Hearing those words last night was a dream come true for me. “We belong at the Y.” I had the honor of attending the final class of a pilot program of the Farmington Valley Y called Change for Life. Last night represented the culimination of work that began in February of this year on developing and implementing a program for morbidly obese individuals. That meant participants needed to lose at least 80-100 pounds or have a BMI greater than 35.
At first, the group was quiet and afraid. They had tried losing weight in the past and failed over and over and over. We assured them that this program was different. That it was about changing your lifestyle, not about just shedding pounds. Afterall, we only had 12 weeks and this wasn’t a TV show.
At our graduation potluck, I would swear that a different group of people walked in the room. The group was laughing, chatting, oooh’s and aah’s could be heard as people fussed over the foods brought to the dinner. “Who are these people?”, I thought. These people aren’t shy or intimidated or quiet. That’s when I began to hear members of the program saying things like:
“People don’t judge me here” and “I’ve found balance and acceptance in my life” and “I’ve never taken any time for myself, and now I do. I am important.”
One woman said she felt like she was always being carried by others that she could never be on her own. Now she says she says she explores life and has a second chance.
The comment that stood out to me the most was “I belong here. I belong at the Y.” Wow! When I imagined this Y and this job and how we fit into our community, this is exactly what I thought it would be. A place where anyone could come to find hope, inspiration and health in a safe, caring environment. Where people of any shape, size and background learn, grow and thrive. I’m not sure I could be in a better place personally or professionally. I am thankful for this group of 12 that showed us all that this dream is nowa reality.