Stories of Impact

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Real Members...Real Stories

We are committed to transforming the lives of all people we serve. We want to celebrate the positive impact our staff, volunteers and programs have had on your life or the life of someone that is close to you.

Deborah's story

Deborah Swenson - KMYMCA Story of ImpactDear Healthy Community Foundation and Kettle Moraine YMCA,

This week Wednesday was my last meeting for the Pre-diabetes Prevention program. I am proud to say that I am a graduate of the first class that the Kettle Moraine YMCA conducted. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been selected to participate in this program. I was on a collision course for diabetes. I had gestational diabetes earlier in my life, I had two grandmothers with diabetes, and I was overweight, underactive and had a borderline A1C.

Words can never express my gratitude for this life changing event that has happened to me. You see, when I began that Wednesday evening back in November 2012, I walked in as a depressed, overweight, individual who had just had knee surgery 6 weeks prior. I could hardly walk one mile at the time.When we introduced ourselves that night, I found myself beginning to cry when we were supposed to say what our hobbies were or what we liked to do. You see, I had nothing. I literally saw nothing good in my life much less had any hobbies. My days of volunteering were long over with our youngest graduating in 2011; I spent the majority of my evenings on the couch, in my jammies at 6:30 pm.

Today, twelve months later, twelve life changing months later, you will find me not on the couch at 6:30 p.m., you will find me at the YMCA in water jogging or water walking, on an elliptical, or maybe the circuits, or possibly a treadmill…..walking and/or running up to 4 miles at times! RUNNING!!! I can hardly believe I am saying that word, because I have not been able to run for years and I thrive on being able to run now! I am proud to say I have a hobby now, it is called "taking care of myself, it is called fitness, it is called being healthy and happy. But the results go farther than how I feel, I am no longer on my high blood pressure medication, my A1C has dropped, my lipid panel came back with a remarkable improvement, this program gave me the skills to lead a healthier life.

We were long time YMCA members, with the economy and its down turn, my family faced a loss of income that we have yet to recover from. We were forced to cancel our membership and I would have never been able to afford to become a member again. If it weren't for this program and the membership that came along with the program, being at "no cost", I wouldn't have been able to participate. I wanted you to put a story behind one of the success' of this program. I have lost 30 lbs., but I have gained so much more! I have new friends that I met at the Y, (workout buddies), I have a new self confidence that I had lost, and I have a healthy fighting chance at a healthier me, one that will hopefully not become diabetic. As my life coach Karin says, it's not about the "number on the scale, it's about how you feel". I feel fabulous and I have a second chance at healthier life now.

Please extend my sincere gratitude to those that made this program possible. I have a new outlook on life and I have the Kettle Moraine YMCA and the Healthy Community Foundation to thank for that.

With deepest gratitude,
Deborah Swenson

Tom's story

Tom Griffith - KMYMCA Story of ImpactTom Griffith knew he needed to make some changes in his health 11 years ago. He had just lost in the semifinals at Nationals for racquetball and felt completely beat down. Exhausted and a bit defeated he knew that in order to win he needed to focus more on his physical training and nutrition.

"I thought, I need to be rugged," said Tom. In the back of his mind though, Tom knew that becoming as fit and healthy as he needed to be to become a National Champion would be no easy feat. Years ago he was diagnosed with an intestine disorder called Ulcerative Colitis.

"At one point had lost 70 pounds and started to think, I'm dying," recalls Tom. Ever since it has been a constant battle to get his body back into working condition. In order to get into peak physical condition, Tom knew he would need help from people who understood his health limitations and would help him to work around them to accomplish his goal of becoming a National Champion.

Through his friends at the Kettle Moraine YMCA he was referred to Chris Delcamp, a personal trainer at the Y. Once Tom learned that like him, Chris had a competitive spirit, he instantly signed up for some sessions.

"I knew he could push me not only physically but mentally," said Tom. "More than once I heard, 'are you hurt? No, than keep going.' It was what I needed." Every week Chris and Tom worked together in the weight room doing strength and core training.

Tom also met with the Y's Registered Dietitian, Patti Schmid,t at the beginning of the year. She made him more aware of foods and nutrition and what would be good and bad for his Ulcerative Colitis. Since starting his sessions with Chris and meeting with Patti, Tom has lost 30 pounds and has gained more muscle.

Chris and Patti, however, were not the only people at the Y that pushed Tom towards his goal.

"From people at the front desk to the racquetball community here, everyone knew about my goal and gave me grief about it," laughs Tom. "It was what I needed."

"He made his goal public, which is a big help in accomplishing it," said Chris. "It holds you accountable for your actions."

After months of training and preparation, Tom headed out to Fullerton California in May for the Singles Men's 50+ Division A National Championships. The tournament bracket boasted 16 Division A competitors and was held over four days. At the end, Tom was the last man standing.

"Everything went according to plan and preparation," said Tom. "After eight weeks of training with Chris, I was never in doubt of my fitness." Eleven years after losing in the semifinals, Tom was the National Champion.

Although he feels on top of the world and admits that he was tempted to sleep with his medal around his neck for a couple weeks, Tom says that he owes a lot of credit to the Y.

"It has been a real victory for the Y," said Tom. "All my friends are here and I truly believe that this place is a village of victory." Since all of the support and "verbal bashing" helped him win Nationals, Tom figures that it can only aid him in achieving future goals.

He is currently training, with Chris, for the MS Bike Ride that takes place in August. The event is a 150-mile ride that will occur over a span of two days that raises money for finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

And the MS Bike Ride isn't all he's training for. He's also getting ready for the US Open Racquetball Championships in Minneapolis in October. Unlike the National Championships in California, the US Open is an international tournament that will include some of the top players from all over the world.

Although it's a tall order, Tom is up for the challenge of both events.

"At 50 I feel as good as I did at 35. I mean, why do we have to go downhill from here?"

Amy's story

Amy Leitheiser - KMYMCA Story of ImpactThe Road To Boston
A local woman's journey to conquering her dreams.

She started to call herself a runner in November 2003. It was then that West Bend resident Amy Leitheiser ran in the 15K Turkey Trot with some friends from the Kettle Moraine YMCA.

"They were veteran runners and had run marathons before," said Leitheiser.

They also spoke in hushed tones of the mystique and high honor or qualifying to run the Boston Marathon.The group of runners was so inviting and friendly that even though she was so sore after her first run, she went back the next week. As time passed her new friends talked her into running a half marathon.

"It was pretty impressive," said Leitheiser. "It truly felt like a wonderful accomplishment, but I knew in my heart that a full marathon was really beyond me and my wildest dreams." Her new appetite for running was satisfied for many years after the event, but once again came to the forefront when in 2010 a marathon came to her town.

Named the Eisenbahn Marathon for the trail that it follows, the full Marathon begins in the small town of Eden and ends in back of the Kettle Moraine YMCA River Shores location. Although the course periodically leaves the Eisenbahn Trail, the course always returns to the 25-mile route that extends from the historic city of West Bend into the scenic countryside of eastern Wisconsin.

It took weeks and months of anxiety to say it aloud, but after much debate she was finally able to say, "I'm going to run the Eisenbahn Marathon." Then after 14 weeks of solid, confidence boosting training, she had a revelation.

"I said, 'I think I can qualify for the Boston Marathon'," said Leitheiser. "Heck, being at my old age of 45 and a woman, the standards for qualifying were easier and really seemed within reach."

She was right. She not only finished the race on the sunny August day; she qualified for Boston.

"Everything just lined up on race day," said Leitheiser.

The next step was one ridden with apprehension and unease. Registering for Boston and then starting to train.

"The constant reminder that thousands of other people would kill to have this chance became one of my mantras that fueled the 5 runs per week training regimen," said Leitheiser. And the Wisconsin winter promised to make her work for every mile.

"All of January seemed to be below freezing wind chills or snowing. February wasn't any warmer, and in March we just kept wondering when it was going to be our official 'last cold run'", said Leitheiser. " I have to give gratitude to all my training partners, especially my husband and best friend, Ric, who ran with me in 0 degrees with 30mph wind gusts."

The 16-week long training plan took on a form of obsession for Leitheiser, who says she owes her family and friends for enduring her preoccupation with the event.

When the day finally came to fly out to Boston, Leitheiser and her husband went directly to the Expo to pick up her race bib, information packet and green participant bag. After registering they went sight seeing, where everywhere random strangers recognized the green bag and shouted words of encouragement.

"The whole city was geared up toward welcoming and cheering each person from start to finish," said Leitheiser. They continued to run into marathoners throughout the days leading up to the race.

Finally Monday morning came, and with perfect marathon running weather. The 70 minute bus ride to the race start in the quaint New England town of Hopkinton nearly psyched her out, but once she got to the Athlete's Village she got all geared up. She made fast friends with several women and discussed anything and nothing to pass the time leading up to the race.

Leitheiser was ready to go when her heat finally started. Although the first miles were slow and downhill, they weren't as easy as she thought.

"Sometimes during a run, you have a struggle at first, but it blossoms into a better feeling," she said.

The crowds and volunteers were amazing from the start. All the high fives from kids, the scream tunnel girls at Wellsley and the other 500,000 fans gave her a ton of energy and helped to carry her over those stretches.

The closer she got to Boston, the bigger and louder the crowds got, and the more her legs started to hurt.

"The last quarter mile was really cool and I did get emotional and choked up," said Leitheiser. "I was really euphoric."

She just made her finish time goal of under four hours. The medal, the finishers photo, recovery food and heat blanket were all a blur. Although they were only in Boston for only a few hours more, everywhere they went, she was able to share a secret smile with all the other finishers.

"We recognized each other easily by the slow careful steps, especially down hills and stairs. Immediately after, the pain made me say ' one and done, no more Boston for me', but now, I may have forgiven the course for the pain it caused me, and reconsider."

Kacie's story

Kacie - KMYMCA Story of ImpactI wanted to send a quick email to you all to say thank you! I have been on a wellness journey for a little over a year and your team has been such a big reason for my success. I have been working with Sue Funk, Lisa Joy and Patti and they have helped me reach my goal of "Triple F"...Fit, Fierce, Fantastic. These three wonderful ladies have been nothing short of amazing and I can't express how much of an impact they have had. These ladies are always positive, upbeat and caring. The passion for their work and positive change they have help me create is priceless. Thank you for having such high caliber individuals working at the Kettle Moraine Y and creating such a positive space. — Kacie Griffin

Irene's story

Irene - KMYMCA Story of ImpactThank You LIVESTRONG at the YMCA!

Eight years ago I was participating in many hour-long classes at the YMCA. I decided that I would have to quit the YMCA as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy I was too fatigued and weak to continue with the hour-long classes that I loved, so I joined Curves and a Tai Chi class. I continued with this until I was strong enough to join the YMCA again. I discovered that something new had been added. It was the River Shores location.

The half hour classes at River Shores helped me gain the strength to return to the hour-long classes I had loved in the past. River Shores is a great place to look into if you are returning to exercise after a break of whatever kind.

This year I started struggling with lymph edema in my left arm. I was directed to decrease the use of that arm, forcing me to quit many of the hour or half hour classes I had been participating in.

I recently learned of a new pilot program offered at River Shores called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. Because some of the personnel at the YMCA knew that I was a cancer survivor, I was asked to share my journey as a cancer survivor. I was recruited into the LIVESTRONG program and found it was a great fit for me and I would recommend it to others.

I am delighted with the new program, the personnel, and the concern the YMCA is taking to help others with cancer. I have found the program to be emotionally and spiritually nurturing along with helping with individual physical needs.

Pettke Family's story

Pettke Family - KMYMCA Story of ImpactMy husband and I continue to be pleased with the daycare program at the YMCA. Jordyn has been attending since she was about 9 months old and will soon turn 2 years old. I honestly cannot think of 1 negative thing that has happened since she has been attending. We were so amazed with the fact that she had started learning sign language with Missy and think it is awesome that these teachers go the extra mile to teach these children. We were recently at a friend's house actually on New Year's Day and when we were leaving Jordyn put her coat on all by herself and zippered it.

My friend was absolutely amazed at the fact that she knew how to do this as her daughter is 8 months older than Jordyn and can't accomplish this task yet. I will let you know that my husband and I had nothing to do with teaching her that. I think sometimes it's the little things that make us love the teachers at the Discovery Center; there are always cute little art projects coming home and my daughter continues to learn things I didn't know was possible at her age. I want to say thank you for all the love and patience they share with all of the children and I hope they know how much they mean to our family. As a parent it takes a lot of trust to let someone else care for your child and I have never been hesitant to leave Jordyn because I know the love she receives while at daycare.

Thanks Again to all the teachers we really appreciate it!

The Pettke Family

Bobby, Nicole, Macenzie and Jordyn

Steve's story

Steve Simon - KMYMCA Story of ImpactDear Mr. Johnson,

I am writing to you to let you know how pleased I have been with my Y membership this last year.  I joined the Kettle Moraine Y last May.  My motivation was that I was approaching one of those landmark birthdays, and I wanted to be in better shape.  Over the last 6 months I have worked-out at one of the West Bend Y facilities about 3 times a week.  I tend to use the River Shores facility more, but I do work out or attend a class at the main Y once or twice a week. 

First of all, I think the staff is outstanding.  They are all welcoming and always happy to be of help, and they all convey an extra sense of mission about their work.

What has been most important to me in developing and maintaining a lifestyle change has been the Y's Coaching program, and specifically my coach Nicola Patrinos.  I have made numerous attempts in the past to develop and maintain a fitness regimen without any long term success.  However, the changes I have made since beginning my work with Nicola at the Y have been truly exceptional (an opinion shared by my wife, my family, friends, and particularly, my doctor) and while I did the work, I have to give Nicola highest marks for her skill and support.  There is no question that today I am in much better shape than I was 10 years ago, and I am confident that I will continue to make progress moving forward 2011.        

Finally, I want to also say that I think the River Shores facility is great.  I have had previous fitness memberships, (both non-profit and for-profit) in Milwaukee and Chicago, and I believe the River Shores facilities (and the staff, of course) really stand-out.

Sincerely yours,

Steve Simon

We want to tell others in our community about the impact we are having on members like you. It is a much more powerful message when it comes from members. Would you take a few minutes to give us your thoughts?

Don't think you have a story to tell? Think again.

No story is too insignificant if it inspires just one other person to follow a path to better health and well-being.

Maybe you...

  • Ran or walked your first 5K
  • Can now fit into that old pair of blue jeans
  • Have a favorite group fitness class you never miss because of the friends you've made
  • Saw your son or daughter gain new confidence after participating in a Y Program
  • Achieved something you wouldn't have thought possible before joining the Y
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For questions or additional information, contact Shanna Leider, Membership & Marketing Director, at; 262-247-1017.

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