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Growing up, my family suffered greatly at the hands of my abusive and alcoholic father. My mother was a smart woman who had to methodically orchestrate our departure while my brother, sister and I were still young. After leaving she was free but was also a single mother with little money and a grade 10 education.

A week after moving to Sault Ste. Marie, we were able to join the YMCA because of their financial assistance program. It became our second home. My little brother, sister and I took part in every single program available and the staff helped take care of us. Although we lived in a bad neighborhood, the Y kept us busy and out of trouble. Our family ended up volunteering together at the Y, sometimes 40 hours a week before we got jobs.

The community, supports and sense of belonging my mother received at the Y were essential to her healing. She found a job at the Y and finished her high school education. She ended up working in member services, as did us kids. After a lot of hard work, she was also able to finish her college diploma and build a career in youth corrections.
The Y inspired me to pursue my education in recreation as I knew from an early age that I wanted to build a career with the Y. Over the years, I’ve worked in almost every single department. Once I became a mom, I made sure my two sons started participating in Y swim lessons as young as 3 months old. They are grown now but have both worked and volunteered at numerous YMCA’s and Y camps. 

After moving across the country and now working for the YMCA of Okanagan, I am again relying on the Y for a community to belong to. The Y has always been there for me and I continuously feel the need to return the favor by donating, volunteering, and working hard to keep this a sanctuary for so many families like mine. 

The Y kept my siblings and I off the streets, in a positive environment, and gifted us so many lifelong skills we wouldn’t have otherwise had. I have come full circle, being able to give back now, and it’s an incredible feeling.

Donating to the Y doesn’t just provide financial assistance. It provides access to a safe place and sense of belonging for struggling families and for many kids at risk of straying down the wrong path.