Monroe County YMCA Blog

Bloomington, Indiana

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Keep Your Kids Safe In and Around Water This Summer

There’s a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits like looking both ways before crossing the street, washing your hands with soap and water, and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.

For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list, and that’s something we need to change.

Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years old. According to the 2017 Drowning Prevention Report prepared by the DNR, 29 children died in Indiana due to drowning. The problem is particularly acute among minority communities. For example, black children ages five to 14 are three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts. The disparity is partly due to the lack of swimming experience among these children.

According to a 2017 national research study conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation with the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 64 percent of African American children and cannot swim, compared to 45 percent of Hispanic children, and 40 percent of Caucasian children. Additionally, 79 percent of children in families with household income less than $50,000 have no/low swimming ability.

As part of the program, the Monroe County YMCA will provide 45 scholarships to children from low-income and under-served communities to participate in free water safety lessons. The lessons teach young people valuable skills like what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, a situation every child should be equipped to handle.


These classes are just one of the many swim programs that more than a million people, from toddlers to adults, take advantage of at the Y’s 2,000+ pools across the country. Here in Monroe County, the Y teaches around 1,500 children water safety and swimming each year. Through Safety Around Water, the Y hopes to further bridge cultural and access gaps that can prevent some children from learning important water safety skills.

To learn more about the Y’s Safety Around Water program, please visit our website.


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Transforming Life from Cloudy to Rainbows: YMCA Healthy Hearts and Active Lives’ Impact on Aging Adults

Four years ago, half of Joe Ferrerio’s body was paralyzed, and he was blind in one eye. He had a fall that caused a subdural hematoma—bleeding outside of and around the brain—and he was told by his doctors that he had just one year to regain the mobility he had lost or else he would most likely never regain it.

Now, at 86 years old, Joe has not only regained the mobility he lost from his fall, but also is able to do things he wasn’t able to before his accident. He shared that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of the Monroe County YMCA.


Joe in Healthy Hearts and Active Lives Stretching class

At the beginning of Joe’s recovery, he was working with an at-home occupational therapist. Allie, Joe’s wife, recalls initially focusing on his fine motor skills by building LEGOS. The therapist also worked on general physical therapy with Joe, and once she felt he was strong enough for the next step, she referred him to the Healthy Hearts and Active Lives (HHAL) program at our Monroe County Y.

With the help of Healthy Hearts and Active Lives Director, Margie Kobow, Joe set out on the next leg of his recovery. Doubtful at first, Joe wondered how he was going to be able to do the exercises that other HHAL members were doing. Allie shared that in the beginning, “Joe couldn’t get up from the ground [on his own.] He started in a chair and sat in the class while everyone [was] doing [their exercises], and Kay, [a HHAL staff member,] came over and said, ‘oh, you’ll get it, just keep coming every day!’”

Joe did keep coming every day, and his dedication has completely changed his life. He relayed that “the things that were hurting don’t hurt anymore, or they hurt much less because of being here [at the Y]. Margie and the crew have seen to that.”


Margie Kobow, Healthy Hearts and Active Lives Director, checking Joe’s blood pressure before class

Joe continued, “At my age, you sit in a wheelchair and be depressed; no creativity and no confidence, that’s for sure. Margie has given me the opportunity to get better. [The Y has given me the opportunity to get better by providing me with financial assistance] for the classes that saved my life, as a matter of fact. That’s it. If I weren’t here, I’d be stuck in a chair, depressed, grouchy… and it doesn’t work like that. There’s something to look forward to; the rainbow is there, not the clouds.”

Healthy Hearts and Active Lives not only improved Joe’s physical capabilities, but it also changed his entire outlook on life as an aging adult. Joe explained that the HHAL programs have given him “more confidence, more agility; [he belongs] to a group of sorts instead of sitting at home in a wheelchair and cursing the world.” He continued, “I’m out doing something during the day. The confidence is what’s being built up [by HHAL]. I don’t have to say ‘gee, I’ll never move that again because I’m moving it already. Just get up and do it, why not? I’m confident I can almost participate like a ‘normal’ human being at this point. Maybe I am.”


Joe warming up before his HHAL Stretch class

Margie joined the conversation, adding that she’s “seen, over the years, independence [in Joe. He] used to come with a healthcare professional, and then Allie came with [him], and now sometimes she’s just dropping [him] off. There’s a huge independence component here that’s developed over the years.” Allie added, “he says hi to people, and he was always an introvert. I notice now he’s more social.”

When asked how HHAL has helped him to achieve something he would not have without the program, Joe answered, “I’ve learned late in life that if you try new things, you can do them. That was something new. [I also now have] the confidence in doing things that I used to do; instead of saying I can’t do them anymore, I can have a good try at them and do them. I guess I’m not looking into the past; I’m looking into the future with confidence.”

Joe paused for a moment, then continued: “I’m measuring myself on what I’m going to be doing that is creative in the very near future. And it’s a nice feeling. I’m a composer, and a pianist, and I like to make trains on the table, make them go around… I’m looking forward to doing that stuff.”

Joe’s dedication to improving his health is extremely inspiring—he is at the Y five days a week, every single week. Midway through our conversation, Allie mentioned that Joe’s subdural hematoma was only one of three injuries he has conquered since joining the Y. Over the course of the past four years, Joe also broke his neck and had a bowel resection. After each accident, Joe returned to the Y, determined to regain any mobility he had lost. And he did.

Margie chimed in, sharing that “he’s very coachable, [in addition to being determined,] and that helps. [Joe is] willing to do things that we assign [him]. Sometimes it’s not easy, but [he] does it, and [he’s] consistent. That’s key.”


Joe stretching his legs in HHAL Stretch class

Building on that point, Allie shared that Joe practices the exercises he has learned at the Y at home as well. “’Get the chair,’ he’d say, ‘I gotta do this!’”

Joe’s determination stemmed from his inability to perform daily actions on his own, but it remains steadfast because of the confidence he has gained through HHAL. “[The biggest benefit is] confidence; trying something instead of saying ‘I can’t do this;’ I just dig right in and give it a try and do it. If it’s not quite up to par the first time, it does get better if you [continue to] do it.”

As Joe expressed earlier, the Adult Health classes he has taken and is still taking have saved his life. If his physician had not referred him to the Y, however, Joe would have never known that the Y offers programs specifically for aging adult rehabilitation.

“My impression of any Y, not necessarily this one, was you have a basketball court, a pool, and lots of things to lift up. I was completely surprised and amazed… I didn’t realize that the Y can help with almost any type of body problems and provide exercises to make people better, especially after major operations. I wasn’t aware that that was available, anywhere actually.”


Joe with HHAL Director, Margie Kobow

If you yourself are an aging adult who is not a YMCA member, or if you know someone who you feel would benefit from our Adult Health programming, here’s Joe’s message to you: “Look what you’re missing. You could just repeat a hundred-thousand things that we’re said here today… Look what you’re missing!”

It is never too late to change your life for the better. You are never too old to try something new, or something that you haven’t done in years. Joe is a testament to that. Age often feels restricting, and society often touts that it is, but Joe has proven that it isn’t. The Y, Healthy Hearts and Active Lives, and Margie and her amazing, passionate staff have helped to empower Joe to look forward to his future once again. In Joe’s words, “the rainbow is there, not the clouds.”

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A Magical Morning at the Monroe County YMCA

Santa Claus came to town last Saturday to visit the Monroe County YMCA, and it couldn’t have been a more magical morning.IMG_2038Families began to file in at 8:30 am, anticipating pancakes in their bellies and seeing Santa once again. Food was served quickly by our wonderful staff and volunteers, and soon after, Saint Nick appeared.

Most kids were thrilled to see Santa after his lengthy, year-long hiatus at the North Pole. With big smiles on their faces, they whispered their holiday wishes into Santa’s ear as their parents looked on.

Some kids were less thrilled to see the jolly, bearded man, unsure of who he was and why he was holding them. Others stared him down with intense curiosity, trying to figure out the giant lad in red. 

After visiting with Santa, kids burned off their pancake-fueled energy at our many craft and game stations. With so many fun activities available, each kiddo found something to enjoy. 

The biggest hit was definitely Play-Doh, which has undoubtedly traveled far beyond the Cardinal Court on the soles of many little shoes. 

Kids weren’t the only ones who were able to enjoy our activity stations. Many parents got involved in playtime, making the morning even more special for the littles in attendance. 

Our staff and volunteers who worked the event had a blast as well, taking in the magic of the season and enjoying the many small, smiling faces. Some even wore festive outfits for the occasion!

Some YMCA staff members stopped by with their families to see Santa together, transforming the event from a work tradition to a family tradition of their own.

The day is now another magical Christmas memory for families to cherish. We’re already anticipating the breakfast next year, and we hope we’ll see you there to share the enchantment of the event. 

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!

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Heartfelt Gifts and Giving Back at the YMCA Holiday Bazaar

If you’re struggling with gift ideas for your loved ones this season, look no further. At the annual Monroe County YMCA Holiday Bazaar, there are a wide variety of handmade items that are sure to please anyone you’re buying for this holiday season.

The bazaar is put on by our Service in Friendship program, which is a group of knitters, crocheters, and quilters who share their talents with our community to raise money for the Y for All campaign, the Shalom Center, and other agencies in the area.

Service in Friendship

Their handcrafted items include blankets, scarves, clothing, hats, mittens, stuffed animals, ornaments, handbags, shoes, doll clothes, and more. Each type of item comes in an assortment of colors and sizes, so there is certainly something for everyone!

The talented women who create these items generously donate all proceeds to our Monroe County YMCA Y for All annual campaign. The money raised from the bazaar sales benefits members of the Monroe County community, from children to seniors.

Funds go toward helping children attend Summer Camp, improving seniors’ mobility and balance through our Adult Health programs, providing year-long memberships to families, teaching both adults and children about water safety through swim lessons, and much more.

You can stop by the Southeast YMCA lobby on the following dates to peruse the sale:

  • Saturday, December 8 from 9:00 am-12:30 pm
  • Monday, December 10 from 8:30 am-12:30 pm and 4:00-7:00 pm
  • Tuesday, December 11 from 8:30 am-12:30 pm

Help us spread the warmth of the season and find the perfect gifts for your loved ones, all while supporting a great cause!

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Pancakes, Photos, and Fun with Santa

Join us in celebrating the Christmas season at our annual Breakfast with Santa event!

On Saturday, December 8, we will be gathering at the Southeast YMCA for a pancake breakfast, fun activities for the kids, and of course, a visit and photo with Santa.

There will be three seatings for breakfast: 8:30-9:15 am, 9:30-10:15 am, and 10:30-11:15 am. You will receive a ticket for your meal when you check in, and our YMCA staff and volunteers will serve pancakes, turkey bacon, and fresh fruit as it is prepared.

A photo with Santa is included in the event price, and it will be sent to your preferred email address, which we will request at the breakfast.


We will have free play and a variety of interactive activities for the kids, including letter writing to Santa, Christmas card decorating, Play-Doh, necklace beading, and more!

The event is $25 per family of six or fewer members. If you have more than six members in your family, you can add additional members for $5 per person.

Tickets are on sale now, so be sure to secure your space at the breakfast. You must pre-register before the event in order to secure your time. Spots are filling up quickly, so purchase your ticket today! We can’t wait to celebrate the holidays with you and your loved ones!

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Building Strength for Seniors: November Workout of the Month

Exercise can benefit anyone, at any age. YMCA Personal Trainer, Darren Mitchell, demonstrates six exercises ideal for building strength and increasing balance in aging adults. Complete each exercise as directed, but feel free to modify each move if you need to.

  • Do ten reps of each exercise
  • Complete three total sets
  • Repeat twice a week

Single Limb Stance

Stand behind a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels), and hold on to the back of it. Lift up your right foot and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet. The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.

Bicep Curl

Biceps curls are standard exercises for building the muscles of the arm.
Hold weights (2-8lbs) at your side with your palms facing forward. Then bend your elbow, bringing the weight toward your chest! Perform 2 sets of 10 on each arm.

Lateral Raises

The dumbbell lateral raise is an isolation exercise that strengthens the entire shoulder. Raise your arms out to sides until they’re at shoulder level. Pause, then lower the weights back to the starting position.

Tummy Twists

Hold a ball with both of your hands close to the body with the elbows bent. Slowly rotate the torso to the left as far as comfortable, keeping the rest of the body still. Rotate back to the middle and rotate to the right. Two twists is one set, and beginners should start by doing eight sets.

Back Leg Raises

This strength training exercise for seniors makes your lower back stronger. Stand behind a chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back–don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat this ten to 15 times per leg.

Single Limb Stance with Arm

This balance exercise for seniors improves your physical coordination. Stand with your feet together and arms at your side next to a chair. Lift your left hand over your head. Then, slowly raise your left foot off the floor. Hold that position for ten seconds. Repeat the same action on the right side.


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Northwest YMCA 5th Birthday Party Recap

If you couldn’t make it out to our Northwest YMCA last Saturday for the Birthday Bash, we want to fill you in on the excitement! We had a wonderful evening with many members of our Monroe County community—we celebrated with food, games, special-rated memberships, new Group Ex classes, and more!


Full bellies are happy bellies, so we wanted to give our guests a meal fit for a birthday party! Our multi-talented volunteers served hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, and birthday cake. 

There were a variety of carnival-style games available to play, which the kids loved. Each game had a prize with it, so everyone went home with a bag full of goodies!

We also revealed the renovations to our Northwest Annex, which include:

– A chapel for any and all religious backgrounds
– A dedicated room for The Zone
– An area for gymnastics training and practice
– A dedicated space for barre classes
– A high-energy, multi-station small group exercise program called Synrgy360
– A lounge for parents to get work done while their kids enjoy Play and Learn

We couldn’t have done any of it without our amazing volunteers! They ensured that the event ran like a well-oiled machine, which made for a fantastic celebration!

We hope to see you at our Northwest facility soon! We’re offering a wealth of new programs, in addition to those we already have. If you have any questions about memberships or programming, give us a call at (812) 331-5556.