Member Spotlight: David Brongiel

Editor’s Note: David Brongiel is an active member of the C.W. Avery Family YMCA. With the help of his caregivers, David uses the Y for rehabilitation. This is his story, as told to us by his parents.

David suffered a traumatic brain injury after he was t-boned by a semi-truck. It affected his speech and his right side was paralyzed. He was in a coma for three weeks. Doctors initially said he wouldn’t make it home.

A therapist told us to get him the best exercise and equipment. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space at home for big equipment. So, we looked at fitness centers in the area. Something was missing.

A relative had been a member of the C.W. Avery Family YMCA for many years. He introduced us to Eileen in Membership, who gave us a very informative tour. Talking to her made it feel right.

It’s more than the exercise at the Y. It’s the atmosphere, the cleanliness, the friendly staff. That’s what was missing from the other fitness centers.

Since coming to the Y, David’s speech has improved. The movement in his right arm continues to increase. His vision is back to 20/20. Many staff members know him by name. They say hello each and every time.

We’ve made many friends here. One member made a donation to the Annual Campaign and received a T-shirt. He gave it to David and told him he was an inspiration.

Everyone has a Y story, a way in which the YMCA has impacted your life. Believe it or not, your story has the power to inspire hundreds—if not thousands—of members to follow in your footsteps. To submit a Y story of your own, click here.

Meet Hope Heiser, Dancer for the Chicago Bulls

YMCA Member Hope Heiser has been dancing with the Chicago Bulls Swingin’ Seniors for four seasons. Like the Luvabulls, the Swingin’ Seniors appear at Bulls home games and perform during intermissions. But unlike their counterparts, all Swingin’ Seniors are at least 60-years-old. A recent Facebook video shows Hope—wearing number 66, her age when the season started—front and center on the United Center floor, dancing to a mix of Whitney Houston, Cardi B and Big Sean.

“I would’ve never been able to perform our dance routines or keep up with the team’s practice schedule if I had not gotten involved in some structured exercise programs,” Hope says of her time with the Swingin’ Seniors. “I owe it to the Y.”

Hope survived a bout with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent surgery to repair two joints in her foot in 2009. She made a full recovery but found herself more inactive than ever. She credits the Y with helping her get back into shape.

Today, she is an active member of the C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield, where she regularly attends classes like Pumped Up, Cardio Interval and Pound, just to name a few. Since joining in 2013, she has lost 40 pounds.

“When I walk into the Y, I feel like I’m part of a family. Everyone is extremely welcoming,” Hope says. “I’m often the oldest one in the classes I take, but I get so much encouragement from my fellow members. The instructors show us how to modify the moves and take great care in making sure everyone feels comfortable during class.”

Hope’s affinity for the Y extends down into her immediate family as well. She says her grandchildren have enjoyed a number of Y programs, from swim lessons to sports camps.

Hope and the Swingin’ Seniors perform at Bulls games between 12 and 15 times each year. Look out for them during your next trip to the United Center!

Everyone has a Y story, a way in which the YMCA has impacted your life. Believe it or not, your story has the power to inspire hundreds—if not thousands—of members to follow in your footsteps. To submit a Y story of your own, click here.

Plainfield Lion’s Club Donates $5,000 to Diabetes Self-Management Program

Earlier this week, the Lion’s Club of Plainfield donated $5,000 to benefit the C.W. Avery Family YMCA’s new Diabetes Self-Management Program. Set to debut this spring, the program will be offered at no cost to diabetics, pre-diabetics, caregivers and friends of those who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes. Using curriculum developed at Stanford University, classes will focus on healthy eating, exercise and blood sugar monitoring, among many other self-management tools. Look out for more information in the coming weeks.

YMCA Receives $10,000 Grant From Midland States Bank

The Greater Joliet Area YMCA is the recipient of a $10,000 grant courtesy of Midland States Bank. The gift will directly benefit the Y’s Teen Achievers Program, an academic-based program that guides local students on their path to graduating high school, attending college and achieving career goals.

Senior Vice President of Banking Dan Stevenson presented the check this past Thursday to members of the Y’s leadership team. Among them were Katy Leclair, Larry Weirs, Maurice Fears, Lynette Sartori, Saundra Russell-Smith and Julie Wilkinson. Joliet Township High School Director of Special Partnerships Jeff Riley was also in attendance.

Since 2005, the YMCA has offered the Teen Achievers Program to Joliet high school students. This past fall, the program expanded its services to Plainfield South High school. The growing program currently serves 107 area students in total. This spring, an estimated 50 students will embark on an annual out-of-state college road trip that gives students the opportunity to visit several esteemed universities.

As one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charities, the YMCA is committed to strengthening local communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Through its financial assistance and scholarship program, the Greater Joliet Area YMCA works to fulfill its mission of ensuring that its programs are available to everyone and no one is turned away due to the inability to pay.

The Midland States Bank Foundation was created to provide for the improvement of the general welfare, education and health in the communities where the bank operates and where its employees reside. Since its creation in 2011, the Foundation has contributed more than $500,000 to non-profit organizations throughout Midland’s footprint.

Pictured above (from left to right): YMCA Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Katy Leclair, Midland States Bank Senior Vice President of Banking Dan Stevenson, YMCA Teen and Young Adult Advancement Council Chairman Dr. Larry Wiers, YMCA Teen and Young Adult Advancement Executive Director Maurice Fears, YMCA Teen and Young Adult Advancement Manager Lynette Sartori, YMCA Teen and Young Adult Advancement Council Member Saundra Russell-Smith, Joliet Township High School Director of Strategic Partnerships Jeff Riley and YMCA Senior Development Director Julie Wilkinson.

YMCA Volunteers Distribute Thousands of Toys for Tots Donations

You’ve seen the Toys For Tots donation boxes around town, often filled to the brim with action figures, dolls, Legos and board games. Perhaps you’ve even donated to the program before. But have you ever wondered how those toys end up in the hands of a needy family?

Well, after the United States Marine Corps Reserve (the program’s organizer) rounds up all the donations, they rely on local organizations to sort and distribute the toys.

In Will County, most of the toys end up at the Greater Joliet Area YMCA. As the largest distribution organization in the area, the Y sorts through several thousand toys each holiday season.

During a daylong volunteer event, YMCA staff and members come together as Santa’s Helpers to carefully select gifts for the families who qualify.

This year, the Y organized and distributed enough toys for 800 area children to experience the joy of opening gifts on Christmas morning.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, please call (815) SAY-YMCA. For more information about Toys For Tots in our area, visit

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