LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Assembly

The LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program is nearly 10 years old — born in 2007. Feedback from individuals nationwide, revealed that there were limited exercise options for cancer survivors. Cancer, in some form or other, was impacting every community in the country and the YMCA had a desire to serve those most in need in virtually every community in the country. This was a partnership that was meant to happen and thankfully it did.

A remarkable amount of YMCA staff who are involved in LIVESTRONG at the YMCA say that it is their favorite program. Fundamentally the amazing strength, perseverance and camaraderie shown by the survivors in each class means that every twelve weeks, a community experience is created that lasts a lifetime. This kind of impact needs to be understood, improved upon and celebrated — which is why a group of Y staff members decided to create the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Assembly.

Of course there are opportunities for Y leaders from around the country to communicate; we hold conference calls, webinars, Skype calls — but nothing beats coming face to face with friends and peers.

After months of planning the 2016 Assembly was held in the beautiful surroundings of YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in North Carolina on February 4th and 5th. There were over 50 staff members from around the country in attendance. The 2-day gathering was filled with fun and friendship, but also in depth workshops and discussions. Topics included the emotional impact on instructors of working with and supporting cancer survivors; best practices and innovative ideas for instructors involved in the exercise program; ways to tap into community resources; and ideas for gaining more cancer survivor referrals. Guest speakers included a local oncologist based in Asheville; YMCA of the USA representative Kenitra Robinson; and one of our best and longest serving LIVESTRONG at the YMCA project managers, Rachel Dudasik, a cancer survivor herself.

The Assembly achieved its main goals of connecting and re-energizing LIVESTRONG at the YMCA key staff members; but it also reinforced what we already knew. Finding a way to support cancer survivors in their efforts to regain or maintain health is one of the most rewarding aspects of Y work for so many staff members. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a way of life at many associations and the small communities that have formed around this initiative include some of the most passionate and engaged individuals involved with our organization. We’re already planning our 20th birthday!

Mike Roberts Executive Director

Petersburg Family YMCA