Empowering Our Local Community

Whether we’re a resource for a teen needing academic assistance, a place for a business professional to get a workout in, or even just a place for a senior to stay active and social, it’s clear to see the Y is a crucial resource for many people. As you watch these stories, you’ll see our focus on our Areas of Impact: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. We work hard every day to help young people to reach their full potential, ensure everyone has the opportunity to live their healthiest life, and provide support as well as inspire action in our communities.

Screenshot of Annette Franklin during her My Y Story interview as she sits in a group exercise room with equipment behind her.

Finding Her Sanctuary

“There are not many places available for moms where we can develop socially, spiritually, emotionally, and be able to give that back to our kids.”

Thanks to our Child Development Center, Annette was able to unwind while her child socialized with peers, both of them receiving the care and attention they deserved. YMCA believes in providing the best services to our members, which is why we offer two hours of free child care. This benefit changed her life and made a difference when she needed it most.

Group of teen basketball players hugging Coach Seth Millis

Beyond Winning Games

“If you’re here, you’re family.”

Coach Seth Millis approaches his role at the Y as more than just winning games. He prioritizes personal growth, character development, and creating a positive and inclusive environment for his players. Building strong relationships and fostering open communication, Seth instills values of teamwork, resilience, and sportsmanship. Seth’s impact extends beyond the field as he supports his players outside of practices and games, serving as a mentor and positive role model. For Seth, coaching at the Y is about making a lasting difference in the lives of his players beyond the final score.

Learning through Christian Values Conference

“It’s okay to be who you are and no one is going to judge you. That’s what really matters.”

Braxton is a past participant of the YMCA’s Christian Values Conference, a program that brings together teens from across the country to focus on spiritual, mental, and physical growth at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. We invite you to watch and listen to Braxton’s inspiring story as he talks about his CVC experience and how it has shaped him into the person he is today.

Helen working out on a elliptical at the YMCA of Central Florida

Creating Healthy Habits

“I wanted to show my daughter better habits.”

Helen is a full-time student and mom who enjoys coming to the Y for health and wellness. She says it’s all about setting an example for her daughter and showing her the importance of creating healthy habits.

Image of YMCA volleyball coach Odean Clarke throwing a volleyball up in a gym

Sharing Life Values

“It’s important to pay it forward. You don’t have to be a specialist in that sport. You just have to be willing. You just have to care.”

Coach Odean Clarke volunteers to make a difference in the lives of young athletes. In this heartfelt testimonial, Coach Odean shares how he believes in using volleyball as a tool to teach important life skills and values.

Image of Chondra on a treadmill at the Dr. P. Phillips YMCA while surrounded by windows and the sun shining on her face as she smiles

Finding Home through Community

Everyone has a story. Here at the Y, your story matters

To Chondra, the Y is more than just a gym. It’s a community. Through her extraordinary faith, Chondra moved to Central Florida during the pandemic to support her daughter through a hard time. She found the Dr. P. Phillips Y and from taking one class, she also found a second home.

Sports Director Alex Fernandez on the soccer field

Growing through Scholarships

“The Y has been a really impactful part of my life.”

The YMCA has been an important part of Alex’s life since he was a child. Thanks to the Y’s scholarship program, he and his family were able to come to the Y for wellness, sports, and community. Several years later, Alex now serves as the YMCA’s Regional Sports Director and Annual Giving Campaign Team Member Captain

Image of Coach Ruiz sitting in front of basketballs wearing a black YMCA Coach shirt

Showing Teamwork through Leadership

“As adults we owe it to our youth to instill in them, things like teamwork, problem-solving, and building their confidence.”

For Kevin Ruiz and Reverend Heather Heineman, coaching youth basketball is an important part of their life. They focus on teaching their players to regulate their emotions, teamwork, problem-solving, and other valuable life skills while making sure that they have good attitudes and enjoy the game.

Finding Friendship through Competition

“It’s not about competing, it’s about sharing moments together.”

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. For YMCA member Reinaldo Mercado, pickleball is more than just a sport. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage month, we invite you to watch Rei’s Y Story – exclusively in Spanish. ‘Pickleball’ es uno de los deportes con más rápido crecimiento en los Estados Unidos. Para Reinaldo Mercado, miembro de la YMCA, el ‘pickleball’ es más que un simple deporte. Honrando el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, lo invitamos a ver Rei’s Y Story – exclusivamente en español.

Sharing the Y with Family

“There’s a lot of freedom here. Freedom like you have in a family and I like that this is very much a family organization.”

For twin sisters Marjorie and Margaret, the YMCA is more than just a place to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. It’s also a way for them to pay it forward and help their neighbors in need.

Eliana swimming in YMCA swimming pool

Learning Lifesaving Water Safety Skills

“I just remember seeing her face down at the bottom of the pool and I jumped in to pull her out.”

Following a near-drowning experience at a friend’s swimming pool, Elisa knew she had to help her daughter learn lifesaving water safety skills. That’s when she stepped into our YMCA. Watch her powerful #MyYStory.

Image of man standing while woman is holding weighted medicine ball to throw to him as they stand in the gym's wellness floor

Achieving Healthy Living Together

“This is where you can come to clear your mind.”

Peter and Melinda Morales inspire each other to be the best version of themselves. Hear why they love coming to the YMCA to grow stronger in mind, body, and spirit.

Safe Start instructor holding toddler in the pool who is excited to be swimming

Confidence with Water Safety

“It’s my responsibility to make sure they have the skills and knowledge and the comfort in the water to save themselves and just be confident.”

After taking life-saving swim lessons at the Y as a kid, Blake Broadhurst sought out the same level of water safety instruction for his children. Blake and Lindsay share how they now feel confident in their children’s ability to be safe in and around water.

Image of YMCA Metro Board Member Evan Wyant

Finding a Safe Place

“Simply put: I support the Y because the Y supports me…everything the Y does helps strengthen our neighborhoods and the people who live here.”

Growing up as a Y kid, Evan Wyant experienced this great community first-hand. Now a YMCA of Central Florida Board Member & 2022 Annual Support Campaign Chair, Evan grows as a part of the YMCA community in a new way.

Image of Brittany Tilley high-fiving a Y Team member in front of fitness equipment

Living the Mission

“Understanding what the Y’s mission is and what its goal is, I realized that I was the mission and I was the goal as a kid.”

From a YMCA scholarship recipient and camper to Board Chair at the Frank DeLuca YMCA Family Center, Brittani Tilley explains why she has stuck with the Y for more than a decade.

Photo of Gina Clark smiling as she talks to YMCA of Central Florida team member

Discovering a Sense of Community

“You feel okay because there are other people, in classes or the pool, who are kind of at the same level you are. Then you watch them progress, as well as yourself. It becomes a giant group hug after a few months because it becomes your community.”

In her search for community, Gina Clark has found a new group of close friends through the YMCA. Working through rheumatoid arthritis has been a challenge, but Gina has been able to overcome the feeling of isolation and grow closer to her YMCA family through movement and group exercise.

Finding Passion & Purpose

“Not only has the Y helped me live a healthy lifestyle physically, but it has helped me life a healthy lifestyle mentally and emotionally. It’s helped me discover my passion and my purpose. This organization has been instrumental in the growth of the person that I’ve become.”

In 1999, Vinny Huff first joined the YMCA for the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma. Now over 20 years later, Vinny continues to grow in spirit, mind, and body as a part of our Y family.

A Lifelong Legacy at the Y

“Pickleball, to start with, is fitness and fun rolled into one. If you try it, you’ll wind up meeting people that you may have never met.”

Andy Pawlowski loved to play Pickleball at the Y with his late wife, Bonnie. Now, everyone who steps onto the court will be reminded of their special bond for generations to come.

Getting Peace of Mind

“I felt like they needed to learn quickly because my younger son loves water, but I didn’t feel safe with him in it yet.”

When Isaura Monegro and her family moved from the Dominican Republic, one of her top priorities was enrolling her sons in swim lessons. She’s now more confident than ever about her sons being safe around water.

Enjoying Amenities & Supporting Scholarships

“Even if I’m not able to come in… I know that what I spend here is going back into the community.”

Brad and Nathan Hager frequently visit their YMCA to take advantage of the variety activities like pickleball, group exercise classes, and swimming. What’s most important to them, though, is that they know their memberships support Y scholarships.

Changing Lives with Volunteering

“I can say for certain that my volunteering has changed my life for the better, and given me an appreciation for our community.”

Jeff Deery is a YMCA volunteer who has dedicated his time to helping serve his neighbors. He knows that as a volunteer, he’s helping to spread the Y’s mission and support to communities that need it most.

Growing a Support System

“Not only do I get a great workout, I see a lot of friends here. You start to build relationships with people and they do become like family.”

Susan has been a Y member for more than 30 years, often arriving as the doors are opening each day. She’s become part of a tight-knit family of Y members who not only exercise together, but also experience both the joys and the hard times together.

Joining for Fitness, Staying for Friendship

“There are a lot of seniors here that come every day like me, and we’ve become friends. Not only gym friends, but friends on the outside as well.”

Vanda Knowles has been a member of the Titusville Y for years. Although she originally joined based on a recommendation by her doctor, she’s grown to love the Y for the community it’s provided her. Nowadays, you can find her at the YMCA five times per week!

Taking the First Step

“My goals are to get stronger, to be even more independent. When I came here, I was in love because everything was accessible to me.”

Sherry has been in a wheelchair for almost a decade, but that hasn’t stopped her from staying active. As a person living with a disability, Sherry talks about how not many places are accessible—however, the Y remains one of the few safe spaces she loves to visit.

Saved by a Scholarship

“Without the scholarship program… we wouldn’t be here. I’m eternally grateful for what the Y and the Annual Support Campaign does for a family like ours.”

After losing his job, Miguel Riveros’s family had to adjust to their new normal. However, thanks to a YMCA scholarship, that didn’t have to include a future without the programs, activities, and friends at the YMCA.

Focusing On the Bigger Picture

“There are times when it gets to you, when it bothers you. But you’ve got to shake it off. I’m alive, I can walk, I can work out.”

After overcoming a life-threatening gastrointestinal rupture and an emergency surgery before he turned two years old, Jacob has grown up realizing the importance of celebrating each day with a grateful heart.

More than Just a Gym

“My Y family has supported me after so much. I can’t imagine every going anywhere else.”

Following a difficult move, Debbie struggled with loneliness while adjusting to her new life in Central Florida. Although it can be intimidating to try something new, she can’t imagine what her life would be like nowadays if she hadn’t decided to go to Bible Study at the Y.

Members Caitlin and Geraldine Sharing their Y Story

Finding a Community in Group Ex

“We might not know everyone else’s story… but class has really united people from all different walks of life and different journeys they’ve gone through.”

Caitlin and her mother Geraldine have been YMCA members for years. After a family tragedy, their group exercise class became a space space to heal from grief and connect with friends new and old.

Girl in pool next to woman swim instructor similing as she learns to swim

Go for Green

“Watching her go from sinking in the shallow end to swimming in the deep end, it makes you proud as a parent.”

Amie’s daughter Avalynn has always loved being in water. After falling into the pool one day, Amie realized she needed to ensure her daughter was prepared around water, she and enrolled Avalynn in potentially live-saving swim lessons at the Y!

What Strength Means To You

“The YMCA offers an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion, and I think that’s super important because at so many other places, that culture isn’t there…”

Born in Russia, Reese was a toddler when he was put up for adoption. Labeled an “invalid” and “defective” by those around him, he describes how being involved at the Y changed his perspective on life, and showed him what strength truly means.

Developing Support Networks

“Swimming with the Y has not only taught me about commitment, but it has taught me about discipline and perseverance.”

When the Taylor family was faced with tragedy, the Y swim community embraced them with love and support. This helped them keep going, and to helped motivate daughter Olivia to become a National Champion swimmer.

My Y Stories - Neighbors

Taking Care of Our Neighbors

“It sounds cliché to say ‘the Y saved my life’ but it really saved us. We didn’t have a community. Now basically everything we need, I can ask my Y community for advice.”

After Luka was born with health complications, Lizzie and her husband spent many years at home and in and out of hospitals. With the help of our scholarships, Lizzie and her family were able to experience the life-changing benefits of the Y.

Grow a relationship with God

“I thought it would be a good idea to go to the conference. I just didn’t expect to have such a deep connection with all of these different people I hadn’t met before.”

Kierra was balancing academic extracurriculars, taking care of her family, and trying to grow in her faith. As a result, she decided to attend the YMCA Christian Values Conference.

Becoming Healthy and Stress-free

Becoming Healthy and Stress-free

“Everything that the Y provides helped me deal with that stress in a different kind of way. They motivate me in ways that people just don’t really think about. That first day, it was like a fresh, new beginning for me.”

Johnnie has been working with children for 33+ years with at-risk youth and families. She turned to stress eating to cope. Now, she’s learning new techniques to be healthier and how to relieve her stress.

Making dreams a reality

“Without the YMCA I don’t know how my kids would’ve received the experience they’re getting now in sports or even to be part of a family, because the YMCA is family to us.”

The Laing family moved to Orlando from the Bahamas for more academic, spiritual, and social opportunities. Franklin, their son, plays basketball at the Y and dreams of playing in the NBA. Victory, their daughter, received a scholarship to develop her soccer skills.

Getting access for everyone

“That day, my pastor Brad said, ‘The church is going to sponsor the kids for summer camp.’ I didn’t tell them until we got to the camp the next week! It was a big blessing.”

Grayling knows that being there for his kids, Trey and Evalyn, matters more than anything. As a full-time single father, he works hard to make sure they don’t miss out on any experiences.

Helping to build relationships

“I think anytime you’re working toward something that’s hard with someone else, you’re growing personally but also you’re growing together.”

Meredith and Alex share the story of how they met and fell in love at the Downtown Orlando Y, and how health and wellness have played a role in strengthening their relationship.

Take it to a New Level

“Exercise has always been in my life. I thought that I was great at working out, but having a personal trainer has changed my life.”

Amanda has always worked to keep herself fit. But it wasn’t until she began working with a certified personal trainer at the Y that she noticed drastic improvements. Now, she’s amazed at what she’s capable of!

Share Your My Y Story

There are so many ways to grow stronger in spirit, mind, and body. How has the Y changed your life?

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