Whitney and Avril S.

Lakewood Family YMCA

By the time Avril discovered the Y in 2011, her proverbial plate was overflowing. Not only was she responsible for the care of her aging mother, she was also the sole provider for her daughter (who suffers from mental illness) and her 6-year-old granddaughter, Whitney. The situation was something of a pressure cooker with so many people and so many demands in such a small space. A competent woman, Avril struggled with the unavoidable truth: she needed some help and an outlet for Whitney's youthful energy.

That's when she heard about the Swim for Exceptional Children program at the Y and decided to enroll Whitney. Despite struggling with epilepsy and developmental delays, Whitney took to swimming like a fish to water. She has made huge strides in confidence, strength, and coordination since coming to the Y. She is more comfortable in social situations, expanding her vocabulary, and improving her cognitive skills. She even went on to compete in the Special Olympics, where she won gold medals two years in a row.

In addition to getting Whitney connected to the Y, Avril discovered the community of support she needed as a full-time caregiver.

"[The Y] has given me more peace to ask for help when I need it," said Avril. "I have learned that I am not the only one in my situation and that there are places that are safe to share, places where I don't feel judged, but accepted. The Y is a great place, friendly, helpful, and very in tune to individual needs."