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.

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!

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!