The Waynesboro YMCA wants to create an inclusive environment for everyone that walks through its doors, as it strives to better realize its core focus of “youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living.” This effort includes developing and implementing a variety of sports and fitness programs for people from infancy to seniors. Participants can cheer, swim, play basketball, pitch a baseball, or try flag football, to name a few. Childcare is provided for over 100 kids, with 40% of the children receiving a 60% scholarship, because the YMCA believes individuals should never be turned away because of finances.
Executive Director Jeff Fife and Sue Clark-Mirra, a member of the Board of Directors, are dedicated to the improvement of opportunities for individuals with disabilities at the Waynesboro YMCA. During his teenage years, Jeff began volunteering at “the Y” and has served as the executive director for about 15 years. Formerly a special education director, Sue is a member of the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition and wants to bring the knowledge she gains through this organization back to the YMCA.
Their personal backgrounds and experiences in working with people with disabilities sparked Jeff and Sue’s interest in developing inclusive programs at the Waynesboro YMCA. Jeff is motivated by his best friend from childhood, whom Jeff would always help in any way that he could as he watched his friend struggle and continue to fight through daily tasks. Sue is inspired by the Special Olympics, her cousin with cerebral palsy, and other friends with disabilities.
The Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition selected the Waynesboro YMCA to receive support and assistance in the Y’s efforts to meet the needs and improve the wellness of individuals with disabilities. Jeff plans to expand water programs and to create specific classes for inclusive communities, including group fitness classes and circuit training programs. He wants to emphasize both “wet and dry programs,” as he believes improving wellness should take place anywhere. Jeff also has a vision for reaching out to schools with special education programs, asking kids what they would like to see and do, and bringing students to the YMCA on field trips. This would allow them to have a better understanding of how the Y works and the different activities in which they can participate. The YMCA also wants to possibly expand a martial arts class to include individuals with disabilities, as the class’s instructor is legally blind.
Jeff and Sue believe that it is a part of the YMCA’s mission to provide both inclusive and adaptive programs. Jeff states, “I think it is important for us to not only lead in our own organization, but also in our community.” Bringing this vision to reality is a must for both Jeff and Sue, and they plan on doing this by making it, as Jeff said, “a part of what (we) normally do.” In addition to developing programs, the Waynesboro YMCA will expand elevator and ramp access, making it ADA compliant.
Often people are intimidated by settings and situations that are unfamiliar, causing them to not want to step out of their comfort zones and interact with others. In an effort to put these individuals at ease and encourage participation, Jeff and Sue have planned an Inclusion Day. The focus would not just be on individuals with disabilities but also feature opportunities for those who may not speak English. Everyone would be able to learn about exciting new programs and events, in an engaging manner and a comfortable environment.
Whether programs, events, education, facilities, or environment, every step that Jeff Fife and Sue Clark-Mirra take toward providing better opportunities and experiences for individuals with disabilities will be intentional, applying the knowledge that they have gained and openly communicating every step of the way. As Sue puts it, “this town, this Y, wherever you go, everyone is so tolerant for all and has an acceptance for all, especially here at the Y.” The Waynesboro YMCA will continue to serve as a place where everyone can find a place to come together to improve their personal health, relationships, and community.
648 S. Wayne Ave.
Waynesboro, Va. 22980
Monday – Thursday: 5 am – 10 pm
Friday: 5 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 7 am – 5 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm