You might say that Bridget Badder was “born again” at the YMCA.  She compared her life before becoming part of the YMCA to living in the middle of a hurricane.  She was starving herself during her sophomore year at the University of Miami, struggling with her body image, desperately trying to become a “size two.”  She was having trouble studying because of her obsession.  Her life was a mess.

            Understanding that she needed to get out of the storm, she left school for a year and came home to Oak Park.  It was during that year off that she began her life changing relationship with the West Cook YMCA at the corner of Randolph and Marion by working there as a life guard. “I was able to get myself on a healthy exercise plan,” she said,  “and started to like the way I looked with muscle. Being able to exercise 45 minutes a day helped clear my mind and put away negative thoughts. I learned how to maintain the ideal shape for my own body.”

            By being part of the Y community here in Oak Park, Badder’s self image changed in more ways than just the way she viewed her physical body.  Presently employed as the Morning Member Engagement Coordinator with the organization which helped turn her life around, she said, “Through working here, meeting other people and hearing their stories, I know a) I’m not special, b) I’m not alone, and c) I can go and talk to several people here if I’m having a bad day.  It’s amazing how many genuine and caring people are here, staff and members.”

            “I’m grateful to the Y for showing me that despite all our differences, we have lessons to learn from everyone,” she said.  “The definition of community is exhibited here every single day.  Anyone that comes to the Y and has an experience that changes them for the better will tell you the same thing.”

            Badder lived through a hurricane while studying at the University of Miami.  She said that because the storm knocked out the power for a few days, there was no light pollution and that allowed her to see the stars against the black night sky.  “It’s gorgeous,” she recalled and added, “The way I feel right now is that some weeks are going to be hurricane weeks, but there’s always an eye in the storm to give you a little break.  Then there’s a little bit more of the storm, and there’s always an end.  And, after the storm there’s a beautiful starry sky to admire. I look back and say I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to experience this had I not gone through all of the hell before.”