DR. PHILLIPS — For the sixth time since opening in 1993, the YMCA of Dr. Phillips will expand, with a groundbreaking Wednesday, Nov. 5, to mark the occasion.
“I like to think of this one as the best expansion,” said David Knight, volunteer board chair of Dr. Phillips YMCA. “It’s not just a gym and swim. It also has the thought of reaching out to the community: all ages, all walks of life, all health issues.”
Changes will include remodeling and expansion of the wellness center; a new, larger spin room; two racquetball courts; physical therapy and consultation spaces in partnership with Orlando Health; indoor and outdoor social areas, including a new lobby; a playground; enhanced locker rooms; a healthy cafe; and a tween/technology center.
“We have stepped into the area of healthy living and become an industry leader in figuring out what it means to help people understand their health, not just to help them exercise, because exercise is great, but it’s just one small part of health,” said Renaut Van der Riet, member of the Metro Board and pastor at Mosaic Community Church. “(This) is the next evolution of meeting the needs of the communities around us. We have taken this YMCA and begun to design a new, incredible, innovative space, where we will become a leader in helping people understand what it looks like to live healthy lives holistically: body, soul and spirit.”
The specific areas the YMCA will target for improvement include obesity, summer learning loss, unemployment, diabetes and cardiac recovery.
“We strive deeply to make sure we are working heavily in youth development, because we know that our youth are our future, and our youth are in crisis,” Van der Riet said. “We have to make sure we are a leader in that world. We recognized also that the idea of healthy living was a crisis in the Western culture and in the U.S., so we said, ‘We got to step into healthy living. We got to make change. We can’t just be a gym — we’ve got to deal with health on a much more holistic level.’”
Social responsibility met holistic healthy living in a partnerships between the Y and Orlando Health, via Dr. Phillips Hospital.
“I’ve been in health care for over 30 years, and it’s been such an amazing transition,” said Karen Frenier, president of Dr. Phillips Hospital. “At a health panel more than 10 years ago, they said hospitals should not call themselves health care — they really should call themselves ‘sick care,’ because their focus is on the hospital and the patients, when, really, what it should be doing is reaching far out into the community and working on prevention.”
That prevention plan received the name “Healthy You” in 2007.
“It began with, ‘Let’s walk; let’s have a weight-loss contest; come to the leadership meetings and make us exercise in front of our work peers,’” she said. “Not everybody wants to do that. (But) we’ve started talking about it, and we started inspiring each other: People became partners and walked every day or came to the Y. It’s all about telling the story and giving permission to talk about it.”
Those discussions led to a partnership between Orlando Health and the YMCA to incentivize healthy living among staff.
“In the past few years, the 14,000 team members at Orlando Health have lost five tons,” Frenier said. “When you align incentives and encourage workers to (be healthier), that’s when you start seeing the change.”
This YMCA has changed the lives of many, including the family of Jim Schumaker, who said his family had moved to the area 30 years ago and started going to the Y.
“At that time, I wasn’t really into fitness,” Schumaker said. “This has really been a life-changing experience for me — from spinning, cycling, running to learning to keep up with my health and, now, the motivation of keeping up with my grandchildren. We really want to stay in this community, because it’s that important to us.”
Schumaker said his grandchildren were participating in the same activities his children had decades ago, such as tae kwon do, basketball, soccer and swimming. The same goes for fellow longtime member and former Dr. Phillips YMCA Volunteer of the Year Paul McGarigal.
As a 5-year-old, McGarigal wanted to play Little League baseball, but his parents could not afford it, he said. His aunt paid for him to play, and three benefactors later paid for him to go to college, both of which inspired him to give to his community through the Y.
“All of them, without rehearsal, said to me, ‘Someday, when you’re in a position, do something for somebody else,’” McGarigal said. “‘You don’t need to pay us back. Just help somebody else.’”
McGarigal volunteered to teach tennis lessons after college, with all proceeds going back to the Y, he said. Based on his sons’ diverse athletic experiences at the Y, both received full soccer scholarships from Rollins College. Now, McGarigal wants to continue giving back to the Y as his extended family, including financing memberships for those who cannot afford them, he said.
“When we talk about legacy, everybody wants to leave the world a bit better than they found it,” said Jim Ferber, president and CEO of Central Florida YMCA. “And we want to be able to leave that through an organization like the Y, so this can continue. You can see how the Y has intervened in people’s lives: We bring communities together.”
Ferber said this YMCA was the cornerstone of unity for Dr. Phillips, aligning with the vision of Dr. P. Phillips, as well.
“Dr. Phillips had this vision of making sure we have hospitals, we have schools and we have everything right in the middle of the community,” Ferber said. “I’m not sure there’s a better intersection in this whole community to make a difference in our community, youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We’ve got to make sure we don’t leave anybody behind. When we talk about preventative health and families, this is where all of that is going to happen. This will be a global model.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].