Discovering New Meaning

Joe Bernazzani

Many people join the Y for one common reason: to better themselves. Sometimes our members join for one purpose and end up discovering programs and services that give that purpose a new meaning.

This was the case for Joe Bernazzani, a Southwest Y member who now frequents the Hal Welsh East Area Family Y after being diagnosed with cancer in August 2015 and applying for the LiveSTRONG program. “When I originally joined the Y I was just working out and supplementing my outdoor Triathlon training – my running, my biking, and my swimming – with strength conditioning and training at the Y. Once I got sick, I tried the LiveSTRONG program. This was completely different for me because they had us doing exercises that I wouldn’t have otherwise concentrated on. It was good for me to break things down, go back to the beginning, start over and share that experience with other people with a similar story.”

Joe’s diagnosis was never something he broadly spoke about, but that changed after sharing his story in the LiveSTRONG program, a 12-week cancer survivor’s program focused on the survivor’s strength, fitness and quality of life. “It’s amazing to hear other people’s stories and to learn of their struggles and how they are or are not dealing with it. You get inspired through their stories because they may have it worse than you and you think to yourself, ‘If this person can get up everyday, come to the gym, be a part of this group – or just even get out of bed – then I look at myself in the mirror and realize I have no excuses.’ Usually it’s the normal ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ at the gym where you see the same people during the same hours each day, but if not for this program I wouldn’t have gotten that close with these people in the 12-weeks that we shared, sharing our stories and laughs.”

We recently met Joe at the Ride to Raise Bike-a-Thon event at the Hal Welsh East Area Family Y after we noticed he had ridden his bike for all 3 hours of the event. Joe rode a total of 68km (approx. 40 miles)! “I wasn’t planning on riding the whole time, but after 30 minutes when I didn’t switch off with someone, I told myself I’d do a whole hour, and after I surpassed that I decided to ride the whole 3 hours. It was great!” If not for the LiveSTRONG program and the exercises Joe did with our staff, he might not have been to participate in this event at all and have this wonderful accomplishment!

Joe became a Y member to help aid his triathlon training regiment and it’s now evolved into something much different. Beyond his physical health & wellness, he was given a platform to maintain his mental health as well, while being surrounded by others who were doing the same. The LiveSTRONG program is that outlet of hope and encouragement to so many.