This is... being strong

LIVESTRONG® Program, hosted by the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA allows cancer survivors to come to the Y to heal. At no cost, cancer survivors or those currently going through treatment, meet twice each week to engage in a proven physical activity program under the guidance of qualified instructors trained in the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA curriculum. Each participant is provided a membership during the 12 week program.

The Pottstown YMCA has become that sanctuary of health and healing to four individuals who participate in their LIVESTRONG® program. Richard, Judy, Paula and Helen all meet twice a week with their instructor, Jennifer Gaj, to discuss the highs and lows of their week, to work out and to learn how to take care of their post treatment bodies. All their reasons for participating were different; Richard liked the idea of talking about cancer and helping to remove the stigma that’s come along with it for so many years, while Paula had written off Cancer groups and considered self-help groups to not be her style. What they all have seen from the program is the same. They’ve developed their bodies and they’ve gotten stronger.

The curriculum is broken into two parts. Participants meet to talk about their healing process and then they take a class or they work out on the machines together. Participants are encouraged to continue coming to the Y on non-meeting days. Jennifer mentioned how she was impressed by how well the group had bonded and how they are constantly shocked by their progress when she has them on the machines for longer than initially planned. The group agreed though, this program is about accountability; they are expected to show up Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We are honored to have them at our Y and be a part of their healing process.  Lucky for us they all plan to continue to be a part of our Y once of their 12-week membership comes to a close this April.

This is... how we grow strong teens

These are the twins-Camille and Candice Holt- who both joined the Y-Achievers in middle school. Camille was interested in exploring career opportunities for the future while Candice was looking to meet new people and get help with her homework. Those are the reasons they first joined, however, they both stayed in the program through high school because of the opportunities the Y Achievers program provided to them like the college tour!

The college tour is one of the best parts of the Y-Achievers program- just ask the twins! It gives students a chance to tour colleges, including HBCUs- historically black colleges to help them plan their college careers.  One of the colleges highlighted on the tour is Spelman University, the University both Candice and Camille chose to attend. They say the skills they learned in Y Achievers- like how to apply for scholarships, where to find scholarships and how to get financial aid, helped them both attend college and graduate debt free! 

Candice says the Y-Achievers clusters, where students meet to discuss interests and potential career aspirations, made a difference to her.   

“I was in the business cluster for two years and one year we created a mock business starting a mobile app called Wardrobe Wizards.  This got me interested in computer science. The next year, I joined the science cluster and through the cluster I got to dig deeper into computer graphics and design. From the new knowledge I gained, my sister and I started our own freelance web design business combining what we learned from the business cluster and science cluster. Our business lasted for 3 years and we are still in touch with one of our clients today.”

Both young women believe the program was essential to their growth as students and individuals. The program encouraged them to network, volunteer and learn! They want all students to know if they’re interested in joining Y Achievers just try it.  It can make a world of difference in your life.

This is... where older adults connect

Age is just a number at the Y

Nine years ago when Ginny joined the Y, it was at a time of great change in her life.   Her husband had passed away and her married friends started doing things without her. After some encouragement from friends, Ginny attended a free class at the Rocky Run Y through Aston Seniors and was hooked! Before long she found herself making friends with so many women who had the same life experiences and challenges.

Ginny found herself attending the Y six days a week! She wasn’t at the Y just for physical health, but mental health too. At 79 years old, Ginny considers herself a YMCA ambassador to new members and has made the Y her second home.

At the Y, she also worked on her recovery from double knee surgery. She was able to have her physical therapy done there, in addition to receiving the community support needed for healing. 


Ginny’s passion for the Y can be shown in a poem she shared:




R: Running to make class so I am not late

O: Outside activities in good weather

C: Caring shown by all the employees and members

K: Knitting club, kids and adults blending together

Y: Your changing activities (trips, shows and gatherings)

R: Rosie dispositions of everyone at Rocky Run YMCA

U: Useful to everyone at any age

N: New friends I have made.

Ginny sums it up best with: I love Rocky Run YMCA. The best unlike any other.


This is... how we grow

Community gardens have become a staple at our Ys serving so many families in need, but end up being so much more.  When we decide to create a community garden, volunteers and staff come out and help us with everything from digging, to building to planting.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to get outside, get exercise and give back.  There’s nothing quite like digging in the dirt to bond a team together! 

At our Phoenixville Y, the garden program began because there is a huge need in the community for people to get access to affordable healthy food. We hold 3 plantings a year (Spring, Summer and Fall). Since 2013, nearly 200 volunteers have helped in the garden and approximately 3600 lbs of fresh organic vegetables have been donated to a variety of community partners such as, The Good Samaritan Shelter, The House Shelter, St Mary’s Shelter, Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS), St Peter’s Pantry, Alianzas de Phoenixville, and King Terrace .


At our Haverford Area Y, one of our volunteers- Randy Goldman- has taken control of the garden.  Almost every day during the season he is out there weeding, picking, planting and even delivering produce.  Our Haverford Area Y is proud to say they grew over 2,600 pounds of food in 2016 and delivered it to many different food pantries in surrounding neighborhoods.

At our Rocky Run Y, the garden is managed by volunteers, the Child Development Center and our kids at summer camp!  It is a great learning opportunity for the kids in our care and a great teaching moment for us.  Our childcare and summer camp teachers make volunteering in the garden part of their curriculum in teaching kids about healthy eating, responsibility and community service to others.  All the food we grow at Rocky Run goes home with the members, the families of the children in child care and the families of our Summer Camp kids.