YMCA Stories

May 13, 2015

National Women's Health Week Profile

The YMCA of Greater Syracuse offers a variety of programs and services for women, including specialized women's fitness centers, women-only triathlon training, support for breast cancer survivors, childcare for working parents and so much more. Two of our members, Mia Grimmage and Joy Gillis, have shared their stories.


Mia Grimmage


Mia GrimmageWhen Mia Grimmage first came to the Downtown YMCA ten years ago, she weighed over 400 pounds. She was shy and kind of scared.


“I came into the membership office first and I was telling them that I wanted to lose weight because I didn’t have any confidence in myself and I needed to be happy because I wanted to live for my kids – at that time my kids were young. They gave me a big smile and said, ‘You know what? We’re here for you.’”


The staff showed her how to use the machines and she kept coming back every day. The Biggest Winner weight loss program and the specialized equipment of the Downtown YMCA’s Women’s Fitness Center helped Mia along the way. Each day, she gained more and more confidence, saw herself losing weight and found herself feeling better and better about herself and her progress. “Every day they would give me a smile and say. ‘You go girl. You can do it!’”


Y staffer Stephanie Collins shares “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mia for about a year now. She has the heart of an angel and the determination of wildfire. I am happy to have met her and taken the time to get to know her. Mia continues to be an inspiration to all of us here at the Downtown Y.”


Joy Gillis


Joy GillisJoy Gillis didn’t consider herself to be an athlete. She was born in 1951 and grew up in a time when athleticism wasn’t usually associated with girls. She was asked by a neighborhood friend to attend a YMCA summer camp in Whittier, California and, while there, entered the only athletic events she would ever compete in. Her three blue ribbons in the free stroke, breaststroke, and backstroke swimming events are among her most cherished possessions.


It wasn’t until her 30s that she took up tennis and skiing, activities that she enjoyed with her husband, Kent. She was soon diagnosed with degenerative spinal disease, though, and had to undergo years of traction, spinal surgeries and failed bone fusions.


When she was able, she realized she needed to take her health into her own hands and visited the YMCA. There, a trainer introduced her to a program that was individualized for her needs and ability, including a mix of cardio and weight training. Recently, she was recognized by the Manlius YMCA as a Top 25 User of the facility.


The Manlius YMCA offers a variety of fitness classes, including different forms of yoga, pilates, and bootcamp-style workouts, as well as personal training, tennis and school-age child care. She and her husband have a home gym, but she looks forward to the interaction of the Y staff and fellow members to keep her on her regimen.


“You have no idea how much pride I take in the fact that you have endowed me with the title of ‘athlete’... I’m no jock, but the YMCA is the only one in my life experience that has validated my athletic efforts to be a better ‘me,’ says Joy. “What you offer me is encouragement and the platform to go the distance.”

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