Tell Your Y Story | Get Involved | Lakeland Hills Family YMCA

Tell Your Y Story

Every day, the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA makes a positive and lasting impact on thousands of people in the Morris County area. From aquatics programs to senior wellness initiatives, Y programs and services strengthen the foundations of the community.

When we share our stories on how the Y has impacted our individual lives, we’re able to share a glimpse of all the hope, strength and determination across the country and how everyone’s living the Y’s values. Whether the Y gave you confidence in yourself, taught you how to reach your goals, or is simply your “happy place,” we all have a story to tell. Read some of the member stories below to find out how the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA has made an impact for families and individuals within the Morris County community.

When asked, “Why the Y? my reflections focused on my journey of achieving personal growth and accomplishments since joining the Y family. I went from being an out of shape “couch potato” to someone completing two Spartan Races and running a half marathon.  In addition, I am registered to complete a 2015 Spartan Race Trifecta (4-5 mile obstacle course race, an 8-9 mile obstacle course race, and a 12-13 mile obstacle course race).

When it came to physical activity, my self-esteem suffered due to my lack of coordination in group fitness classes prior to becoming a Y member.  In fact, I was even asked by an instructor to move to the back of the class since I could not keep up with the others.  When I arrived at the Y three years ago, lacking confidence, I started out small by walking on a treadmill. One day I decided to give a group fitness class a try and chose Darlene Kievit’s Tuesday night Strength and More program. I sat waiting in the hallway nervous that I was going to be embarrassed again, but I realized that I had to push myself out of my comfort zone if I wanted to improve. Darlene approached me, introduced herself and encouraged me and the others in the class to simply try our best. By feeling better about myself, I decided to try another class that week and joined Dawn Cordova’s Core Conditioning.  Again, Dawn proved to be equally friendly and helpful.

Throughout the past three years, these two instructors, along with my friends and classmates, have helped me become a stronger, more confident individual. In addition to improving my overall health and well-being, I found a group of people who encourage me to push my boundaries and soar to new heights.

As an inner-city kid, sport and competition was stickball and touch football in the street when bases and end zones were manhole covers and car door handles.

The Passaic YMCA was for men and boys only at that time, and consisted primarily of a gym, a pool, and a lobby with pool and ping pong tables galore! The building was federalist by stature, brick, multi-story, though we never went upstairs (there were men my Dad’s age and older living there in single room apartments), and the smell of chlorine from the pool hit you as soon as you walked into our delight! The girls, well, if their parents could afford it, they went to the YWHA in town (Young Women’s Hebrew Association.) We sneaked in only once…

A few miles from home, we’d get dropped off, but soon learned to walk, maybe run there as often as we could. No bathing suits allowed in the pool back then, as we spent hours in the pool, the gym, and played ping-pong till our hands cramped up. I met and played with kids from all over the city in CYO leagues, kids I would not have met until middle school otherwise.

Looking back now, it’s what I learned at that Y that draws me back to the Y all these years; lessons learned that are still Y inspired today; competition, playing on a team, winning, losing, learning from losing, fellowship, sense of community, trust, confidence, learning new things, and having a place to go to have fun.  Oh yeah, and learning to swim!  The folks who worked at the Y took care of us in a way that was seamless, almost invisible, yet caring and trusting enough back then that our parents left us there virtually all day without worry. To me, they were mentors, maybe even family to us kids. I sense the same thing at LHFYMCA!

Simple story from a simpler time, yet the mission of the Y has stood the test of time at least for me and I’m sure for others.

I’ve been involved with the Y since 1990! My first experience with the Y was as a child when I attended kindergarten in the Childcare Learning Center.  Currently, at the Y, I am a member of the front desk staff and serve our members and participants by giving tours, signing up members, and answering general questions.

Some of the people I am most thankful for meeting at the Y are my co-workers at the front desk. Over the years, they have become like a second family to me. What inspires me about them is their friendly attitudes day in and day out.

If I had just 30 seconds to share with someone how the Y is so much more, I would tell them the Y really has it all! I can truly speak to the diversity of programs that the Y offers. During my time as a Y member, I have been a part of the childcare program, learned to swim in the pool, attended the summer camps, participated in the afterschool programs, played in the soccer leagues, in addition to working for the Y’s various departments for over a decade. The Y is truly a special place to grow up!

I have been a member of the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA for a little over 8 years.  Initially, I joined so that my older son could take swimming lessons. In addition, I experienced and enjoyed the exercise classes while my son was also enrolled in the Early Childhood Learning Center and participated in various enrichment classes like Rookie Racers and Rookie Sports.

I’ve always been active and athletic, but after having kids, my weight kind of got away from me. I started working with Darlene Kievit because I needed help to get back to where I used to be; where I wanted to be again.

My regiment is flexible and varies between a Yogalaties class, running on the treadmill, exercises outlined by Darlene, using the punching bag, and I recently developed a love/hate relationship with the BOSU. As a result, I have a lot more energy and I am able to be more actively involved with my two sons. Both of my sons are currently taking advantage of many of the programs at the Y: the Early Childhood Learning Center, Snowboarding, Karate, Tumbling, even ballet at one point. My older son likes to go in the Cardio Arcade and will come to the Sensational Saturdays when time allows.  He also attends the summer camp and even my husband utilizes the gym.

I believe that the Y is an ideal place because of its friendly atmosphere, the variety of programming for every age group and its reasonable pricing. In using the fitness components of the Y, my one suggestion is that no one should compare themselves to other people because everyone is different, establish small goals that suit your needs and be consistent in your approach to fitness.

Paul Petro joined the Y on September 15, 1986 and has been an integral part of our Y family ever since! After serving our country in WWII and retiring from his manufacturing job, he was looking for a place where he could stay active. He would spend a few hours each day at the Y where he would swim, use the track and lift weights.

Paul’s workout may have changed over the years but at 91 years young, he still works out at the Y 7 days a week! He enjoys using the rowing machine, treadmill, bike, free weights and Cybex machines to maintain his strength.  Although staying fit and active have always been important to Paul, he says his number one reason for staying at the Y has been the friendships he has made and the wonderful people who work here.  Our staff unanimously stated that, “Paul is our inspiration.”

Everyone is motivated and inspired by his commitment to fitness and living an active and healthy lifestyle at any age.  Paul says the secret to good health is to just listen to your body. Paul, you are an inspiration to all of us here at the  Y. We are thankful to have members like you who keep us motivated to lead healthy lifestyles!

Natalie Grabow recently competed in one of the most difficult physical and mental challenges… the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii include a grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and conclude with a 26.2 mile run!

Natalie was in third place after the swim, first after the bike and held on to the lead until the last mile of the run. The winner and Natalie both broke the previous course record for women in the 70-74 age group and also finished ahead of the 65-69 age group winner. Her time of 14:06 was just 3 minutes behind the first place finisher. It was a brutally hot and windy day on the bike so she was very happy with her 6:54 bike split.

Her husband Paul and daughter Amy were there to cheer her on which made a great difference.

Two of our members competed in a Half Ironman (70.3 miles) contest in Raleigh, North Carolina and did very well.  Pete Kavalus finished 7th in his age group (55-59) and 259th overall out of more than 2000 competitors.  Natalie Grabow, 70 years young, finished first in her age group.

Natalie has been a Y member since 1990 and indicates that she comes here primarily for the pool and the location is convenient to her home.  She actually learned to swim at the Y 11 years ago.  Natalie states, “I was the one with the kickboard and eventually got the hang of it.”

Her initial effort at a triathlon was split with her daughter Amy who completed the swim, while Natalie did the bike and run at the Randolph Sprint. Since “mastering” swimming, Natalie now completes in the Half Iron Man which includes a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run.  Even Natalie’s grandchildren, ages 8 and 6 compete in triathlons in California. Amy has also qualified for the triathlon in Hawaii as both mom and daughter will be competing.

In her “spare” time, Natalie reads at least 2 books per week and vacations every year with 12 women who went to high school with her at Mt. Lakes.  In fact, this group is planning a trip to Costa Rica in February to celebrate turning a youthful 70!

Peter moved to the area about 10 years ago where he found the Y the perfect place to play basketball. Unfortunately, he tore a ligament in his knee, stopped playing hoops and turned to triathlons and then the Iron Man. Peter also takes advantage of other group fitness classes, including yoga.  He remembers how they had to cut his own extra-long mat due to his height and how one member, who is an artist actually painted the mat for him.  According to Pete,” the Y is the best place around.”

In his spare time, Pete is also an avid reader focusing on the Revolutionary War as his special area of interest. Pete and Natalie are great friends who on occasion share pre-race meals together as they prepare for their grueling races.  We wish them continued success in their competitions!

I started my LHY career in 1990 teaching aerobics classes, assisting the fitness director and eventually teaching yoga. I then decided to become a personal trainer because I wanted to help those that were recovering from breast cancer, Parkinson’s, MS and other disabilities.  A special memory comes to mind when I worked with a lovely woman who was suffering from MS. One day she came up to me and said she and her husband celebrated their 25th Anniversary and because of our training sessions, and doing the workout routine I gave her, she was able to dance with her husband at their anniversary party. Friday mornings were very special due to teaching my Strength & Stability Class and working with my wonderful seniors. They are a joy to work with and so much fun!

I made many friends through the Y and I have so many fond memories working with all the fitness instructors, personal trainers and my two wonderful bosses, Anthony and Denise. Actually, they never felt like bosses. They were just two wonderful people I met through the Y and they became very good friends.

Retiring was a very difficult decision to make. However, I will be joining my husband in Georgia where he has been working for the past two years. I will also enjoy long weekends and the winter months in our new home in Longboat Key, Florida. I will miss each and every one of you, but I will not miss the snowy winters! Thank you for making working at the Y the most wonderful years of my life!

Growing up we had been members of the Lakeland Hills YMCA where my brother and I learned to swim. We have great memories of all the time we spent in the pool, something fun to do over the long, hot summer days or on winter afternoons. We have great memories of all of the birthday parties we had here too.

My husband Eric and I were ecstatic when Rosemary told us we had won a year’s membership this past year with the children’s Easter bonnet contest in Denville. Now our girls are learning to swim at the Y and making the same lasting memories that my brother and I have but now I get to enjoy watching my own kids make those memories too.

Eric and I also enjoy the membership. We took the 6 Weeks to Wellness Challenge in the fall, given by dietician Danielle Colombo of the Lincoln Park ShopRite. That was just the beginning of our weight loss journey. Armed with lots of helpful information on how to eat healthier, we began working with trainer Denise Munday in the gym. Now, half a year later I’ve lost 42 lbs. and Eric has lost 53, a combined 95 lbs.! I would never have thought it possible and it wouldn’t have been without all of the help, support and encouragement we received from Denise.

The gym is always clean and well kept, and the staff is always friendly and willing to help with any questions about the machines or equipment.  I enjoy the challenge of the elliptical machine. Recently, with encouragement and support from Denise, I have started taking classes. I look forward to the HIIT class on Wednesdays with Darlene, and the Barre Burn class on Friday with Michelle. I’ve also just started taking Simply Strength with Lisa on Tuesdays. It is yet another challenging but rewarding class.

I’ve been involved with the Y since 1983! My first experience with the Y was as a parent when I brought my toddler for swim lessons. Currently, at the Y I am a Communications/Financial Development Director and serve our members and participants by keeping them up to date with what’s going on at the Y via brochures, press releases, the website, and ads. I also run a yearly fundraising campaign (GIVE A KID THE Y) to provide financial assistance to those who can’t afford Y programs and membership.

One of the people I am most thankful for meeting at the Y (more than 21 years ago) is Sue Finney, a former Y board president, and long-time member. Sue comes to the Y regularly for yoga and classes and swimming and when she was board president, she would put in an hour or two volunteering at the front desk, and helping with the towel laundry. What inspires me about Sue is how she still makes the Y a regular part of her life despite ill health. She was responsible for me getting my original part-time job at the Y. If I had just 30 seconds to share with someone how the Y is so much more, I would tell them: The Y is truly a people place. In all the years I’ve worked here, it astounds me how many connections people have made and kept thanks to the Y…including myself. I met my husband here.