It is not uncommon for members and staff to reflect on the YMCA as a place that builds community and a sense of belonging. Katie Mullen’s story is such a beautiful illustration of the impact of the Y, not necessarily because of one big moment or achievement, but because of the way the Y has been present in the day-to-day life of her family through many seasons.
Katie joined the YMCA at 23-years-old as a new mom trying to balance family budget, quality child care, and self-care. “The Beaumont Y was a saving grace for me. At a time when I could afford few things, I could afford the YMCA, and wow, what it added to my life and to my family's life has been invaluable.”
Katie and her family immediately felt welcomed by Kids Corner, an on-site childcare service free to YMCA household members. “The genuinely compassionate child care staff at our Y made me feel so safe to leave my daughter, and then my daughter and son while I exercised or worked. It helped my daughter, Avery, overcome separation anxiety when she was a toddler and it helped my son, Henry, feel comfortable in spaces outside our home (we started taking him as soon as we could; he was still a newborn!). The Y taught both of my kids how to swim, how to tumble, and how to shoot hoops, but most of all they taught them what community looks like,” Katie shared.
While Avery and Henry were being cared for in Kids Corner, Katie discovered how to make exercise a habit. “Before the Y, I had never been to a group fitness class. I did not consider myself athletic, and my primary motivation for exercising was to control my weight,” she explained. “But the Y has helped me to shift my perspective, to focus on my overall wellness, happiness, and strength. Instead of dreading exercise, the Y has helped me to feel empowered and energized by it, which has been such a gift.”
And exercise isn’t the only way Katie utilized child care to invest in herself. “I applied for graduate school in the Y lobby. I completed my final examination in the hallway outside Kids Corner. I completed countless assignments at the round tables by the front entrance, and a few years later, as a professor, wrote college curriculum at those same tables. The only downside to this story is that sometimes the Wi-Fi was spotty in the lobby”, Katie joked. “Truly, I don't know how I would have been able to do this without the help of the YMCA.”
This creative and intentional use of time has given Katie and her family a unique experience at the Y, but none of it would have been as meaningful without the people around her making it possible. She explained, “When I say the Y has been so many things to me, what I really mean is that the people at the Y have been everything. I think what I appreciate most about the Y are the people who make it such a welcoming place to be. It's a true community.”
Citing “multi-generational” as one of the defining – and wonderful – characteristics of that community, she smiled and shared wryly, “I love that sometimes older individuals bring hard candy to share. On more than one occasion I've been given a hard caramel or peppermint while in the gym area.”
We are so grateful for Katie sharing her family’s story and allowing the Y to walk alongside them as they’ve grown. The benefit of their household membership for them and the Y is mutual: while they’re using Kids Corner, taking classes, playing youth sports, and working in the lobby, they are in turn contributing to and strengthening the Y. Katie herself may have even said it best: “The Y is a place where people go to take what they need and give what they can, including words of support and a gentle system of accountability.”
We truly look forward to seeing how Katie and the family enjoy the Y in the coming years.