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Success Stories

We are much more than simply a centre for physical fitness.

We are a charity that focuses on nurturing potential, promoting healthy living, and fostering social responsibility. And we work hard every day to make a positive impact in individual’s lives in the communities we serve.

We are proud to share some of the examples of the lasting personal and social change that we have helped foster.

  • Self-Employment Program
  • Alicia's Story

    photo of businesswoman

    Alicia has always been passionate about law. When she moved to Canada from Argentina in 2003, it took 11 years of hard work to finally be called to the bar and begin working in her field here in Canada. However, soon after starting, Alicia was feeling overwhelmed by ever increasing workplace demands and having little time for family or friends.

    She quickly grew tired of the tension she experienced while trying to log and bill an incredible number of hours to earn her salary, so Alicia made the difficult decision to quit her job.

    Seeking assistance, she met with a career advisor who mentioned the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s Self-Employment Program. Having owned and operated a business in Argentina, she knew a thing or two about entrepreneurship, but the idea of opening a business in a foreign country was an intimidating one.

    When she learned that the Y’s program offered 52 weeks of training and coaching, as well as financial support, she decided to take a leap and enroll.

    “I chose the Y because it offered the most complete program of this kind, and free of charge! The great structure of the classes and the completeness of the topics were very relevant to becoming an entrepreneur”, explains Alicia.

    Over the course of the program, Alicia learned how to build, launch and grow her business.

    Within months, Alicia had turned her love for law into Laufer Notary, a mobile notary public service that opened in January 2018 and was recognized as a top three notary public in Winnipeg the same year!

    A year and half later, Alicia has grown her business and client base to a point where she is earning a comfortable income and has time for work, family and friends.

    “I really don’t know where I would be without the Self-Employment Program. My husband trusted my abilities of being an entrepreneur and my family in Argentina is proud of all my courage to open a business in Canada.” says Alicia.

    “Having my own business and working for myself was one of the best decisions I have made and without the confidence I gained through the Y’s Self-Employment Program, it would have been impossible.”

  • Darrell's Story

    At the time of my departure from the business where I was employed for the last 23 years, I profess that the developments were sudden, and I was ill-prepared for the next steps in my career journey. I was fifty-seven years old and had no tangible plan. Additionally, I was suffering from mental health issues. Looking for employment when you are older, feeling unwell and unsure of what skills you have to offer in the current workplace leaves one feeling vulnerable and dejected about one’s ability to provide a quality of life for both yourself and your loved ones.

    A couple of months after my departure, I was blessed to have been given an opportunity by someone who saw value in me and my skills at a time when I did not. The opportunity would mean becoming self-employed, however, and I had no idea how I would be able to launch a successful business, while trying to heal and actively look for work.

    It was at this time that a colleague mentioned the Self-Employment Program operated by the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg. Once I heard details of the program, I contacted them immediately. After a first meeting with the program and the acceptance of my business concept, I was offered a spot. That acceptance was a life-changing event. It meant I now had access to the professional support and guidance I required, a baseline income while working on my business start-up, relief from undertaking an active job search while trying to start a business, and the knowledge/ support of a peer group going through the same process. That would have been enough, but it provided so much more. The design of the program also gave me structure at a time when I was having trouble focusing and meeting deadlines.

    It comes as no surprise that after five years, approximately 50% of small business ventures in Canada fail. Within my cohort, I saw people with excellent ideas and strengths but also lacking skills and understanding in certain areas that are / would be vital to their future success. Without the holistic and supported structure of programs such as the Y’s Self-Employment Program, it is clear that many business ventures that could survive, will not. It begs the question how many of failed first-time small business ventures might have been successful if they had only had access/requirement to go through a program such as this.

    It is clear to me now that without the good fortune of being admitted into the Self-Employment Program, my story would certainly have a different ending. While the future always remains unknown to us, my current business venture is doing well, my self-worth has increased, and I am once again a contributing member of society.

    It feels good to be back.

  • James' Story

    a man stands in front of marine construction material

    James Leclair knows construction.  As early as 10-years-old, he can remember learning the tools of the trade, thanks to his father, who introduced James to the industry through the family’s construction company. Now an adult and father of three, James is deep into the construction business, both literally and figuratively.  James made a name for himself in the difficult and dangerous world of marine (underwater) construction. Over 19 years, James worked his way through the commercial diving ranks to become a Diving Superintendent; an incredible accomplishment in an industry where 80% of trainees fail and only 10% who pass, go on to full careers.

    Despite his success, James still felt troubled. “After working for companies that showed little loyalty for their employees and only loyalty to money, I needed more," says James. Knowing that he needed to reach for the next level, taking the big step out of his comfort zone to become an owner was very intimidating.  James recalls, “I had my family - I was a divorced father that would do anything to stay in my daughters’ lives. The only thing preventing me from starting my business was the insecurity of having money to pay my bills.”

    James considered resigning from the only employer in central Canada, but relocating for work meant leaving his family, which was not an option. He also considered changing careers and returning to heavy equipment operations where he had started with his dad. Then, when he found himself on EI due to insufficient work in the province, he decided it was finally time to step out on his own.

    An online search for resources led him to the Y’s Self-Employment Program. After reading about it, James learned that participants continue to receive EI benefits while attending classes, writing their business plan and receiving coaching. Plus, if their EI runs out, additional financial support in the form of a Living Allowance is also available. “It gave me that comfy feeling of being able to pay my bills while I risked it!” exclaims, James. And, with classes taught by successful entrepreneurs from the community, the program offers a melting pot of views and ideas, tips and teachings to become a successful business.

    With the help of the Y’s Self-Employment Program, Amphibious Construction was launched in September 2018.  During its first year of business, they nearly doubled their financial projections and actually had to turn down work it was so busy. Now, having graduated the program, James eagerly looks toward year two, saying “next year we will have more equipment and personnel to supply the influx of demand we are facing, and we are looking at going five times over our first year’s projections."

    When asked to look back on where he is now compared to when he started the program, James replied, “I am much happier and feel like the world is my oyster. I will pursue challenges head on and make them a success."

  • Mental Health Program
  • Wayne's Story

    a man sits in a chair with a white sweater on

    For Wayne, life has been a series of devastating events, each one bringing with it new pain. As a child he was sexually assaulted numerous times. He has struggled with addiction to both drugs and alcohol and has been surrounded by people fighting the same demons. He has lost countless friends and family members. Wayne reached a point where he no longer valued his life.

    “I was going to end it (my life),” said Wayne. “I had nowhere to go.”

    Fortunately, he learned about our Learning & Leisure Mental Health Program through another participant who recommended it to him.

    “I heard all the wonderful work that has come out of the classrooms – how to deal with stress and anxiety,” said Wayne.

    Since first coming to the program, Wayne has enrolled in seven different courses, like Managing Anxiety and Dealing with Depression.

    These courses have given him the tools he needs to manage everyday situations and an entirely new outlook on life.

    “The future looks a whole lot brighter for me now. I am making better decisions. I am now truly enjoying my whole new life.”

    Wayne credits this new outlook to his experience in the program, and to the team who runs it.

    “Staff at the Learning & Leisure Centre have saved me from death.”

  • Stacey's Story

    On November 29, 2018 I was admitted involuntarily to a psych unit in the hospital. I was extremely suicidal and had literally no hope left. I was incredibly angry to be there against my will, and told myself, “Do whatever you have to do so that they’ll discharge you as soon as possible, and then you can still go through with your plan”. So that included attending group sessions twice a day. And one of those sessions was to listen to someone from the Y Learning & Leisure Centre speak to us about their program. To be honest, I was still so tuned out at this point, the only part I truly heard was the free 6 month membership info. THAT caught my ear and I suddenly felt something that I hadn’t felt in quite a while...hope. You see, I’d been wanting a gym membership for a long time but simply couldn’t afford it (which added to my Depression). So I took the pamphlet and really read it a few days later. 


    There were 2 upcoming classes. One about Managing Anxiety and the other about Understanding exact 2 diagnoses in the hospital. So I signed up for both. And let me tell you, I have not looked back!! I have taken literally every single course and workshop that’s been offered over this past year, and they have been LIFE CHANGERS for me!! Not only have I FINALLY learnt all about my mental illnesses, but most importantly...I’ve learned coping skills!!  


    It’s now become my life’s mission to help as many people as possible NOT reach that incredibly dark, low place I was in. That’s why I tell EVERYONE I can about the Y Learning & Leisure Centre’s programs. I give my counsellor every new pamphlet and he told me that he’s recommended these classes to several of his clients. I’ve noticed the classes getting bigger and bigger, with a lot of repeat class mates...because these courses work!! And there’s a HUGE demand for more. Especially classes offered in the evening, for people who work during the day.  


    Thanks to these programs I’m happier, more confident, made some lifelong friends, and the most valuable thing of all - HOPEFUL for the future, which is priceless!! 


    Stacey is now finding her anxiety and depression manageable through using cognitive behavioural therapy exercises and regular check-ins with members of her mental health support team. She is no longer suicidal and is now volunteering and facilitating skill development groups for the Learning and Leisure centre. 

  • Sandra's Story

    The many benefits I have received from the YMCA Learning and Leisure Centre include learning ways to stand up for myself without anger, anxiety or being trampled on.  


    When I do get periods of anger and anxiety, I hear them in my mind "what can we do to work or change this?" and mindful breathing. Along with the classes, I joined the self-esteem book club and the facilitator will go deep on the topics to make sure we understand it.  


    Here, there is no question that is wrong or silly, because they genuinely want to make sure we understand the tools they are sharing with us to live our best life.  


    Thank you to the facilitator and the Centre for sleep, safety and getting me on the road to me.  


    Sandra has been working tirelessly to build up her self-esteem despite a history of complex trauma. Since joining the programshe is now finding value deep within herself despite her anxiety. She practices mindfulness and meditation often and is enjoying healthy relationships once again. 

  • Meagan's Story

    The Mental Health and wellness programs at the Y changed my life. When I first joined I was unable to work due to anxiety and depression. When I found out about the Y programs, I was in a bad place. I had been disappointed repeatedly by many different health-care providers and I didn't have high hopes about anything. When I saw that the programs at the Y could be accessed by self-referral, I was relieved; I didn't have to rely on my doctors and be disappointed yet again. After my assessment, I honestly felt lighter! I was asked questions with care and WITHOUT judgment. I felt as though I was in the right place. I was allowed to start a class even though I was coming in a week late. I was told I could make up the classes I had missed and I was excited. I wasn't used to being accommodated like that. 


    The classes are amazing. You meet new people and talk about your experiences. You feel welcome and heard. You have your questions answered. You learn about stress, anxiety, depression and mental health and wellness in general. Through the stories of classmates, the course material and the genuine care you receive from the instructor, you start to feel hopeful again. I know I would be in a very different place if I didn't have the Y programs. I started a gratitude journal and I feel like I'm cheating because a few entries per week are about being grateful for the mental health programs at the YMCA. 


    Meagan is now managing her anxiety and depression through developing self-awareness, engaging in regular exercise and practicing assertive language with others. She is now off stress leave and beginning back at work, as well as volunteering and facilitating skill development groups for the Learning and Leisure Centre. 

  • Ralph's Story

    The Learning and Leisure Program is a wonderful experience. I first started with the learning component in early 2017 and then participated in the leisure component. I greatly enjoyed taking courses for my anxiety, depression and skills to become better able to cope with my mental health.  I also enjoy going to the Leisure group where we participate in many activities including darts, board games, cooperative games and events. The people who coordinate and teach the programs at the Learning & Leisure Centre have provided great support and help the keeps me grounded and even keel. They kept the Learning and Leisure Program running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by virtual connection with computers, tablets and smart phones. This has been instrumental in helping me cope with my mental health throughout the pandemic. 

  • Paul's Story

    The YMCA Learning & Leisure Centre has had a definite positive impact on my mental health recovery since joining. From the staff to the members it is a very welcoming and safe place to socialize with others in similar situations as mine. The leisure groups are a lot of fun and you can for sure learn a lot about whatever mental health issues you may be dealing with. Many different resources are available from the staff to help continue with your recovery and the staff can also advocate on your behalf. Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made when I decided to join. Thank you so much to the staff for all you’ve done to help and continue to help for a positive future. 

  • After School Program
  • Kyle's Story

    a teenage boy swings in a specialty swing

    As any parent or guardian can tell you, finding childcare can be difficult. When your child has additional support needs that search is exponentially more difficult. That’s one of the reasons we started offering an After School Program for Youth with Additional Support Needs more than 10 years ago. The Program helps families like the Squires’ meet their employment needs while we provide safe, non-judgmental care to their son, Kyle.

    “It has helped Kyle immensely,” says his mom, Bonnie. “He has an opportunity to make new friends outside of the school day. It helps him interact with others his age and with support workers.”

    The Program is offered at a number of schools throughout the city, and also over the spring and summer break periods. Daily activities include science experiments, sports, music, arts/crafts and more.

    “It can be difficult to find him outside activities and extracurricular activities, so this allows him exposure to those activities and to be with other people,” adds Bonnie. “And it allows us exposure to potential respite workers and people in those roles who can help us outside of the Program.”

  • Health, Fitness, Camp & Youth
  • Sarah's Story

    a woman runs through a football field

    I first found the YMCA when I was a teenager. I left for some time, and returned after having my first son. I was in desperate need of a lifestyle change, and knew I needed help. The Y seemed like the perfect fit for my family, as there was affordable child care I could utilize while I exercised. The children’s programming was second to none in the city – I knew this was the perfect facility for us!

    The staff were nothing less than amazing. Despite feeling intimidated by the prospect of classes, and working out in front of people, they made me feel welcome and helped modify anything I needed. If ever my son needed me, the staff found me. It was so comforting knowing he was never far away, and that his needs were being met.

    I got pregnant with my second son, and soon after we moved outside of Winnipeg. I found it harder and harder to attend the gym, and soon found myself again, leading an unhealthy lifestyle. I became isolated and so desperately missed the community at the Y. We made a choice to move back to the city. This is where my journey really got started!

    I began attending classes every day, I utilized the help of a trainer, and set small goals to work toward. Things that I could never do before, were suddenly being done with ease. I was moving around with less pain, more energy and was more confident than ever. There were days that were hard, days I wanted to give up….but I knew I had to keep going!

    After 2 years of hard work, I lost 95 lbs. To this day, that number shocks me. That number shocks me because I never thought that was possible. I never thought I’d ever achieve that. Though losing weight was a bonus, I had really tried to place my focus on how I was feeling, how my body was gaining strength, and how I was able to complete classes that once left me sitting on the side lines trying to catch my breath. Last year, I ran my first half marathon, and I have since run 4 more – an accomplishment I would never have even dreamed of achieving, just a few short years ago. I am registered to run my first full marathon in 2019!

    People began commenting, asking questions, wanted to know how I did it. People were asking *me* for advice. The same questions I remember asking others. It felt SO good. I began seeking information to become certified as an instructor. I wanted to make the same difference in people’s lives, that other instructors made for me. I wanted people to know, no matter where they were in their journey, anything was possible. I got my certification at the end of 2017, and I have loved every single second of it! I look forward to going to work, and I feel so fulfilled in what I am doing.

    Today I feel better than ever. I love sharing my story, I love showing others what they are capable of, I love seeing my attendees make strides week to week. Most importantly, I love the community. It is not just another gym, it really is a family!

    There aren’t words to explain how the YMCA has improved my life. My life has literally been changed; the person I am has been changed. There isn’t a single aspect of my life that hasn’t improved since joining the YMCA family! I am healthier, happier and more confident than I have been my entire life. My kids have learned, grown and developed skills from all the amazing programs offered. They have made some of their best friends and enter the doors with confidence everyday.

  • Jamie's Story

    “Dad, slow down!”

    Those words are music to Jamie’s ears, since only a few years ago he was battling significant health challenges and wasn’t able to keep up with his daughters.

    Jamie was more than 120 pounds overweight, had developed Type 2 diabetes and was battling anxiety and depression. He was scared. Everything changed after a sobering visit with his doctor, when he was told that if he didn’t make changes he wouldn’t be alive to see his children grow up.  He knew he needed to do something – if not for himself, then for his daughters.

    Jamie wanted to go to a place where he and his family could become involved, where they could make lifestyle changes together. When he walked through the doors of the YMCA, he felt like he was part of a community. He felt at home and met people who believed in his healthy future.

    The Y staff helped Jamie make big changes and tackle his goals one small step at a time. That made all the difference – over the next two years, Jamie lost 145 pounds. His physical and mental health improved dramatically. And amazingly, he has become a YMCA wellness instructor, personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor!

    Jamie’s health has never been better, and with his YMCA community by his side, he will help many more people become active and healthy.

  • Kelli's Story

    As a single parent with limited income, being able to send my children to Camp each summer through the Y’s subsidy program is a small miracle and an amazing gift. I will never forget how much growth, independence and confidence my daughter exemplified after her first two-week session at Camp. Camp breaks many dark cycles of my children’s ancestral lineage and brightens their future. There is no better way to ensure opportunities for growth in self-esteem and a sense of community belonging than through attendance at Camp.

  • Kalyn's Story

    It sounds very cheesy, but the Y really did shape who I am and set me down a certain path. Against my will, my mom signed me up for a lot of programs at the Y. And it turned out that I loved all of them. When I was 13 I was started on the Leadership Program at the South Y and then later on that summer, when I was still 13, I was signed up for a two-week canoe trip at the Y’s Camp Stephens. And that was all because my mom  had a friend whose daughter had done one of the trips and said it was character building – the daughter came back all confident and it was really good for her. So I had to do it. And one or two days in, I discovered that I really liked it. And for over a decade after that I spent every summer at a Y Camp. So I went from not being an outdoorsy person at all to being REALLY into it. And my whole life has been around outdoor education…and that’s 100% because of the Y.

  • Danielle's Story

    When I started I quickly realized that the kids that come to the centre are in-need of positive adult role models and as soon as I put on the YMCA-YWCA shirt I automatically became one. I learned that an engaging smile to a kid as they walked through the door could brighten their day. I learned that there are no “bad kids”, there are kids who make bad decisions, but that we could help them make better choices in the future. I learned about Y values like respect, responsibility, honesty and caring and how I could use these values as tools to help kids solve their problems. Best of all for me, I learned that all these skills helped me become a better mom to my own kids.

  • Youth Story

    Going to the Y is like therapy for me.  I love having sweat drip down my face as I run. I love listening to music and running my fastest. It takes a lot of <<expletive>> off my mind, such as family and personal problems. Before, I used to be a cutter. A friend recommended that I get a Y pass and she said it helps a lot. She was right. Thanks to the Y and running, I don’t cut anymore. Going to the Y is also an escape to get away from an alcoholic father. Usually after a good workout, it feels really good. Best feeling ever.

  • Youth Story

    The Y opened new options for me. The option to play basketball, go swimming, work out, and just to be in a safe place. The Y has been life-changing for me, just having the option to go – whether an excuse to get away from problems, to let loose, or to be with friends. The Y has helped me stay out of trouble and out of some dark hallways. I remember staying 6 to 10 hours a day playing basketball. There were times when the Y was the only place I had to go.


Patrick’s Story

Patricks Video