The Y Became My Family After Personal Tragedy
“After a two-year break from teaching fitness classes for 20 years, I decided that I needed to get active again and began taking classes at the North Penn YMCA. My father had just passed away after battling cancer, and I realized that I needed some fun and positivity back in my life. After participating in several classes, I expressed my desire to begin teaching again to one of the instructors, Ronnie McMenamin. She gave me the most positive encouragement and I was able to get back into the swing of things. It was great to be teaching again and making new friends as I was very new to the area.
I had been teaching there for almost three years when my beautiful 26-year-old son died in a tragic accident. In my saddened state, I was wondering how I was ever going to muster up the strength and positive energy to stand in front of a group and teach class again. But somehow I did and returned to teaching about three weeks later.
As hard as it was to walk back into that first class, it was the best thing I could have ever done in my grief stricken state. The kind words expressing sympathy, the hugs, and offers to help that I received from my “Y friends” was overwhelming and so very comforting. It made me feel as though, “Yes, this will be hard, but I think I can continue to do this.” I was also amazed at the people who came forward and told me that they too had lost a child. So I realized that I was not alone in my “membership to a club that I never wanted to join” (The parents who have lost their children club).
In honor of my deceased son, I opened four completely furnished transition homes for people who are coming out of homeless shelters. Many members in my classes knew that I was doing these projects and offered along the way to help me furnish these homes. I was astounded at the kindness of so many members who donated items such as couches, blankets, dishes, mattresses, lamps, wall decor, soaps, etc. (These were things that they no longer needed due to changing their decor or moving, etc., but they were very valuable and much appreciated by me and the residents). I could go on and on about the kindness of the Y members and staff and how very grateful I am.
They say that the best way to heal is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and reach out to others. That is what I continue to do, and being an instructor at the North Penn YMCA gives me the opportunity to do that. When I know I have to teach a class, I know I have a reason to smile. And there is nothing that makes me happier then to see the smiles on the members faces!” -Robyn Earl