Why We Love the Y

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by Jackie Babiarz |

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I grew up a YMCA kid. We lived across the street from the Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles, Illinois, a landmark for anyone who grew up on the north side of Chicago. My dad loved the replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa so much that when he added onto our house in 1990, he perfectly placed an attic skylight to frame the tower.

An infinite number of photos were taken growing up with the Leaning Tower in the background. My dad thought it was the perfect backdrop for our dates for high school dances, too. All five of us Corrado girls have photos from our wedding days with the Leaning Tower behind us, as if we got married in Pisa.

Jackie and her siblings pose in front of the Leaning Tower YMCA as kids.

From left, Kim, Jackie, Joanne, Kristin, Jenni, and Joe Corrado pose with the Leaning Tower YMCA behind them on Joanne’s Communion day in 1981. (Photo by Joseph Corrado)

Jackie and her siblings pose in front of the Leaning Tower YMCA on Jackie's wedding day.

From left, Kim, Joe, Kristin, Jackie, Joanne, and Jenni Corrado pose again in front of the Leaning Tower YMCA on July 7, 2007, Jackie’s wedding day. (Photo by Joseph Corrado)

The biggest endorsement my dad could ever give was to send all of his kids to an establishment. We all attended St. Mary of the Woods for church, Regina Dominican or Loyola Academy for high school, and the University of Illinois for college. But it all started with the YMCA.

My parents modeled and encouraged the YMCA’s core values: caring, respect, honesty, responsibility, and inclusion. Kiddie college for preschool, swim lessons, swim meets, racquetball, gymnastics, Adventure Guides, and golf lessons infused these values. My parents befriended countless YMCA residents who spent holidays with our family. I maintained a membership at that location until I moved into my first apartment.

Twenty years later, I have found my way back to the YMCA. It may not have a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in front, but it does have the same core values.

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Rett Syndrome and Exercise

When Kelly Coffey, a friend and the chief operating officer of the B.R. Ryall YMCA in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, heard that my 12-year-old daughter Cammy, who has Rett syndrome, was unable to attend her favorite swim camp this summer, she immediately reached out to me.

“Girl! We will take care of Cammy and get her in our therapy pool!”

In one simple text: caring, respect, honesty, responsibility, and inclusion.

I cried.

Cammy is back in the place she loves. Scott Thurston, the aquatics director, works with Cammy in the therapy pool. Her stiff muscles relax in the warm water. Scott instills the community virtue of the YMCA by getting swim team members involved in the sessions. Watching them work together means witnessing care, respect, honesty, responsibility, and inclusion.

Jackie's daughter, Cammy, swims in the pool with YMCA aquatic director Scott Thurston.

Scott Thurston works with Cammy at the B. R. Ryall YMCA in June. (Photo by Kim Cernek)

Throughout the years, and even the COVID-19 pandemic, the YMCA has never lost sight of its core values.

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Note: Rett Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Rett Syndrome News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.

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