Kate Bell is a GOOD Morning Wilton writer. She recently graduated from Wilton High School.  She is shown in the inset of the image above, on the right. (photo: YMCA photographer Sarah Valentine)

For the last nine years I have had the fortune of being a part of the Wilton Family Y family. Whether it was through the nationally ranked Wilton Wahoo team, taking one of the many classes offered, or working there for the last two years I always felt welcome when I walked through the set of front double doors.

But recently I thought about what being a part of the Y really meant to me. Having a place to go where everyone knows your name and has a smile for you, no matter if you had just been there hours earlier or had been gone for years really resonates with me, and that is exactly what happens when you wander through those front doors.

The YMCA really has something for everyone, whether it is the two pools, splash pool, pond, archery range, mini golf course, ropes course, fitness center, tennis courts and many other amenities. Though I’ve only been working there for two years some of the warm and welcoming front desk staff has been there for over ten years, signing people in and giving what really can be called service with a smile.

While the front desk staff are always wonderful for a conversation, I feel most at home in my own department (probably because it’s aquatics) and I have been so fortunate to be able to teach children of all ages how to swim and just generally be more comfortable and safe around the water. Because I’ve taught many Wilton children, I usually hear a chorus of, “Hi Miss Kate!” whenever I go out in town, which brightens my day. But what I love most about my department is how helpful and involved they are, whether it’s within the pool areas or simply around the Y. You can always find a lifeguard going just above and beyond what is written in their job description.

But this can be true of any YMCA employee, though, not just the lifeguards. Even our CEO, Bob McDowell, can be found walking around the YMCA, greeting members with a smile and a wave, listening to all the needs and concerns of those who use our facility.  If you have ever had a child in the after school programs or attend camp, you would know that some of the most hard working and caring individuals work to care for and watch over the children left in their care. The children also learn core values while they are spending time at the YMCA, including caring, respect, responsibility and honesty.

While the children at camp and in the programs have made lifelong friends, along the way so have I. Whether it has been in the pools, during friends and buddies, or out on the archery range I have never found people more committed to what they do and willing to use their spare time to continue to help others. I remember one time we had Batman parading through the lobby just to surprise one of his archery students at his party that was being thrown at the Y.

I’ve also found that the Y is not just for children. Some of the friendliest people are a part of the Silver Sneakers program and come in to join the water aerobics classes or classes down in the fitness center. My most recent Y discovery has been the special needs program, which is run by two of the most fabulous women I know, Chris Foley and Kelsey Ettinger. They are so dedicated to including and involving everyone that it is a wonder they have time for anything else.

I have found a home away from home at the Wilton YMCA, and everyone else who works there has said the same thing. With all the families I’ve met, the people I’ve worked with, and the learning experiences I’ve had along the way, I am proud to say I am a part of the YMCA and that it will always have a part of me.