"Souls of the Y's" purpose is to shine a light on our member's stories. Stories that we see and hear about every day. They have touched our hearts and have driven home our mission. Whether inspiring or thought-provoking, these are the stories that lift up our Y.


SUMMER CAMPER: SHUBHAM PATEL

Shubham with his fellow campers on a field trip at Santa's Village.

“I’d like to tell you how much my son Shubham enjoyed summer camp.” expressed Komal Patel. Komal continued, “Shubham is special needs and camp keeps him active, social and happy. He’s been following direction better and is happy every day when I drop him off.”

Not only is camp convenient for the Patel’s, Komal says it's been accommodating, “Shubham is a vegetarian but is very interested and insistent on having the provided lunches the other campers are having. So, staff began to swap out the non-vegetarian item in the lunch with Shubham’s vegetarian option. Shubham immediately felt more included at lunchtime.”


"Camp keeps him active, social and happy. He’s been following direction better and is happy every day when I drop him off.”


Shubham with his camp counselor, Carter Hegseth.

GaGa ball, basketball, and field trips were among Shubham’s favorite actives at the Y said camp counselor, Shayla Heery, “He was an incredible addition to summer camp this year. He was always eager tojoin in on water activities, play games with kids and to try new things – like GaGa ball!”

Shubham has made friends with counselors and campers and intrinsically provided them a chance to learn about special needs. Counselor, Carter Hegseth, “Shubham was a blessing because of the way he brought out the best in the other campers. Seeing other kids help him and include him in games and activities is what camp is all about.”

“It was our goal as staff at summer camp to create an environment that was not only fun but safe and inclusive. I am so proud of the staff and the positivity they emulated as role models to our campers. The residual effect was that campers also displayed those same traits daily. This was evident in their interactions with each other and with Shubham.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., School Age Child Care Director. "We look forward to having Shubham at camp next summer!"


 

Family, Challenges, Triumph: The Divin Family

Fall in love with the Divin's and their story of family, challenges, and triumph. To learn more about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy visit: http://www.parentprojectmd.org/.


The Journeyman: David Thielk

David, Kelly, Eli, Maia and Nevin Thielk

David's family left to right: Nevin, Maia, David, Kelli and Eli

My fitness journey started when I joined the Sandwich Wrestling team at age 13. Wrestling taught me that with hard work and determination I can fight through and overcome anything in life. I graduated high school in 1996 in the best shape of my life, attributed to wrestling. Shortly after high school I got married and started a family with my beautiful wife of 20 years. We have 3 crazy kids. With starting a family came a large responsibility and I thought I had to sacrifice my gym time, which also meant my health, in order to manage it all. For 17 years my attempts at the gym and eating healthy were a yo-yo trick of ups and downs. Once my children entered high school and started working out at the YMCA they became my motivators and the gym became our family time. I/we make time for the gym as a family now. The thing I realized over the past few years is that I deserve gym time and that when I take care of myself I can take better care of my family.


"The thing I realized over the past few years is that I deserve gym time and that when I take care of myself I can take better care of my family."


I am a journeyman/lineman and my job requires me to travel due to storms and other natural disasters. No matter where my job takes me there is always a YMCA for me to workout at. Over the last 2 years, I have stopped at YMCA's all over Illinois. YMCA's in Galesburg, Plainfield, Morris, Kankakee, Plano, Springfield, Rockford and more, they are all amazing and welcoming but West Branch in Sandwich is my home. My job, like others, can make it difficult to get to the gym.

Working on powerlines is exciting and very rewarding! I love what I do for a living and it makes me feel proud to be a part of a brotherhood of the strongest. I love the fast pace, intense demands of focus and the adrenaline working my job; journeyman/lineman is one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs.

David visiting the Haverford Area YMCA in Pennsylvania

The rewarding part of this job is when we go out in a storm to help people that have lost power due to a natural disaster. We are usually sent in before these disasters hit and we ride the storms with the first responders or move in shortly after they hit. I have been to many states for storm restoration including Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and most recently, Florida for Hurricane Erma –– all of which participate in the Y's nationwide membership programphoto caption: David visiting the Haverford Area YMCA in Pennsylvania.


 

"I have the staff at the Y pushing me –– Jackie yelling at the front desk, Nicole’s laugh, Bambi’s smile, and my family by my side to motivate me. This is my Y!"


There are no words to describe what it feels like to ride out a hurricane or any other natural disaster, not knowing the devastation that you will see when it is over. Once the storm calms, our job starts, we work 16 plus hours helping to restore power. The conditions are tough and the tasks are not easy. Hurricane Erma left people out of power for three weeks. Those amazing Floridians were so kind; feeding us and bringing us drinks while we worked despite all they had been through.

Thinking back to my high school wrestling days, I loved being a part of a team and Coach Gerrish pushing us to keep going and never give up. I’m older now and those days are still part of my core values and it is probably why I love working hard at my job, my marriage, and being a good dad. Now instead of Coach Gerrish I have the staff at the Y pushing me –– Jackie yelling at the front desk, Nicole’s laugh, Bambi’s smile, and my family by my side to motivate me. This is my Y!

Learn more about the Y's Nationwide Membership Program here.


Special olympic swimmer: Jessica Grammar