y member stories


Jordan & Jessica Ehrman's Story

"In late 2016, my husband and I made the decision to become a foster family and were licensed in early 2017. Many people recommended the Y for camps, fitness and childcare and we were aware that the Y offered a foster family discount.
We were given the opportunity to foster two brothers: ages 4 and 9. Finding childcare for the 4 year old was stressful as they were being removed from their home immediately. Thankfully, the Early Learning Center had one spot open – otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to provide for these two brothers.
We are thankful for God’s faithfulness and grateful to the Y for providing immediate care and a safe environment for the boys! The ELC Staff continue to be a huge supporter of our family and have been so patient with our 4 year old. They have worked alongside us through his struggles helping him to reach his potential. He has already learned so much through the preschool program and we can’t thank the staff enough for the amount of time and energy poured into each of these kids.
Because of the Y, our family can thrive. The boys have been able to make friends, learn new things and have loads of fun. We have loved seeing the excitement on the boys’ faces when they ask to say their new prayers from the Y at the dinner table. The Y truly does put Christian principles into practice and we are grateful for that!"


Dre'won's Story

When Dre’won was an adolescent he lost interest in attending middle school and stopped showing up regularly. On the days that he did go to school, he acted out so he could get sent home. During his freshman year, Dre’won was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was ashamed and thought people would make fun of him so he quit going to school altogether. After accumulating excessive truancies, Dre’won was referred to the YMCA Youth Service Bureau’s – Status Offender Court Alternative Program (SOCAP). He and his mom met with the SOCAP staff and school representatives to develop an action plan to improve his attendance and poor behavior.
With support and encouragement from the staff, Dre’won successfully completed his action plan and the SOCAP Program. “They asked me what my interests were and even offered me a free YMCA membership if I kept my promise of going back to school every day. I did everything I was asked to do and stayed in school and earned that Y membership.” Dre’won said.
Dre’won appreciates the staff at the Youth Service Bureau who helped him refocus on his education as well as get food when his family needed it. He said “Thank you...for everything you’ve done for my education and for supporting me. I love you all.” SOCAP gave Dre’won hope which is reflected in how he lives life today. He says “I am working hard now because I see success in my future. A lot of my friends from school are dead, in jail, or just not doing anything at all and I refuse to be one of them. I’m completely finished with school, have my own car and work two jobs. I am not in college yet but will be soon so I can be a dentist.”
“Our goal is to guide a family by providing the resources and support they need to give them hope and encouragement and get the student back on track toward high school graduation. It is always rewarding when a student like Dre’won reaches a milestone. We know that our program helps propel youth toward a better future and that is why we work so hard to make these services available at no cost to each family,” said Amy Just, Executive Director of the YMCA’s Youth Service Bureau.


The Hamilton Family's Story

"Before joining the YMCA, my children, Alexander and Holden, were not involved in sports. The only thing my workout DVDs did was collect dust and swimming was a rare occasion.
I wanted to join the Y for a long time before we did. I wanted my children to learn good sportsmanship, for me to be a healthier mother, for exercise and nutrition to be ingrained in our lives, and for us to make memories doing so together. I looked into joining the Y but I just couldn’t fit it in the budget. I think it was sometime around my thyroid cancer diagnosis that I realized I needed to stop putting off my health. I spoke with a friend who told me that the Y had financial assistance so I checked into what I had to do to apply for it.
We joined as soon as we were approved for financial assistance. I quickly enrolled the boys in sports and I began learning a lot on my fitness journey. It wasn’t long before we started making new friends, joining classes, and taking swim lessons. Since then my parents have also joined the Y. They especially enjoy pickleball. Alexander and Holden love to swim and see Starre, their favorite Kids Club teacher. They enjoy participating in several sports and I love the zumba, Barre and other classes. We have also gained things we weren’t expecting to, like a sense of community and a love for peoples’ differences.
In the future I see my family becoming stronger and healthier versions of ourselves. We plan to continue to use the Y’s resources to help us on that journey in any way we can. I look forward to instilling the values the Y stands for into my growing toddlers.
Thanks to the Y we are a better us, which makes us a better family. We are so blessed to be a part of the Y and are very thankful for it."


Doris Estep's Story

Seventeen years ago, with encouragement from her husband to get active, Doris joined the YMCA. Years later, when he passed away, she found support and encouragement at the Y to keep motivated and going.
At age 99 Doris is still very active and attends water aerobics three times per week. Although no longer able to drive, she is able to depend on other Y members for rides allowing her to stay active and involved.
With the help that Doris receives, she is able to continue to be a leader with the Active Older Adult community by helping with luncheons, organizing and setting up Monday card games and making newcomers feel welcome and comfortable.
All of these things were made possible for Doris because of the financial assistance she received for her membership.


The Friedley Family's Story

The YMCA can impact a family in many ways. The Friedley Family had wanted to join the Y for some time, but did not think they could afford a membership. When a friend told them about the Y’s financial assistance program, the Friedley Family joined the Parkview Y.
Aleasa and her husband Adam participated in Wellness for Life and now have a plan for a healthier lifestyle.
Their daughter, who was diagnosed with autism, has been able to participate in swim lessons and now the entire family can swim together.
The family has also been able to connect with other parents whose children have special needs.
Youth sports have provided their son with new friends who truly care about his well-being. When a recent house fire claimed their home and caused him to miss the first week of football, his entire team welcomed him back with cheers of encouragement.
Without financial assistance, the Friedleys would not have been able to join the Y and have these positive experiences. Aleasa shared that with all of the support they have been given from the Parkview Y Staff,
“The Y is not just a place to come as a family, they are a member of our family!”


Shannon's Story

Shannon’s husband passed away four and a half years ago. During the time of his sickness, her daughters were very small and the family spent a lot of time in the house caring for her husband. Following this tragedy, Shannon and her daughters joined the Y but it became unaffordable. The challenge to participate was hard, because Shannon started to deal with her grief through alcohol abuse and weight gain.
Over time, Shannon and her girls got support from Erin’s House which enabled them to become stronger emotionally and spiritually but not physically.
With the Y being so close to Erin’s House, Shannon came in one day to apply for financial assistance because she knew she couldn’t afford a membership. She was granted a scholarship and now spends time at the Y with her girls exercising and swimming as a family which is an activity they love to do together!
The YMCA is a great outlet and stress reliever for Shannon and her girls. Shannon is extremely grateful for a place that provides scholarships to families that can’t afford the Y but want to be here to participate in and receive the benefits from what the Y offers.


The Fulton's Story

"‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ This used to be a staple in our culture; however, over time, society has moved away from the village mentality which is almost a requirement when it comes to being a foster parent. You absolutely cannot do this alone; it is impossible.
We will forever be grateful that the YMCA is part of our “village.” We have been foster parents for almost three years and a huge part of our success is because of the Y. It’s not easy getting last minute calls asking, “Do you have an extra bed for a child that will be staying with you for an undetermined amount of time?” As difficult as it is to maintain our lifestyle, the Y has been there for us. The discounted membership is a tremendous help, but it’s more than that. It is the fact that the YMCA has been able to accommodate our ever-changing family with last minute camp sign ups, help with before and after school care and the extra care and understanding when it comes to the children we temporarily have the opportunity to love.
We have a great deal of respect for every staff member we have worked with. The first-time experiences provided for these children create memories that will last a lifetime. They are also seeing examples of how to positively work through disagreements laying a foundation of respect.
The Y is truly a place that cares for family no matter what the family looks like. Thank you for not only financially helping us to pass this onto the children we help but for being such a positive influence on our kids."


Anna Bowling's Story

In February of 2017, Anna and her three youngest children re-joined the YMCA after the death of her son, and with the encouragement of her sister who has been a part of the Y for years. She decided that she wanted to get fit, lose weight and be healthy. “I wanted to be a part of a Christian organization that helps people in the community. This is what makes the Y different than other gyms.”
Anna explained that without the financial assistance offered by the YMCA fees would have made the membership unaffordable. “It is not something that I take for granted, and I will continue to put it to good use.”
For their family the impact has been huge. It’s been meaningful for her to spend time with her little sister and watch her instruct classes. The classes have also helped Anna feel good about herself because she is seeing results and fitting into clothes that she hasn’t been able to wear for years.
The unexpected loss of a loved one can throw a family in turmoil. Anna shared that the Y membership helped the entire family, physically, mentally and spiritually. “After the loss of my son, it gave us a healthy outlet to deal with our pain from that loss. It continues to do so daily, because every day is an emotional challenge.”


The Htoo Family's Story

Sam and Caroline Htoo have been attending Y after school care and summer day camp at Camp Kekionga for many years. This summer Sam became eligible to participate in the Leaders in Training program held at Camp Kekionga, which he’d been looking forward to for several years.
Both children were registered for camp and excited for another summer to start when their family faced an unexpected hardship that made it impossible for them to afford camp for Sam and Caroline. Sadly they thought that their children would have to spend the summer home alone.
When news about the family’s hardship came, Y staff members reached out and offered financial assistance which made it possible for Sam and Caroline to attend camp. At the end of camp a thank you card came from the family which stated:
“We would like to offer our sincerest thank you for making it possible for Samuel and Caroline to attend Camp Kekionga this summer! It meant the world to us and touched our hearts. The camp program you offer is absolutely amazing—the positive and encouraging atmosphere and friendships will always be remembered and treasured. Thank you so much for making it possible for us this summer!”


Lisa Ramos's Story

“My family was first introduced to YMCA Camp Potawotami through the afterschool program at the Jorgensen YMCA where they had a first time camper grant for families in this program. I hoped that camp would be a good place for my daughter to develop some independence and expose her to some new experiences. She received that and so much more.
My daughter loves to try new things and was able to experience horseback riding, canoeing, rock wall climbing and a mud hike all while making new, lifelong friends. She also learned the importance of helping others in need and respect for other people.
Camp Potawotami has impacted my daughter’s life by getting her involved in different activities and teaching her to value the time she spends with her camp friends. My daughter’s favorite camp memory is the mud hike because, “It is the only time you can be muddy from head to toe and it is okay with your parents.”
If someone is considering applying for financial aid, I would tell them to be sure and apply and send your child. They will make great friends and enjoy many new adventures.
Without the help we received from financial aid, it would have been difficult to send my daughter to camp. Because of this help, my daughter can look forward to camp again next summer and all of the wonderful experiences it offers."

Julia's Story

Steele Family

“A little over 3 years ago I was blessed with 4 grandchildren who were placed in my care. I had spent my savings on clothes, bedding, daycare, etc. I was diagnosed with cancer and medical bills then began to start piling up.

I turned everything over to God and as always He provided. I had a prayer request for sometime at church for a Christian based daycare. I received a call from the YMCA early learning center that there was an opening. It was exactly what I was looking for, however I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Since it was an answer to a prayer request I proceeded to enroll the 2 younger children. I didn’t know what I was going to do when school was going to let out for the summer, because I knew it was over my budget.

I was approached by a staff person and asked if I would like to check into the YMCA’s financial assistance program. Within moments I was informed I qualified and the new payment was exactly what was in my budget. The children love the staff, the different structural activities offered, visits from the fire and safety workers, and so much more. I have to say I have one of the smartest little guys, and I love the way they engage the children in the learning activities. To know I can go to work and not worry, knowing Y staff are getting children on and off the bus, then providing them with snacks and structured activities is such a blessing. I just want to thank each one for you, from being greeted in the morning to the end of the day.” - Julia

Autumn's Story

“My two children Franki and Ryder attend FAME Camp. They are able to participate in a wide variety of fine arts classes including percussion class, vocal ensemble, dance, songwriting and musical theatre. At FAME Camp they are able to be themselves and express themselves in a safe and supportive environment.

I went to Camp Potawotami myself for FAME Camp and love that my children and I can relate to each other’s camp stories. It is a shared experience that we can talk about together with smiles on our faces. My children gain valuable life experiences, independence and self-confidence. At camp they learn many lessons about friendships, manners and responsibilities that are translated into our family’s daily activities.

Camp has impacted our lives immensely. Ryder and Franki look forward to camp every year and love telling their stories from their experiences all year long. The experiences and life lessons they gain are priceless and we are grateful for financial assistance.  I would encourage people to apply for financial aid.” - Autumn

Amber's Story

“There are no words that can articulate the incredible impact the Jorgensen Family YMCA has had on my life and the lives of the children who live with me. As a single mom the Y provides an affordable and safe place for my son and my foster children to learn, grow and have fun.

This is where my foster children learned to swim, where they spend countless hours playing basketball and climbing the rock wall. Without affordable activities, summer programs, and before and after school programs I wouldn’t be able to be a foster parent. It means so much to me that the Y staff know my children by name and invest in relationships with them. My 6 year old often tells me not to pick him up so early!

While everyone at the Y is wonderful to work with, I especially appreciate staff members such as Natalie, Jen and Tobi. As a bonus, I utilize child watch, which allows me to work out and swim laps without worrying about the kiddos. If it were not for the YMCA providing a Christian environment for my children to grow, my family would not be the same.” - Amber

Teri's Story

“In August, I came to the Parkview Family YMCA asking if your facility would be able to help my daughter who was being released from the hospital. I came to you because she needs physical therapy, occupational therapy, and water therapy. The first two we can do some at home, but we needed a gym and pool to finish. Our only option was reaching out to the Y. I knew that we did not qualify for financial assistance, so I prayed about it and here we are. You were so very generous and God brought me to you because I was at a breaking point and needed someone to say (without saying) “we can help”..... Your generosity was an answered prayer for my daughter. Not only did you give her a membership, but you gave one to my family. We took full advantage of this wonderful gift.

I have been reminded by your generosity, God certainly answers prayers!

There is a new YMCA being built across the street from our addition in Northeast Fort Wayne. With the facility being so close to our house, it will be a blessing. I would like to apply for a part time job and we’ve talked to our kids about getting jobs there, too. We prefer that our kids work somewhere that they are making a difference.  

We have learned in these last few months that the Y is SO much more than just a gym. You truly have helped our family out.”  -Teri

Our Member's Story

Titus has been a member of the YMCA for over 15 years. In 2010, after the tragic loss of his mother, he found himself at his highest weight ever. He battled depression and other bad habits during this period of his life. As a result, he stopped his normal workout routine at the Old Fort YMCA.

After saying enough is enough, he has found himself back at the YMCA. He feels that the environment is calming and supportive along with other members who also have their own personal goals. He feels more motivated and informed when he is working out and participating at the Y. Because Titus is on a fixed income, the support he has received through the financial assistance program has allowed him and his family to be a part of various programs including the Y’s Obesity Wellness Network (OWN) where he gets personal attention and support from Y staff. Even after he has graduated from OWN, he will be able to receive financial assistance and continue his membership with his family.

Alicia's Story

Before joining the YMCA in 2015, Alicia knew that some things in her life needed to change. At first, she set a goal to lose weight, but she didn’t know that this journey would lead to much more than that.

“By running, lifting weights, and taking some cardio classes I have lost 110 pound since I joined the Y. Because I’m able to be around others who are there changing their lives it has helped motivate me. I brought my children to the Y and they participate in Pound and Zumba with me while my younger children have fun in Kids Club and Child Watch.

My two older boys have benefited from working out with me which has lead them toward a healthier lifestyle. By interacting with and making new friends at the Y my children have improved their social skills. They look forward to coming to the Y and being with people they care about and who care about them.

The Y is a place for us to come and clear our minds and replace thoughts with fun and energetic activities. The Y staff have shared healthy eating ideas for me and my family. I have been able to take what I have learned and teach my kids and show them how exercising can be fun and make you feel so much better.

We have met so many staff that my children absolutely love. From the staff who run Kids Club, to Starre and Samara, to hugs from Tyler, I love how all the staff have learned to know who I am and who I am as a person because I feel like I am able to have conversations about anything.

I love the relationships that I have created with all the class instructors too. Overall it is a great feeling when you walk into someplace and people basically welcome you with open arms. Now, I can’t imagine it any other way.” -Alicia

Candace's Story

“As the pastor of Charis House and a YMCA instructor, I wanted to share this note that Monike, a Charis House resident recently gave me about her excitement over her Y family membership. I have seen her involve her family in her journey at the Charis House and the Y so that they can learn from her experience, exercise and do some positive things together. Monike has told me about the struggles of her son and how this is helping him in his own recovery since he looks forward to their “Y” time. Being part of this has warmed my heart as I have watched how the group and now the Y membership are helping Monike in her own recovery.”


My family and I would like to give our gratitude for our memberships. One of your employees noticed that I was from the Charis House group and that I keep coming every Monday and Friday to work out to the best of my abilities. I kept trying to get a membership, but I couldn’t afford one. As the months went on I continued to work hard. I also kept hoping for a cheaper rate so my whole family could come to the YMCA. 
One day, a friendly young man at the front desk offered to work with me on getting a cheaper rate that I could afford. He would show me a rate and he knew by looking at my facial expression that it was still too high. So each time I came we kept trying to look at different discounts, my income, and how many members were in my family. 
He asked me a lot of questions and eventually showed me one I knew I could afford. My face lit up and I told him I would take it! I just wanted to say thank you for the time and effort that your company has invested in helping my family and I.
-Thanks from the Hedke, Taylor, and Greyer Family

“My goal by offering lady residents a Y membership was to help expose them to something healthy (another tool) that can aid in their healing mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  It never occurred to me that it would affect the rest of the family whom do not reside at The Mission. To watch this unfold with my own eyes is beautiful.

I still hear Monike tell the other ladies how encouraging it is to know that the employees at the Y actually notice them. I know this helps with their self-esteem to know in a place of business, they are seen as real people who matter.  I smile when I see their faces light up and know Monike is not the only one who is thankful for her Y membership.

I also want to say thank you. As an instructor at the Y and an employee of The Rescue Mission this collaboration is bringing about real change in our community. I have felt strongly in letting you know the difference you are making in others’ lives.”

Candace (Candy) Moore

Rhonda's Story

Before joining the Skyline YMCA Rhonda was somewhat active as she would take walks around the Parkview Field concourse with her friend Yolanda. Even though she was doing some physical activity she felt that she needed more motivation to maintain a consistent routine. She also needed guidance with her nutrition habits, especially when it came to making healthier choices and choosing the right foods when shopping.
As Rhonda inquired at the YMCA she learned about our Financial Assistance Program and was inspired that with our help she would be able to join the Y and begin her wellness journey. She was impressed not only with the atmosphere of the facility but also was impressed with the friendliness of the staff.
She was immediately connected with two of our staff, Todd and Julie. Todd, one of our Personal Trainers, worked with Rhonda on developing an exercise routine that would keep her motivated and encouraged to come to the Y. Because of Todd’s help and guidance Rhonda has developed a habit of visiting the Y 5 times per week. Rhonda has noticed more overall energy, stamina, and has also lost weight.
When the weather doesn’t allow her to come to Skyline she uses the Renaissance Pointe Y for her activity. She likes the fact that having a membership with the Y allows her access to other facilities.
Rhonda also began working with Julie, our Nutrition Coach, to assess her current nutrition habits and with her help, guidance and support Rhonda has learned healthier eating habits and how to balance out her food intake. Julie also took time to work with Rhonda on how to determine better food choices at the grocery store.
Because of what we have done to help Rhonda out she wanted to return the favor. When we started our Y’s Togetherhood® Volunteer program in the Fall Rhonda was one of the first ones to sign up to volunteer for our first two projects. Rhonda knows how it feels to receive help, support and encouragement, and because of the Y’s generosity she wanted to do something to help the Y in return. She wants to continue to volunteer for future Togetherhood® projects and is grateful to the Y staff for keeping her motivated and encouraged to continue on her wellness journey.

Gary's Story

“My daughter, Abby, began participating in the Y’s afterschool care program at her school this year. As a parent of a child who was just beginning kindergarten, certain fears entered my mind. The fear that stood out the most was leaving my child in the care of people that I never met, strangers. As a protective father, I didn’t like the thought of putting my daughter into an environment where she might be scared because she would be in a new school surrounded by strangers and “daddy” not being there to protect her.
I believe we live in a world where mediocrity has become the standard. A world of doing “just enough” is OK. When it comes to the safety, wellbeing and care of my daughter, mediocrity and just enough are not acceptable. Anything less than the very best from anyone who cares for my daughter, is simply not good enough.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Y staff members, Gina, Victoria, Malory and Elexus. These four have not only exceeded my expectations, but have set a standard by which (in my view) all should follow. They are caring, educated, engaged and informed. They take time to let me know how Abby is doing, while allowing me time to ask any questions I have. I have the highest confidence in their abilities to resolve any situations that might come up. They provide an environment that is safe, clean and the children are well cared for. I don’t ever see them just sitting around.
They are all continuously engaging with the children, playing games, helping with homework or just reading a book. The children who attend the Y After school care are fortunate to have these four be part of their development process. Thank you Gina, Victoria, Malory and Elexus. Thank you for being who you are and caring for our children.”

The YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. The YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne is a registered 501 (c)(3) organization, Tax ID # 35-0886850, and contributions are tax deductible.