The following story was written by Kellie Klossner, a former Marketing/Membership Director for the Northern Lights YMCA – Dickinson Center.
I grew up in the Beaver Dam YMCA. In college, I worked out at the Stevens Point YMCA. My kids learned to swim at the Fond du Lac YMCA. I used to work for our local YMCA. And while I’m no longer on the payroll, I am still one of the Northern Lights YMCA – Dickinson Center’s biggest cheerleaders, sharing what I know about the renovation of the building, talking about why our community needs the Y, and why we should all help by donating money to completely remodel that crusty old building.
Why? My family asks, why? My oldest son, Harrison, tells me: “you stink at quitting”. They ask: “Why, after all the stress, can’t you just let it go?” Bless them, but I just can’t. I’ve seen too much good come out of that place to ever really walk away.
My mother died of breast cancer nearly 5 years ago. 5 years, on February 22nd. Pat. Patricia. Mom, Grandma, wife. Warrior, tired, spiritual. My mama. My best friend.
In the summer of 2016, a middle-aged woman came into the YMCA to drop two children off at summer day camp. I had seen her come in and out of the building daily for a couple of weeks, since school got out. She seemed exhausted – I could see it in her face. I don’t recall how it happened, but this day, she and I got to chatting.
(the rest of the story in the first comment…)
I learned that she was the children’s Grandma. She was raising them because they had no one else. She also had breast cancer, and she had no health insurance – she couldn’t afford it. She was the recipient of a YMCA programming scholarship, and used it to bring her grandchildren to summer day camp at the YMCA so that she could work, get her treatments, and try to rest and recover so she could care for the kids. She was exhausted, she didn’t know how she would pay for her cancer treatment, and she was consumed by worry about what would happen to her grandkids if anything happened to her.
I was quiet. She then looked at me then; it felt like she could see my soul. She talked about how grateful she was for the opportunity that the YMCA had given her for her grandkids. She knew they were safe and well cared for, and that helped give her the courage to do what she needed to do to get through each day. That weight off of her mind allowed her to focus on what she needed to do for herself so she could be there for them.
We cried pretty hard together that day. I told her how glad I was that she and her grandkids were at the Y with us. I asked her if we could pray together. We said a prayer and cried some more. She cried for herself, her grandkids, and her situation. I cried because I was able to take my experiences with my mom and use them to help someone else – just by listening and being the ear she needed.
So, you see? I can’t let it go. This is my passion. That beautiful Grandma is just one story. There are so many stories. Hardship, perseverance, growth, healthy change, friendship, relationships. Sure, there is fitness equipment. Friends meet there every day to work out together. To visit. To laugh. It is a joyful place to be. There are classes, and a pool, and a swim team, and a basketball court and a youth space.
But, that YMCA is so much more than just a gym or a place to work out. It is our community.
And that, my friends, is why I cannot let it go. It matters.