YMCA Member Rocco B | Whitaker Family YMCA

Rocco Besednjak has been a member of the YMCA of Central KY for a short time, but it has been significant in his own wellness journey. It signifies a return to consistent strength training and regular gym-going, and caring for his mental health after a life-changing, career-ending event.

In July 2016, while serving as a police officer in Shepherdsville, KY, Rocco's life changed during a routine traffic stop. He was intentionally dragged 60 feet and run over by a car, hitting his upper back and lower neck on a curb, all at the hands of a wanted felon. At the time, Rocco worked out five to six days per week, with a focus on weightlifting and strength training - something his doctors believe served him well through the physical trauma of the accident. "I was 6’1”, 245 lbs, with a 30” waist. Doctors credited my muscle mass in my upper back and shoulders for preventing me from being paralyzed from the neck down, or killed." While he was not paralyzed and still had his life, he shares about the trauma that followed. "The injuries prevented me from working out, and forced me from a career that I loved. I started developing mental health issues because of it, but found no resources for mental health support for first responders. I also started getting back into the outdoors to help with my mental health, and realized the benefits of being in nature."

Eight spinal surgeries later (including an implant of an intrathecal pain pump, spinal cord stimulator, and bladder stimulator), Rocco's physical therapist had him start doing strength training, using cables. "As soon as I touched those cables I found an instant rush of happiness," he shares. "After a few weeks, the physical therapist encouraged me to join a gym and continue strength training. Knowing how much I enjoyed the Y when I was a member before, I immediately rejoined the Y. I have been working out now for over two months. Coming back to the Y has greatly improved my mental and physical health, after not being able to lift for over seven years because of spinal injuries."

In addition to taking care of his own health, Rocco has found purpose in a new career that helps others take care of theirs, too. "In 2019, my wife and I bought 160 acres and started the all-volunteer nonprofit Camp Hero, which hosts veterans and first responders for outdoor activities to help with mental health. We also provide mentoring for at-risk youth through the outdoors in Jackson County, KY."

He keeps himself healthy and moving at the Y, where he appreciates the "consistency, cleanliness, friendliness of staff and members. The Y encompasses members from all parts of the community, and brings them all in one place, where healthy living is promoted and shared with each other."

Thank you, Rocco, for sharing your Y story as you're getting back to strength training and regular visits at the Y. We're truly honored to be a part of your ongoing recovery for your own healing so that you can continue to help others. We are grateful for your service through the US Navy, as a first responder, and now in your powerful work at Camp Hero.

YMCA Member Rocco B | Whitaker Family YMCA
Category: Member Spotlight