What's Your Y Story?

Every day, the YMCA of the Treasure Coast makes a lasting impact on the lives of those it serves. 

Below are stories of Y members and their journeys. These stories are just a few illustrations of how the YMCA of the Treasure Coast is able to impact lives and the overall well-being of individuals and families through Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, and Indian River Counties each and every day! 

Over the past 18 years, CharLea has taken just about every group exercise class that our YMCA has to offer! She loves the variety of classes and all the instructors! “I think the Y has the best instructors, they are all fun and the music is always great!”

CharLea can’t go a day without coming to the Y, “I take a group exercise class every day, it’s just how I have to start my day”.

She joined our Y when her oldest son, Scott, was very young and has stayed with us because the Y is so family-oriented. “I know everybody, and everyone knows us and it’s like a big family!” Both her sons have grown up at the Y and have participated in our Youth Soccer and Homeschool P.E. programs as well as swim lessons.

CharLea and her 15-year-old son, Luke, both participated in our new 5-week Fit Zone Challenge 4 days a week with trainer Seth and Kathy’s Level Up classes every Friday. Luke learned a lot and lost 20 pounds in those 5 short weeks! Luke now plans to continue his fitness journey throughout the school year with more group exercise classes and personal training sessions!

Alicia’s roots run deep at our YMCA! She has been a member for over 36 years and attended our Summer Camp program long before our building was even built. She later became a Summer Camp Counselor as well as a volunteer! And now she has continued the tradition with her 11-year-old daughter, Micaela, who has been attending our afterschool and summer camp programs since she graduated from our preschool! Thank you, Alicia, for making us a part of your family!
Fred Shaffer is a walking miracle. Battling health issues his whole life and taking medications to combat those health issues was something that wasn’t new to Fred. At age 50, he decided he wanted to make a health change and began to workout. 6 months later, he had a heart attack while waiting for a flight to Colorado. It was minor, thankfully, and once recovered, he tried to workout again. As he slowly started back in the gym, he began to notice that he wasn’t able to get his heart rate above 120bpm. Back to the cardiologist he went, where he learned that his main artery had a 90% blockage. His first heart surgery consisted of 2 stents being put in and a loss of 20% of his heart muscle. For the next 10-15 years, Fred battled numerous health problems including congestive heart failure, diverticulitis and a tumor on his kidney. Due to his medical knowledge from being a former paramedic, Fred knew that he needed a lifestyle change if he wanted to survive. He was struggling with the simplest of tasks. “I would walk up the stairs to the second floor, where my office was. But I would have to stop on the middle landing to catch my breath”, he said. At that point, he joined the YMCA, and began personal training. His personal trainer taught him proper workout techniques, great form, and how to work out safely throughout multiple surgeries, which led to a quicker than normal recovery time. Now in his 70s, Fred is unrecognizable and in the best shape of his life! He continues to train and he said he has more energy and muscle tone now than when he did at 18. When asked if he had any advice for our members, Fred spoke with no hesitation. “It’s never too late to have a lifestyle change. Don’t ever give up”, he said “On the days that you don’t want to be here, those are the most important days to be here. You just got to push yourself through it.” One of this favorite things about the Y is the atmosphere here. “Everyone here at the Y is just themselves, it’s so much more comfortable than other gyms I’ve been in. Working out, it’s all a matter of discipline. A trainer is worth the money. If you do it wrong and you don’t get results or you hurt yourself, it’s counterproductive. Go with a trainer for sure”

If you frequent the YMCA in the morning, you know Bob Massey. A Floridian since 1995, Bob’s infectious personality and welcoming demeanor will instantly make you feel at ease. When he and his wife first moved to the area, they didn’t really have a gym to call home, they weren’t familiar with the Y, and thanks to a tip from our very own Rae Ford, the YMCA quickly became a large part of their lives. “Everyone at the Y has become our extended family. Many people use that as a loose term, and I didn’t realize how important that was until I got sick and had to have my kidney removed. My extended YMCA family banded around me and really helped me get through that tough time, and they were a large part of my recovery”. 4 days after getting out of the hospital, Bob was back at the Y and although slow moving, his spirits were high. He credits his quick recovery to his Y family. He said that he knew if he didn’t recover, he would be letting his family down, and there was no way he could let that happen. In the following weeks, Bob was back on his regular fitness schedule, back in classes, and back with his friends and trainers that he loves most. 

Bob says there are many factors that contributed to him joining the Y 25 years ago. “The accessibility to anything you want to do here is huge! Whether it be the pool, the weights, the classes, they have it all. However, one of the most motivating factors for us to become members here was really how much work the YMCA does for the community. It’s more than just a gym that collects money, they actually do give back!”, said Bob. “We were very fortunate to make a very good living and when the time came to give back, giving to the YMCA was the obvious choice. There’s a lot of individuals who need help right in our own backyard, and how do you choose who needs what? The Y does a great job of finding those individuals who need the most help, providing services that they need the most, such as scholarships for childcare, membership, youth sports and swim lessons”. Last year alone, the YMCA was able to give out over $200,000 in scholarships back to the community and provide a safe, educational and fun environment where all are welcome.

FAMILY is a common theme that you’ll hear around the Y. Many families bring their kids here for summer camp or swim lessons, and when those kids are grown and have their own kids, we see them too. Some families participate in more than just camp and swim. Some families raise their kids here at the YMCA. The Coopers are one of those families.

Shannon and Bryce Cooper and their kids, Julian, Otis and Lyla, have been coming to the Y for years. “We really wanted to raise our kids with a sense of community, a place that we could go to as a family and be active together. The Y is practically in our backyard and it had everything we were looking for and more,” Shannon said. The kids started off in childwatch while their mom and dad went to work out. Over the years their involvement transitioned into sports and they’ve been able to participate in every single one. Not only do they participate, but Bryce Cooper has coached over 20 seasons of sports here at the Y, including basketball and soccer. The family even comes in together on the weekends to play pickleball and Julian likes to participate in the teen strength and conditioning class. “We love the Y and we love everything the Y has been able to teach our kids. They’ve learned how to be apart of a team, how to develop relationships and become leaders. As they’ve watched their dad coach, they’ve even started to emulate the leader that he is and have helped him assistant coach”, Shannon said. This has helped them develop leadership skills at a really young age. “Not only have my kids developed lifelong skills, but we’ve made lifelong friends through our time at the Y. Our closest friends are the people that we do things with at the Y and being members here has been a great experience for the entire family”.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time, but they have the heart” – Elizabeth Andrews. Here at the Y, we’re so blessed to have the most amazing group of volunteers, with the biggest hearts. Joan Wilding is one of those volunteers. Joanie and her husband came to Stuart in the Mid 80’s, where they raised 2 daughters. The YMCA played a big role in their kids lives, as both attended Teddy Bear Academy (back when it was the original school in the back of the Y) and received a high-quality education. As a family, health was always a priority, and as their family grew up and moved out, Joanie decided that a more permanent change needed to be made. With the empty nest and at the suggestion of a friend, she came back to the Y and started swimming, doing various exercises and using the treadmill, eventually transitioning into doing Drums Alive, Strong by Zumba and Pickleball. It was with the arrival of her first grandchild that she realized how truly important staying physically strong really is. “I play a big role in my granddaughters life,” Mrs. Joanie said. “And I don’t want my age to slow me down.”

Mrs. Joanie has always loved kids, and that was her motivation behind her volunteer work at the Y. “Kids are so impressionable, so funny and loveable. It’s important they know how much they matter. It goes such a long way when someone knows their name and gives them a hug…it means a lot to them” Joan said. She said all the teachers she’s worked with at the Y are great, but they can always use an extra hand. She’s even able to volunteer from home, by designing and preparing construction paper art projects for the upcoming week. She enjoys going on field trips and loves the excitement the kids get from even riding the bus! “Helping the children…it’s fun for me. Their faces light up when I enter the classroom. I hope, in someway, that I help make school fun for them. Teachers, students, fitness instructors, volunteers…we all make a difference in each other’s lives!”

Ms. Lynn Merritt has volunteered in our garden every week since we opened it 3 years ago and has generously donated many plants from her own garden! Not to mention, her husband graciously designed and built all the trellises and low beds you see there today! Lynn has also served on our annual campaign committee to help raise funds for scholarships to provide all children and families in our community access to our programs and services. Thank you Lynn for sharing your time and passion with us! 

Our 2022 Easter House winner, Richard Kefauver, has been buying tickets since he first moved to Stuart in 2004. He has since then relocated to Maryland where he has been raising his two grandchildren on his own after the tragic loss of his daughter. Richard would have loved to move back to Florida, but he decided to take the alternative cash prize to support his family! His granddaughter is a freshman in college studying Early Childhood Education while working at a childhood development center with preschool-aged children. And his grandson is an honors student that has been accepted into the Barbara Ingram School for gifted art students in high school. We wish them all the best!

Our 2021 winner, Theresa Marett, has dreamt of winning the Easter House since she was a teenage! Every year her parents would buy tickets and they would tour the Easter House with her 8 siblings dreaming which room would be theirs. She and her siblings continued the tradition for 30 years, teasing each other each year about who was going to win. So of coarse when she finally got the call that she had won she didn’t believe it and thought her siblings were playing a prank on her!

Hundreds of children drown each year in Florida.  Many of these children are being supervised by adults when this happens.  At the Y it is at the core of our mission to teach children to swim.

Six -year-old Noah was no exception.  When he came to  Summer Camp he could not pass the swim test.  Seeing that this upset Noah,  Mr. Adam  his counselor took it upon himself to work with Noah on his swimming skills while his friends were playing.  Within a week of  working with Mr. Adam, Noah could pass the swim test.

Noah came a long way from the start of camp.  He is now swimming with his friends all the while strengthening his skills,  his body and  his confidence.    Y Summer Camp is impacting the youth of our community in all aspect of their lives and tipping the  odds in their favor. 

Makaya was 7 years old when she started coming to Y summer camp. Her mother Denise, a working mother, needed to find a nurturing environment that could provide Makaya with structure, friends and fun. They both needed a safety net as they dealt with stressful times at home, but finances were difficult. Makaya was able to attend camp because her family qualified for the YMCA’s income-based scholarship program. Over the course of the summer, the quiet, withdrawn little girl began to smile again as she made new friends. And her mother was able to relax at work knowing that her daughter was in an environment that she felt safe and cared about. 

Many kids are home alone after school, where they aren’t able to get help with homework or participate in healthy activities. These kids are at a much greater risk of dropping out or getting into trouble by the time they are teens. Phillip needed help, so his father Richard, a single parent, enrolled him in the Y’s afterschool program. Phillip benefited from the program structure and solid educational foundation. His reading progressed from level three to level eight in one semester. Our afterschool program is just one way the Y helps turn potentially at-risk kids into productive adults.  

When Tessa started high school, she was too shy to speak in public. By the time she graduated, she was an accomplished debater, high academic achiever, and more than prepared to tackle political science as her major at Florida State University. Tessa’s parents were amazed by her transformation while participating in the Y’s Youth in government program. YIG prepares students to become engaged in civic life. Students learn that to lead, they must first learn to serve. With YIG, one awkward young teen became a confident young woman, determined to make a difference! 

Too many children enter kindergarten unprepared and unready to learn. The Y’s VPK program ensures our youngest members get the foundation they need to succeed in kindergarten – and beyond. It can be a struggle for any parent to meet a child’s developmental needs but it was particularly tough for Nadia’s mother, Carinne, who herself was in school and trying to build a better life for herself and her daughter. Nadia had the Y on her side and she was ready for school. 

Franlene Torres has been a trainer here at the Y for a little over a year. She has trained clients of all ages, sizes, skill levels and goals, but no one has made an impact on her quite like Kevin Hempel. Kevin has autism and growing up, he never liked to exercise. “We have a bike at home, and we knew he liked to use that, but he needs more than that”, said Jo, Kevin’s mother. “We really wanted to get him out of the house and get him socializing in the community and we thought working with a trainer might be a good fit”. When they came to the Y and met with Franlene, it became a match made in heaven. “Kevin hit it off with Franlene right away”, Jo said. “He looks forward to exercising every week. His walking and posture have improved, he’s sleeping better, even his social skills have improved. When you have a son who is differently abled, it’s very important to find a trainer that they click with, and Kevin and Franlene just click”.

When Franlene first met Kevin, she was so impressed with his motivation and drive. “Kevin counts all his reps out loud and it really pushes him to finish the set, which I really appreciate,” Franlene said. She also said that she was amazed with how quickly he picked up on the exercise and proper form. She recalls where he was at when he started compared to how far he’s come, and she said the transformation is night and day. “Kevin started off slowly on the treadmill, and every week I’ve been able to increase the speed with him and even add in an incline! We dance to Madonna (which happens to be Kevin’s favorite), we work on the treadmills and the machines, and Kevin even swims after his workouts. He’s truly amazing.” Franlene isn’t the only one being affected by Kevin’s infectious energy. Staff at the YMCA look forward to Thursday’s because they know that they’ll hear Kevin’s booming voice and charming personality when he steps through the front doors. “Kevin has impacted my life in so many ways. He’s always so happy, and he’s taught me that no matter what you can or can’t do, no matter what you’re going through, you get up and you fight, every single day. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything”.

Judith and her husband Dan grew up as Y kids before moving to Stuart from Chicago. They were frequently seen at the Y until Dan passed. Judith stopped coming to enjoy the programs and her friends because her financial circumstances had changed so much. Elders can become isolated and depressed when they find themselves along and on a limited income. At the Y, we provide income-based scholarship assistance. When you join the Y, your membership fees keep the doors open and the lights on. When you give to the Y, you invite everyone inside. 

Miranda wanted desperately to lose weight and get her diabetes under control. With three kids and a job working nights, she found it difficult to find time for herself. She tried different gyms, but never found the support she needed to stick it out. Miranda qualified for financial assistance at the Y where she received a family membership. With her kids at the Y, she met other moms and decided to try some group exercises classes. She started losing weight, gaining more energy and feeling better. More importantly, Miranda has made new friends who help keep her on track as she builds a healthier lifestyle. 

Share Your Y Story!

Whether you come to the Y to work, play or give, we want to know what the Y means to you! Share your own story about the Y! We may even include your story in a video or newsletter!