NOTE: See attached PDF to view related photos.
Congratulations to the Sheboygan County YMCA which recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program with a wonderful celebration at Camp Y-Koda! In recognition of that milestone, I thought I would take a quick trip down memory lane.
The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund, which officially started in 2002, launched its “Survive, Thrive & Be Fit” program on February 1st of 2010 with our first “Gentle Yoga for Cancer Survivors” session. This class was an immediate success and I still recall the excitement I felt. Being a lifelong fitness enthusiast and, at the time, an 18-year cancer survivor I was thrilled to be a part of what was, as far as I know, the first time that a group of Sheboygan cancer patients/survivors gathered together specifically to move their bodies to experience the healing benefits of exercise. Over the past 12+ years, we have added a variety of other activities.
In mid-2011 I received a call from Donna Wendlandt, longtime President of the Sheboygan County YMCA, who was interested in bringing the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program to Sheboygan!
Photo (see attached PDF): Donna Wendlandt, Sheboygan County YMCA President
I have known Donna since my early running days (long before cancer was a part of my life) and I have benefitted from and bared witness to the many wonderful opportunities that, through Donna’s leadership, the Sheboygan County YMCA has offered to so many in our community! As excited as I was to grow Survive, Thrive & Be Fit, I could only imagine the incredible possibilities that the Sheboygan County YMCA; with its excellent facilities, experienced staff, and genuine care and concern for the community; would be able to offer area cancer patients and survivors!
At the time there were a handful of Wisconsin YMCAs interested in launching a LIVESTRONG program in their community and one of the initial steps was to demonstrate community support through a voting campaign with only the top vote-getters qualifying. I recall submitting a “Letter to the Editor” to the Sheboygan Press in support of the program and encouraging everyone I know to vote for the Sheboygan LIVESTRONG program. The campaign was a success! The Sheboygan County YMCA was awarded the LIVESTRONG program in 2012 and, within a few months, staff were trained and the first LIVESTRONG at they Sheboygan YMCA class was offered.
Anyone and everyone who has participated in the LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan County YMCA has surely benefitted, not just from the program itself, but from its two amazing leaders – Denice Nugent and Carrie Green.
Photo (see attached PDF): Denise Nugent and Carrie Green have selflessly given their the energy, compassion, and expertise to the LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan YMCA program for the past ten years and shared their usual joy-filled comments at the LIVESTRONG Celebration!
Denice, who has spent her entire career of almost 40-years at the Sheboygan YMCA, became familiar with the LIVESTRONG program while traveling to other YMCAs and encouraged the Sheboygan County YMCA to apply.
I have not had cancer yet,” Denice remarks. “My soul is fulfilled when I empower others. It is what I have spent my entire career of 39 years at the YMCA.”
Denice further explains, “At the LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan County YMCA program, we strive to find fun and exciting adventures to develop the spirit, mind, and body of cancer survivors and those who love them. Our motto: Do what you can!”
Interestingly, I would hear Carrie’s story long before I would actually meet her. Carrie’s mom, Ronna Cline, was one of the original board members for the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund and she shared Carrie’s diagnosis and some of her challenges with me.
Here is a brief summary of Carrie’s incredible story through words she previously shared in this Local Cancer Community Update:
My cancer journey began in July, 2005. Our daughters were 1 and 3 years of age at the time. I was 31 years old and had a massive seizure that resulted in brain surgery on July 5th, my 8-year wedding anniversary. Earlier, on the day of my seizure, I had found a coin on the ground that had an angel on one side and the word “strength” on the other side. My husband, Charlie, placed that coin in my hand as I was heading into surgery. “Strength” became my mantra, my focus in the days, months, and years following my diagnosis.
During the 4 years of chemotherapy that followed my brain cancer diagnosis, I completed 2 marathons and my teacher training to become a yoga instructor. Charlie continued his medical training and my doctor’s advice was, “live your life as you would otherwise!” We followed this advice, not without tears, fear, anxiety, and many prayers. I spent very little time questioning “why” as I was fully present in raising our children and living life but a deeper piece of me wondered, “what am I to do with this experience?”
My answer did not come until 7 years later when my family was looking to move back to Sheboygan, the hometown where my husband and I were raised. The LIVESTRONG program at the Sheboygan YMCA was just about to begin and I knew immediately that this was my answer. I was still healing and exploring my own wellness as the opportunity to support other cancer survivors was surfacing. I have been beyond blessed to use my background as a therapist, yoga instructor, and love of all things wellness to share and connect with others! I knew from my own experience that support is needed well beyond the treatment for cancer. The discussions around HOW to go on living a full, purposeful life while grieving losses that are secondary to a cancer diagnosis is deeply needed. Learning the value of a healthy and balanced lifestyle is instrumental in moving forward with strength and grace.
You can read the full article here: https://scccf.org/post?s=survivor-athlete-spotlight-kathryn-kuhn-carrie-green-39th-40th-2019-stbf-survivor-athletes-2019-12-03
The LIVESTRONG concept and idea is, without a doubt, a powerful one! The success of the LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan County YMCA, although it began with this powerful concept, owes its success to these individuals (Donna Wendlandt, Denice Nugent, Carrie Green) as well as every single LIVESTRONG participant – cancer survivor and co-survivor!
I am proud that Survive, Thrive & Be Fit, through its shared goal and mutual interest in “Making Sheboygan County the Healthiest Place to Survive Cancer, has played even a small role int the success of the LIVESTRONG program!
However you choose to do it, either through SCCCF’s Survive, Thrive & Be Fit or through LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan County YMCA, the main thing is that you GET ACTIVE in your Local Cancer Community by nurturing your body, your mind, and your spirit!
For information on LIVESTRONG at the Sheboygan County YMCA – Call 920.458.1000 ext. 130.
For information on Survive, Thrive & Be Fit – Contact Tim at 920.457.2223View PDF