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Physical activity is something I have always enjoyed and prioritized throughout my life, so I was devastated when I became disabled a year ago. I was in debilitating pain from my sciatica, fibromyalgia, and arthritis in my knees and lower back. I tried so hard to continue working, but in the end, I had to go on disability as the pain was just too much to continue with my job. I was suffering and it constantly felt like I had the flu.

The adjustment period was extremely hard on my mental wellbeing. I was suddenly very limited in what I could do physically and financially. I went swimming the odd time to keep active but couldn’t afford much else. I am normally a very positive person, but I sometimes found myself slipping into a dark place and the pandemic certainly didn’t help. 

Shortly after our community started reopening, my friend encouraged me to try the Downtown Y with her. I knew I needed to get out of the house for my mental health, so I agreed to a free trial assuming it would be short lived. I knew it was what I desperately needed but assumed I wouldn’t be able to afford an ongoing membership. 

I absolutely loved the staff, atmosphere, and facility right away. The place had such a community feel to it and everyone was so friendly. The staff were always cleaning, and it made me feel safe and gave me a reason to get out of the house during this strange time. I really didn’t want my experience to end after my trial but just couldn’t work out how I could afford to keep going. Disability pays so little. 

I became hopeful when I saw a sign for YMCA financial assistance within the facility. I asked Neil, one of the managers, about it, and the kindness I received still makes me tear up. He went out of his way to help me with my application for financial assistance but most importantly, he believed in me, he cared, and he sincerely wanted me to join. 

I cried when he told me I qualified, it really meant the world to me. I was so grateful to have a subsidized membership that I could afford. 

Now I come in three times a week with my workout buddy and it’s had substantial effects on my mental and physical health. The Downtown Y is my happy place. It has provided me with a healthy routine, sense of community, and a safe place to get out to during the pandemic. I’ve been to many different gyms and the Downtown Y is one of the nicest, friendliest, and cleanest gyms I’ve been to.

Hollis with a big smile

Honestly, if I couldn’t come to the Downtown Y, I would be in a very dark place. I wouldn’t be able to do much. I am still in constant pain, but this place helps and gives me something to look forward to. Those who donate have given me the opportunity to work on my health and it really means the world to me. 

Our society is suffering, we need to be healthier both mentally and physically. The pandemic has only compounded this; everyone just seems off these days. Donating to the Y gives more people the opportunity to change themselves on a greater level. 

This place is not just a gym, it’s a community and donating so others can access this place is truly incredible.