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My desire to help others started when I was very young, specifically when I saved a baby from drowning at the young age of 8. As soon as I rescued them from the water, they began crying. The mother ran over and looked at me with these big thank you eyes, and it was then that I realized I had done something right. Suddenly I felt like a hero. At the time, I had no clue what an impact this experience would have on my life, and how the YMCA would help me build upon my life-saving skills.

My first introduction to the Y was at 15 when I went to a YMCA Camp in Gibsons, BC. That was a life-changing experience for me. Not only did I meet lifelong friends, but the leaders also taught us valuable life skills and respect for each other that I will never forget. It was the most incredible experience of my life. The camp was adventurous, empowering, and I was able to accomplish things I had never done before.

During my camp experience, one of my friends expressed interest in working as a lifeguard. I liked that idea and started taking Lifeguard Certification courses at the Y and received my Bronze Medallion. This jump-started my career as a Lifeguard.

I loved it and still do to this day! I taught lifesaving courses at YMCA pools throughout the Lower Mainland, was the Second Guard on English Bay in Vancouver, was a member of the Canadian and British Columbian Lifeguard Championship teams, and attended the World Lifeguard Championships in 1986 placing third. Thanks to the Y, my career as a lifeguard has been quite successful. After years of amazing experiences working in aquatics, I hung up my whistle in 1988 to pursue other career opportunities. But I always missed it.

After keeping active with aquatics during my younger years, my health started to suffer in my later years. I was diagnosed with liver disease and went through a very difficult time. I was lucky enough to receive a liver transplant that saved my life. While recuperating from the surgery, I suddenly had to rescue a man from a life-threatening quadding accident. I was able to stabilize him until the air ambulance arrived. My emergency care background allowed me to save a life when mine had been saved by an organ donor not long before. We kept in contact as both of us were in recovery with limited mobility.

Two years after his accident, I visited him and was so excited to see him walking that I started crying. Despite having very little chance of gaining his mobility back, this man had learned to walk again. I felt a kinship with him, and his story motivated me to work on my physical health at the Y again.

I got back into taking care of myself and keeping active with a membership at the Kelowna Family Y. When the world came to halt due to COVID-19, I had to hibernate, like many people. I am immune-compromised and had to take extra precautions and put my membership on hold. I became isolated, depressed, and didn’t feel like myself anymore. To me, belonging to the Y means having a regular schedule, communicating with people, and feeling healthy. I missed being a part of that community.

One day after things were opening back up, I took my dad to the Y to show him around. Monica from Members Services was so friendly and welcomed me with open arms. That first visit back made me realize how much I missed the experience, the people, the culture, and the benefits. I reactivated my membership, started going regularly and found myself happier and more engaged. The Y helped me overcome adversity and boosted my confidence.

When faced with challenges in life, I think it’s very important to have a positive outlook. Don’t focus on the negative consequences of your situation but get through it and get help doing it. That’s what the Y does. They help people restore their lives to normal. When you need help, they will be there. They are just glad to see that you made the effort to go.

Now, with my new lease on life, I decided that I wanted to return to the lifeguarding world. I’m recertifying with the National Lifeguard Course and I’m 66! Age is just a number. I’m so excited to get back to doing what I love- helping people.

The Y is a meeting place and a healing place. They are a community-focused organization that provides hope for those in need. I get emotional when I think about it.

man in lifeguard outfit infront of pool

YMCA's are devoted to making a positive contribution to our community. They have inspired me to pursue my dream of helping others by promoting the initiative of building an additional aquatic facility in the Okanagan. I am currently working on a plan to build an Olympic Rehabilitation Pool by discussing the concept with community stakeholders such as UBCO that will be used for water sports, rehabilitation, and a teaching centre for the Human Sciences.

The YMCA taught me valuable lifesaving skills which enabled me to save lives, build a rewarding career, and regain my lease on life as well. After all my years of being a Y member, I can tell you that they are always there when you need them! You just need to take the initiative to begin. It’s one of the best memberships in the world. You can drop in anytime knowing that they will welcome you wholeheartedly. It’s like a welcoming family and a home away from home.