Last weekend, Frost Valley hosted its annual spring Livestrong Weekend. The YMCA started this program in 2007 for cancer survivors to come together and improve their quality of life after treatment. The 12-week program is found at many YMCAs across the country, and Frost Valley acts as the culminating experience. Our part in Livestrong allows cancer survivors to come for free for one weekend a year and bring friends and family at a discount. These Weekends are specifically catered to cancer surivivors and include a chance for each participant to go down the zipline, as well as try another activity as a group. This weekend our participants joined Coordinator Kris Duffy for some teambuilding games, including a blind trust walk, a rock paper scissors competition, and other initiatives to bond together before they went down the zipline together.

There were two core groups that joined us last weekend. The first came from Independent Health Family YMCA, near Buffalo. Their YMCA hosts many Livestrong programs every year, with 10-15 participants in each. The guests this weekend did not all do the program at the same time, but they had the same results and told me that the program gives you time to do things and stop focusing on your cancer, all while gaining friendships and camaraderie from others. Terry H. is a former marine who served 20 years, but now goes in for cancer treatments every three weeks. She is incredibly thankful for the program and was able to share her Frost Valley weekend with her kids while meeting participants from other YMCAs.

Most of the people from Independent Health YMCA heard about the Livestrong Program through a surprising source: The Bread Man. Chet Fery, a former school administrator, is known in the Buffalo area as a person who gives back to community by baking bread with people and offering them inspiration, and everyone calls him The Bread Man. He comes to the Livestrong Program each session to share uplifting stories with the participants, and he always mentions Frost Valley’s part in the program.

The second core group of Livestrong participants this weekend was a group from the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley in Oneida, NY. Although their YMCA does not have a Livestrong Program, they traveled to Syracuse to participate each week and bumped into the “Sassy Survivors,” one of the groups that visit Frost Valley each year with our Livestrong Program. They also participated in a cancer survivor program at Camp Good Days, a camp in Rochester that specializes in programs for those with cancer and their families. These participants told me that even though we have the same wildlife here, they were amazed by how much they learned from our program staff. They also noted that the fresh air made them feel healthy, and they loved being able to relax in such a beautiful area. The Livestrong participants at YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley meet once a month and Frost Valley will hopefully be an annual event for them.

For more information on Livestrong, please call your local YMCA. There are over 400 programs across the country. If you are a cancer survivor and would like to participate in one of our weekend programs, you can give us a call. We host weekends each September and June and would love to see you!

Ashley Ritzheimer

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Ashley Ritzheimer

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