We are so looking forward to a time when we will all be able to get back in the pool again! Until then, here’s a story from YMCA member Lea, who has a long and special history with our Scarborough centre and its team members.

Here is her story, written by Karolina Hordowick.

Lea, 80, has been swimming laps at the Scarborough Centre YMCA for more than 25 years. This former competitive swim coach passed her love of the water on to her two grandchildren, both of whom took swim lessons at this same Y.

In 2013, Lea’s world changed forever when she experienced a debilitating stroke. Losing significant physical capacity in the left side of her body forced her to take a year off to recover. She then faced a monumental task: learning to swim all over again.

The combination of her own perseverance, the Y community that rallied around her, and support from Y staff Bev Stephenson and Narayan Persaud, helped Lea dive back into her passion. “When I returned to the Y, everyone welcomed me back — it was like coming home,” Lea recalls. From keeping her safe in the water to helping her with strengthening exercises afterwards, Narayan has been there for Lea every stroke of the way. “We’ve built a relationship that feels like a family,” he says. Having known him for 17 years, since the start of his YMCA career, Lea adds: “Thanks to Narayan, I feel supported. I feel like I’m not alone.”

Pre-COVID-19, Lea would get in her laps with Narayan by her side — even on tough days. “I’ve said a few times, ‘I’m not getting in,’ but Narayan just says, ‘What would your former swim club think?’” laughs Lea. With patience and practice, she’s learned how to glide through the water with freedom and grace once again — and the Y volunteers, staff, and members who’ve witnessed Lea’s incredible journey couldn’t be more proud.