When it comes to the Eastside Family YMCA and the Freeman family of Jamestown, it is smiles from cheek to cheek across the board.
Misty Freeman, a single parent, and her children - Matthew, 14; Ryan, 11; and Rebecca, 9 - love coming to the Eastside YMCA for more than just the programs and services they offer.
"The Eastside YMCA has helped to teach tolerance and acceptance of others regardless of backgrounds or abilities," said Ms. Freeman. "The Y has provided opportunities that kids otherwise may have not had, such as friendships, character building, classes, field trips and more."
Specifically, Matthew, who was diagnosed at age 9 with Still's disease, a rare autoimmune disease, is able to give back by being a volunteer youth mentor to the Middle School Academy at the Y.
"It's fun because of the fun people there and I am able to learn how to become a future leader," said Matthew, a ninth-grader at Jamestown High School.
The Y is a positive outlet for the teen that has had chemotherapy, daily injections and medications, and trips to Rochester for testing during his life.
Ryan, on the other hand, has ADHD and autism along with other diagnoses. He is a home-schooled sixth-grader and hopes to attend school when he is able.
By being at the Y, Ryan's academic, social and life skills have improved significantly in the safe and fun learning environment. He enjoys playing robotics, taking Zumba classes, and most of all attending tutoring provided by Chautauqua Striders.
Ms. Freeman has also noticed Rebecca's changes by being involved with the afterschool program at the Y. Rebecca, a fourth-grade student at Bush Elementary School, has grown significantly in terms of her positive self-esteem, academic strength and social abilities.
"I have met a lot of friends here that I enjoy spending time with," she said. As far as her favorite activity to do there, playing with the toy logs was at the top of the list.
Ms. Freeman, who used to be a substitute teacher and home health care assistant, is happy to be a part of the YMCA experience which includes family events and dinners to promote healthy families.
"If the Y wasn't here, it would be a huge loss because of all the friends my children have made and the life lessons taught there," she said. "The family unit is very important to us in every aspect of our life and I am grateful to the YMCA for always being there for my family."
For more information about the Eastside YMCA programs, contact Max Martin, branch director, at 484-3729.