Inside the upstairs cycling room at the Valparaiso YMCA, brightly-dressed teams of cyclists showed their support for the Cycle Challenge 2018, where they joined local cancer survivors in peddling to the beat of radio hits to raise money for the YMCA’s Livestrong program.
The Livestrong program is a twelve-week health and wellness program that supports those on the road to recovering from cancer. Saturday morning’s cycling fundraiser exceeded its target of raising $5,000 dollars for the program.
“Doing events like these and connecting with people in the community, it’s all part of the core of who we are,” said Bob Wanek, the CEO of the Valparaiso YMCA. “Everyone has some fun, they get prizes, there’s great music, and of course it’s a philanthropic opportunity for everyone as well.”
Between the adamant cheers from the cycling instructors and the countless expressions of achievement that followed each thirty-minute segment of intense group cycling, participants did indeed share in a morning that balanced a good time with a good cause.
“Last minute, we put a team together to cycle, because it’s such a great cause,” said attendee Maureen Carroll of AM Stabilizers. “I really love being active, and it’s so great that I can do something that I love to help support those who have run into difficult situations in their life that they can’t control. It's also great that my employer encourages it.”
Attendees like Carroll were happy to see such a large turnout, knowing that fundraisers like these will allow the Livestrong program can continue on, and to continue positively affecting cancer survivors in the area.
“The goal of the Livestrong program is to train cancer survivors on how to master everything our wellness center has to offer here at the Valparaiso YMCA, from the weight machines to cardio equipment,” said Wellness Program Coordinator Carrie Koch, who works behind the scenes for the Livestrong program, and who was part of the committee that organized the morning’s event.
“We know it takes twelve weeks to develop a routine, so our goal is that by the end of the Livestrong program, for them to be comfortable walking in having mastered the routine we give them,” said Koch. She added that, although there are group events that go along with the program, each survivor is given an individual fitness assessment so the instructors can dial in on everyone’s specific circumstances and needs.
In addition, Koch attested that events like these in support of the Livestrong program are so important in not only in spreading awareness, but allowing the cancer survivors to enroll for free.
“We know that those who have battled or are battling cancer have a lot of medical bills, and finances can be difficult,” said Koch. “So we provide it for free, including a membership for them and their family members as part of the twelve-week program.”
Though the Livestrong program itself is organized by YMCA, the Livestrong Foundation’s process for choosing the specific YMCAs that will host their cancer-recovery program is a selective one, as is the the subsequent training for the instructors that will lead the classes. However, instructors like Anita Beaudoin attest that every bit of extra rigorous training was well worth it.
“It’s just so rewarding to see people really striving to get themselves better,” said Beaudoin, who has been a Livestrong instructor for the last three years. “It’s wonderful to see the groups start out when they don’t really know each other, and then as the weeks progress, they end up bonding together and they all progress, and it’s just wonderful to watch their confidence grow.”
Jim Daly is a cancer survivor from Valparaiso, who completed the Livestrong program about a year ago. He was one of the many survivors who made an appearance at the Cycling Challenge to not only support the continuation of the program, but to share how positively the twelve-week program impacted his recovery.
“I was actually diagnosed in 2010, and found out about the Livestrong program through my doctor,” said Daly. “I had a series of surgeries that kind of knocked me down related to the cancer, so going through the Livestrong program was for that.”
“I think it was the best think that ever happened to me as far as recovery, because it got me out of the recliner and up doing things,” Daly continued. “It also changed me attitude as far as how my future looked; right now, I feel good, and I just want to keep going like that.”
Another past Livestrong survivor who was present at the fundraiser was Martha Krasoczka, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2016.
“After my treatment, I needed to be around people who had a similar experience to my own, and it was the most wonderful thing that could have happened for me,” said Krasoczka. “It got me moving, and it made me feel more positive about myself.”
Krasoczka added that, in being within such close proximity to other cancer survivors, the program offered her and everyone else in her class the opportunity to exchange stories about their experiences, allowing them to motivate each other to really bounce back after treatment. Though the Livestrong is not technically a support group, many of the survivors agree that the relationships that they end up forming with one another during the health and fitness classes are a natural byproduct of their intimate journey alongside one another.
“I recommend it to everyone, men and women,” said Krasoczka, “because it is just a wonderful journey.”
1201 Cumberland Crossing Drive Valparaiso, IN 46383
Visit Valparaiso Family YMCA Partner Profile