Monroe County YMCA Blog

Bloomington, Indiana

Leave a comment

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.”

Leave a comment

Perry Brown: Everyone Deserves the Y

In honor of National Men’s Health Week (June 11-17), Perry Brown shares how the support from the Y has impacted his mental and physical health.


Perry Brown worked since he was 13 years old. He worked in warehouses, stocked grocery store shelves, and more recently, a carpet cleaner. Forty years of hard labor left Perry with pain, but he continued to work through the pain not knowing what the cause was. A year later, he was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his neck that quickly progressed into pain forcing him to use a wheelchair. One diagnosis and three surgeries later, Perry found himself needing to regain strength. A doctor suggested the Monroe County YMCA. Perry is now enjoying the amenities the Y has to offer thanks to the Y for All Annual Campaign. Because of the Y, Perry has high hopes for returning to the workforce soon.

When asked how he dealt with limitations, Perry answered, “You soul search, you pray a lot, and you have faith. The Y helped me in more ways than just physically.”

Leave a comment

If You Give a Girl a Goal

IMG_4585 retouchedSofi Yandt’s first memory of the Y was over 10 years ago — a memory she calls one of the best she has experienced during her time here. As a six-year-old, Sofi remembers participating in the Y-Triathlon summer camp with her brother. Little did she know, those times were where her Y journey was just beginning.

Throughout her early teens, Sofi has found herself volunteering at numerous Y events and as a camp counselor for the Southeast and Northwest Y’s. More currently, Sofi has become a staff member of Play and Learn where she cares for children of all ages. While Sofi has enjoyed her time working with children in summer camp and Play and Learn, she decided to direct her Y journey in a way that would benefit her now and in the future – working with a personal trainer.

Sofi, a sophomore at Bloomington High School South, wanted to up her game in anticipation of joining the high school’s volleyball team next year. That’s why she hopes working with her personal trainer will help her reach her goal. “I wanted to start working with a personal trainer to strengthen my agility on the volleyball court. As someone who plays backrow, there is a lot of defense, passing, and moving to wherever I need to be to hit the ball, so having a quick reaction time is important to me.” Going into her sessions, her trainer knows what she needs to work on, so each session, her trainer brings what Sofi needs to the table in order to succeed. Sofi admits she noticed a difference right away. Open gyms got easier, and her reaction time got quicker — a goal that has made a difference in the way she plays.


A common question Sofi gets asked is if utilizing a personal trainer is intimidating. While some trainers are bigger, stronger, and more experienced, she believes that working with someone who has an extensive knowledge of health and fitness allows her to feel comfortable and more confident in the way she completes her workouts. “Don’t be intimidated by a personal trainer! No matter what age you are, your trainer is going to push you, help you succeed, and guide you in reaching whatever goal you have set for yourself.”

Leave a comment

If You Get to Know Your Neighbor

JeffJeff is used to a routine. He takes the same bus every day and works the same hours every week for the Bloomington Olive Garden. The Monroe County YMCA is also a crucial piece of his routine. In 2008, Jeff transitioned into independent living, requiring fewer services from Stone Belt, a service provider for individuals with developmental disabilities, and a service that provided a YMCA membership. Due to his independent living status, Jeff lost his membership to the Y.

As an individual with autism, Jeff finds comfort in a predictable routine. Suddenly, his routine had been interfered with, making him very upset and distressed that he could no longer enjoy a huge part of his weekly routine. Thanks to the Y for All Annual Campaign, Jeff was awarded with a Y membership of his own!

Not only does Jeff understand that his regular visits to the Y help him stay fit, he also keeps in account how grateful he is to have been able to keep his membership. When asked what his favorite part about working at Olive Garden is, he answered, “I get paid!” Jeff is proud to be in a position that allows him to pay a portion of his membership dues – and not to mention, his weekly workouts at the Y make him a stronger competitor in the Special Olympics!

DYK? A donation to the Y for All Annual Campaign helps members, like Jeff, gain access to the Y! Learn more about Y for All and how you can start making a difference in the Monroe County community today!


Getting Back into the Game – Angie Raymond’s Y Story

The odd part about sitting down to write “my” story is that you immediately realize ‘my’ story starts like so many others stories.  Around January of 2010, I got a chest cold that wouldn’t go away.  At the time, I was the starting fast pitch softball catcher for one of the top ranked UK softball teams within Europe.  So, like every athlete before me, I kept training and ‘pushed through.’  Turns out, that was probably a bad call and I ended up collapsing after one of my training runs, in what felt like someone punching me in the chest.  Months and a million tests later, I was diagnosed with asthma and I was crushed.  I hurt, I couldn’t walk upstairs, and the simplest of efforts was suddenly huge.  And, I kept eating like I was still training- so I gained weight, a lot of weight.  

After many months, my asthma settled down- but I was on a ton of asthma drugs and never really felt 100% for well over a year.  I couldn’t run from here to there and catching a 60 mph fastball was out of the question, so softball was over and I was lost. Around the same time, I decide to move back to the US to join Indiana University.  That, of course, had drastic life implications, meds aren’t the same here in the US and Bloomington is called Bloomington for an asthma inducing reason- so the asthma flared up.  But, of course- the athlete in my head kept saying- it’s not the asthma, it the weight- so I kept training and again had a setback. 

Angie and MargieFortunately, an excellent doctor told me about Margie at the Y and with a lot of hesitation (I was very heavy) I joined the run group.  I have frankly always hated running, but Margie and the group were so positive and helpful, eventually I was able to feel a bit more comfortable. I was a sorry sight when I started, so many times Ron and Freddie would encourage me to just run between the hills.  And, I would slog away, barely lifting my feet, wondering why I moved to such a hilly place!  But, they stayed with me, they were patient, and they chatted with me the whole time so I could focus on something other than running.  As I came close to the end of the first Y session I was surprised how far I could actually move, so I (somewhat naively) signed up to do the Mini-Marathon.  And I finished it! Yeah, I finished with a run/walk style- and yes, it was hard (and my goodness, hot) but I finished.  I had found a new sport and was able to find that consistency and discipline that I had lost when softball was over. 

Angie with GroupMargie inspired my athletic spirit so much that I decided- to sign up for a triathlon. So, what if I can’t swim (and I mean could not swim, not even half a length!) Margie was there to spur me on, to positively encourage me, to teach me to swim and to ensure I stayed on track. And, I found a new group- those crazy enough to work hard at 3 sports! Liz, Sam, Lisa, Christine, Mark, Nicole and so many others- they are all a huge part of my story- each in their own way. 2 years later, I completed a half-Ironman- not fast by any means, in fact slow as heck, but again I walked across that finish line and knew I had found a family.

When we were looking to move homes last summer, my husband Tony and I realized- neither of us could imagine not living close to the Southeast Y.  Frankly, we stopped looking to move because our friends in the Winslow Farms neighborhood and our friends at the Y mean so much to us. The run/endurance group is full of so many inspirational, confident, helpful, warm, and giving people- I can’t imagine what Bloomington would be like without them.


Leave a comment

Tammy Martin Gears Up for Corporate Challenge with her Coworkers from Hoosier Energy

img_2924.jpgOn behalf of Hoosier Energy, Tammy Martin is getting ready to compete again in the Y’s annual fundraiser, Corporate Challenge, which benefits the Y For All scholarship fund. After seven years of competing in events from cardboard boat races to bowling, Tammy is ready to take
on year eight.

Tammy shares why she keeps returning to compete in Corporate Challenge year after year: “I believe there are so many positive aspects to competing in Corporate Challenge events. Honestly, it is hard to know where to start! First, you are supporting a very important organization in our community…the YMCA! The events allow us to play a small part in helping children join summer camps and activities they otherwise may never had an opportunity to enjoy. Second, I can say on a personal level that it is a tremendous opportunity to try new things, stay active, get to know new people, network with your coworkers and bosses, make new friends, and gee…just have fun!It is so much fun to be a part of a positive group that is so supportive.


One question some may have is… “Do I need to be good at the event?” No, absolutely not! I’ve tried so many new events through Corporate Challenge. I do the bike event, which is 10 miles, and it is the only time I’m on a bike each year….and that’s borrowing someone else’s bike and just making it happen.

There are so many choices with the Y’s Corporate Challenge, and the more you can fit into your schedule, the more fun you’ll have!!! No doubt, this event is the best I’ve ever been involved in!”

Learn more about Corporate Challenge on our website: