Living Strong

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

When Dee Lewis picked up a magazine while waiting to see her doctor, she did not expect much from it beyond helping her pass the time.

But as she was flipping through the glossy pages of Ohio State’s quarterly alumni magazine, something caught her attention.

As a recent breast cancer survivor, she was intrigued when she saw that several of the local YMCA locations would soon be offering a 12-week wellness program designed specifically for those who have had a cancer diagnosis.

While curious about this ‘Livestrong at the YMCA,’ Lewis said she was a little intimidated by the aerobic component of this program.

“I always got my activity by being a project person around the house,” said the Grove City resident with a laugh. “Whenever I would sit down, I would look around and then get up because I had found something else that I could do.”

Lewis said that even though she is still an avid cleaner of the house, she wanted to do something that would challenge her and help her feel stronger both mentally and physically.

As she began to check her scheduling compatibility with the local branches, she found that the one at the Vaughn E. Hairston YMCA in Urbancrest fit hers the best.

Lewis said she cannot wait for July 25 to get here so she can try her hand at a physical activity that doesn’t involve a vacuum cleaner or searching for dust.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I just hope I can keep up.”

The Livestrong at the YMCA has been around since 2007, but the program only made its way to the central Ohio region in 2013. Six branches initially offered the twice a week wellness program, but it has since expanded to 12 locations due to popular demand.

Allison Wiley, the communications and media specialist at the YMCA of Central Ohio, said that the feedback they have received from past participants has been very positive.

According to Wiley, participants in the program have reported increased strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination. She also said participants have reported improved mood as they got further into the program.

But the program for them is not just about improved mental or physical strength, said Wiley. It’s also about community.

“This program is a safe place for them,” she said. “It’s a place where they can be accepted and be there for those who are going through or have gone through the same thing as them.”

Lewis said that line of thinking was yet another reason why she decided to go ahead and sign up for the program.

“I think it will be nice to meet other cancer survivors and hopefully I can be as much of a positive role model to them as they can be to me,” she said.

Shelley Gavin, the Hairston YMCA’s new senior wellness coordinator who is in charge of the Livestrong program, said she also cannot wait to take part in this life-affecting program.

The Livestrong at the Hairston YMCA begins on July 25. Classes will be held twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Throughout the 12-week program, participants will be able to use the amenities at the YMCA anytime they wish, free of charge. You also do not have to be a member to sign up for the program.

The Hairston YMCA currently has four survivors signed up for the program, but would like to include at least eight more. To inquire about participation, call the Hairston YMCA at 614-539-1700 or contact Gavin and Livestrong partner Alex Koksal at and

For more information about the Livestrong program, visit the YMCA’s website at

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  1. I have called 3 different locations to get information on this program. No one has yet to call me back. It’s really nice of them to offer a program that you can’t get information on. And, their website mentions the program (if you look hard enough) but doesn’t tell you the locations offering it, or how to get additional information, or even how to sign up.


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