t your thing, head to a nearby indoor walking track. Many of our Y locations have their own walking loops.

  5. Stretch together. Studies show that regular yoga practice can help improve mood and life satisfaction, and that’s on top of the numerous physical benefits: increased flexibility, strength and blood flow, and improved cardiovascular and respiratory function. Grab your partner and yoga mats and enjoy a nice Valentine’s Day yoga session.

  6. Get pampered. Treat yourself to some pampering, like a massage, which has numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to helping with relaxation. You can even opt for a couple’s massage! If you’d rather stay home, treat your Valentine to a spa-at-home. Back rubs, at-home pedicure, foot massages – the sky’s the limit. End the night with a cup of soothing herbal tea and enjoy a great night’s sleep.



Health: it's more than just physical

Did you know… one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime? Even though this epidemic affects so many, the stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the biggest barriers for those suffering. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, we want to help break down these barriers, push to end the stigma, and open the door to talk about the big connection between mind and body.

At the YMCA, we’ve always believed that health encompasses more than the physical body. The foundation that the Y strongly supports is one rooted in the well-being of the whole person. It’s so important to our overall health that we feel good in every area. Focusing on both physical and mental health is what help us to lead healthy and balanced lives.

The Y believes in a healthy mind, body and spirit and as such we provide a safe and inclusive place where everyone is welcome.  We deliver programs at every age, and every stage, all designed to help create a healthy, happy you.

When it comes to helping end the stigma of mental illness, Bell Let’s Talk has some excellent tips on how every person can help. One of our favourites? Be kind. A simple kind gesture can have a rippling effect. You never know what kind of day someone is having or what battles they might be fighting, especially on the inside. Let’s not forget that mental illness is often not obvious or even visible. Be kind, understanding and empathetic. Today, and every day, let’s listen, be there, and be kind.

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