Jeff is an enthusiastic member of the East Side/Mt. Hope Branch. He joined in March of 2014 and is now an avid user of the recumbent bike and weights in the fitness center. In 1991, at the age of 19, Jeff was in a severe car accident that left him physically challenged and in a wheelchair. He now lives with a neurological disorder called Ataxia, that effects his nervous system.
Jeff tried to join the YMCA after his release from the hospital, but at the time the fitness areas were not handicapped accessible. He tried other fitness centers, but found the cost prohibitive. Then, in 2014, Jeff was encouraged by his friend Olginia De Los Santos, a full-time employee at RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) and part-time YMCA Welcome Center Navigator at the East Side branch, to take another look at how the Y might meet his needs. Olginia told Jeff that 2006 renovations made the East Side Y handicap accessible, allowing easier access to the workout areas that would be most beneficial. “Now the obstacle,” thought Jeff, “was the monthly fee. Olginia told me to inquire about the financial assistance program, and I’m glad I did.” Through the program, Jeff receives a financial assistance subsidy which makes the Y both accessible and affordable. “The Y wouldn’t turn me away.”
Today, Jeff takes the bus to the Y every day but Sunday. Every day, he cycles 7 – 8 miles and lifts weights with the help of YMCA health & wellness coaches. He also mingles with members and has become friendly with the staff. “I love to come here,” Jeff says delightfully. “The staff is wonderful, there is ample equipment, and the staff upstairs is motivational – they keep me going! They push me to do more and are encouraging!” Jeff is quick to point out that when he joined the Y last March he weighed nearly 300 pounds and could barely pedal the bike. He has since lost 75 pounds and pedals 8 miles in 70 minutes.
“I love just doing my best, and the little moments of success, like pedaling 8 miles, are a very big deal for me,” Jeff notes. “The East Side YMCA has played a major part in making sure I am healthy and successful in staying motivated to succeed every day.”
“Jeff is a joy and an inspiration,” says Barbara Vincent, Executive Director. “He makes everyone smile, and reminds us every day why we love what we do, and why giving to our financial assistance campaign truly makes an impact on peoples’ lives.”
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"When I was a tiny kid, I learned to swim at the YMCA...As I grew up, I
grew up in the Y. Learning to be a lifeguard at the Y gave me well
paying summer jobs...The Y became my second home; lifeguarding, teaching
kids to swim, step aerobics, front desk, after school care, painting
walls, United Way coordinator...you name it and most of us at the Y
learned to do it. To this day I still say the Y was as important to me
in life learning as was college. I was a shy kid with no self
confidence and poor body image connection. I overcame all of these
debilities in the supportive family of the Y. " - letter from Dana
"I have to admit that i had some
reservations about walking in and asking if financial assistance was
available which had to do 100% with my pride but I am so glad I put that
aside because not only did I find out I qualify for financial
assistance, but the entire membership process was handled in such a
pleasant, friendly manner that I felt so much better investigating the
matter. That same pleasant, friendly manner has always been extended by
any of the Y staff members that I have passed, spoken to or checked me
in. So I formally wanted to say "Thank You so much" for what you have
done for me. Not only financially, but the ability for me to become
healthier and happier within myself in working towards personal goals.
Had it not been for your generosity, this journey I'm on would not have
been possible." - Kathryn