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Our YMCA Featured Members are special members who make a difference at their Y and in their community. These inspiring individuals have been nominated by other members and YMCA staff to be recognized for their contribution to our Y community. Read their stories below!

Castle Downs Family YMCA Featured Member: Larry West

Larry West has been a member of the Castle Downs Family YMCA for three years, and he’s become a member of the YMCA family. A retired firefighter, Larry also played football at a high level — he still holds a record with the Edmonton Wildcats — so exercise and fitness has always been a part of his life. He joined the Y because he kept catching colds exercising outside, and he found a great community at the Castle Downs Family YMCA.

“The thing I missed the most when I retired from the Edmonton Fire Department was the camaraderie on the job,” Larry says. “I have found that by joining the YMCA. I have made many new friends, all ages, sizes, and genders.”

Larry is a welcome presence at our YMCA. He takes the time to stop and talk with everyone. He is always there to lend a hand when needed. He attends our potlucks and brings special dishes that he learned to make at the station in his firefighting days. He has made friends with a YMCA volunteer who has some special needs, and the two work out together, have lunch, and joke around with each other. This individual is now healthier, has lost weight, and has a better attitude towards life in general because of their friendship. Larry has had an incredible impact.

Larry’s granddaughter takes swimming lessons and attends summer camp at the YMCA, and Larry likes using the indoor track and the workout centre equipment to keep him fit. He says that our Centre Manager, Karen, and her friendly staff brighten his day every day.

Larry brightens our day, too, and truly helps make the Castle Downs Family YMCA a community.


Don Wheaton Family YMCA Featured Member: Doug Hunter

Doug Hunter has a chosen family, and it’s the YMCA. He first joined the YMCA in Winnipeg in 1995, and has been a member of the Don Wheaton Family YMCA since 2013. He loves the size and layout of our Y, and the variety of programs available, but what he loves most is the friendliness of the staff, volunteers, and other members, whom he calls his “chosen fitness family.”

Exercising has always been important to Doug, both for his physical fitness and his mental well-being. As an extrovert, group fitness classes feeds the energy he needs, while the kindness and acceptance he’s found in the Y community have helped him through personal challenges and difficult times.

“We all have tough days at home or at work, but I know that seeing friendly faces at the gym, getting in a 5km run on the treadmill or one of the fitness classes I attend will help me work through the stresses of my day,” he explains. “The Y workout helps me reset my mind and body to take on the rest of the day with a fresh attitude.”

Through personal challenges, the YMCA has remained a safe place for Doug to be himself, where he can inspire and be inspired by the staff and other members. He is now on the journey to become a volunteer instructor. He wants to give back to his fellow members, encourage and support their personal fitness goals, empathize with them, and be part of the support system he found at the YMCA.

“The YMCA has been a lifeline for fitness of my mind, body, and spirit for almost 25 years. It’s time to pay it forward to the current membership at the Y and inspire others to reach their goals, volunteer, and give back.”

Thank you, Doug, for making the YMCA a community!


Jamie Platz Family YMCA Featured Member: Josh Bensimon

Josh Bensimon has been a member at the Jamie Platz Family YMCA since 1999.

“The Y is an institution,” he says. “It plays a huge role in the community.”

For Josh, exercising and keeping active is one of the most important parts of life. Working out at the YMCA has helped him handle work stress, improved his sleep, kept him physically healthy, and allowed him to meet friends and connect with others. He describes the Jamie Platz Family YMCA as a pleasant place to be.

Josh is a friendly face around our Y, and we look forward to seeing him every day. He has built relationships with the staff and other members that make our Y a community.

If he could say one thing to a person considering joining the YMCA, he would say, “you will never turn back!”

Thank you for being a member, Josh!


William Lutsky Family YMCA Featured Member: Matthew Spence

A YMCA member for 28 years, Matt Spence is an inspiration to everyone at the William Lutsky Family YMCA.

Exercising and keeping active at the YMCA has made an incredible difference in his life. “I know for certain that I would be less mobile at this age without regular exercise,” Matt says. He enjoys the facility and the wide variety of programs, but his favourite part about the William Lutsky Family YMCA is the chance to meet and interact with so many friendly people.

“The staff and volunteers are excellent and are a fundamental resource,” he explains. “The Y is the people and not the building.”

Matt comes to the William Lutsky Family YMCA with his wife, Cynthia, seven days a week. He also donates to the YMCA, because he believes in our mission, and because he believes in helping families access health and fitness programs.

Matt is a great part of our community here at the William Lutsky Family YMCA!