“When I got cancer ... the doctor helped me save my life, but the YMCA helped me get my life back.”
For more than seven decades, the building sitting kitty-corner from the downtown YMCA housed Nelson School Supply, a store full of letterman jackets, school uniforms and cases of sparkling class rings.
Nelson closed its doors in the summer of 2015, sparking the interest of the YMCA.
"We were fortunate to be offered the chance to purchase that building by Rick Nelson and his wife," said Katherine Johnson, YMCA director of Marketing and Communications. "We wanted that to be a place for community health efforts. We purchased the building and the property to the left of it for a new parking lot."
Since then, the former Nelson School Supply building has been transformed into the YMCA Healthy Living Center, which opens on Thursday, March 3.
"When you walk in, there are beautiful, new windows that wrap the building. You'll see a big open room where exercise programs will take place, as well as some offices for private meetings and a classroom space with a kitchen for nutritional programs," Johnson said.
Four programs the YMCA has already developed, which currently take place in rented meeting spaces and hospitals around the city, will now be hosted at the Healthy Living Center.
The programs focus on arthritis and joint health, cancer survivorship, weight loss and lifestyle support, and neurological and cardiac rehab.
"We had a temporary healthy living center in some office space near the downtown Y, but it wasn't really ideal," Johnson said. "The programs will still be offered across the valley, but they will also have a place to call home."
David Duro, who took over as CEO of the Treasure Valley YMCA in November 2015 (see Citizen, Page 21), is especially excited for the new facility. He said it will be used to help at-risk groups with behavior modification to encourage healthier lifestyle choices, such as what to eat, how to exercise and when to rest, as well as how to identify temptations.
"We have a diabetes prevention program, so if you've been diagnosed with risk factors in developing Type II Diabetes, we have an intervention program that is proven to reduce the incidents of converting to full-blown diabetes," Duro said. "That's one of the biggest threats in America to our health."
Duro also talked about a program with those living with Parkinson's disease.
"It doesn't eliminate the disease—because nothing does—but it slows down the effects," he said. "We work with YUSA [YMCA of the USA], the Centers for Disease Control and Harvard University on putting these programs together."
Duro said he's most touched by the cancer survivorship program.
"Oh, the stories that come out of it are awesome," he said. "I remember one lady told us, 'When I got cancer, I got through it and the doctor helped me save my life, but the YMCA helped me get my life back,'" Duro said.
"These people are declared cancer-free, but they don't have the strength to go back to work or do the things they love—the things that make life worth living," he added. "This program helps them regain their strength and get their life back after having cancer."
Duro said while Boise looks like a fit city on the outside—surrounded by foothills and ski resorts, lakes and rivers, mountains and trees—health problems still exist.
"Just go to Walmart," he said. "That's a slice of Americana right there. You look around and you realize that people aren't as healthy as we'd like them to be. We have to break down the barriers. We try to be really welcoming and open so when you come to the Y, you're not going to see a bunch of muscle heads. You'll see every shape, every size, every age, every background. There's comfort in that because no matter who you are, there's going to be someone who looks like you and is struggling with the same things you are."
The Treasure Valley YMCA has recently made some changes to break down those barriers. At the end of 2015, the Y started offering a cheaper membership for young adults aged 19-29 for $29.90 per month, rather than the regular $42.90.
"We realize times have changed," Johnson said. "The economy and job market in the past 10 years have created a new environment for young professionals. We still want the Y to be accessible, regardless of student debt or low-paying jobs."
The Y also offers a two-person family membership now—perfect for an empty-nester couple, domestic partnerships or single parents. It's $12 cheaper than the regular family membership.
According to Johnson, these are the first changes the Y has made to its membership offerings in almost a decade. It also decreased membership join fees by 65 percent. She said the Y has seen 10 percent growth since December 2015.
According to the magazine Details, which published its final edition in January, 45 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions but only 10 percent of them are successful at keeping them. The top resolution is weight loss, followed by exercise and eating healthier.
If you want to get back on the wagon for those abandoned New Year's resolutions, a good place to start is at the Healthy Living Center's open house, happening concurrently with First Thursday, 5-7:30 p.m. at 419 N. 11th Street.