This story of recovery and healing shows just how important a healthy mind and an active body are for longevity and well-being. We originally published this story when The Bright Spot first launched two years ago and it continues to resonate today as pandemic restrictions have lifted. The Bright Spot helps older adults access free virtual programs like the ones that Doug Fulford enjoyed in our YMCA Centres of Community, from your home.

This is Doug’s story.

Doug Fulford’s rheumatoid arthritis symptoms came on suddenly, leaving him — in his words — weak, foggy-brained, and barely able to walk 600 steps a day. His doctors told him he needed to start a regular exercise routine. Eager to try anything that might help him feel better, Doug began searching for a place to start his recovery — and he found the Oshawa YMCA. Here are the three things that resonated with him and helped him start healing:

1. Accessible fitness options

Doug began his Y experience with one of our most fun group fitness classes: Arriba! This fusion of Latin, Bollywood, and belly dance moves is set to lively music that has the power to move just about everyone, and that’s exactly what happened to Doug. The instructor encouraged him to join in where he could and not to feel discouraged if there were moves he couldn’t manage yet. That permission to move at his own pace was what hooked Doug on day one.

“I had so much fun in that class, and the instructor gave me lots of support,” Doug says. “That 45 minutes was such a riot!”

2. New friendships

Not only did he increase his mobility while decreasing inflammation and the amount of medication he was taking; Doug says he also grew his support system. “I remember when I first walked into the Y and stopped at the front desk,” he recalls. “They gave me a tour and I thought to myself, ‘I can do this! This is where I need to be.’”

He quickly started connecting with Y staff and his fellow members.

“I didn’t believe that I had a lot of friends…now, I couldn’t count them all. The connection with other people can be very healing.”

Doug says it’s the support of his friends that keeps him coming back to classes time and time again.

3. Opportunities to give back

Today, Doug’s striving to help others access the same tools and supports that helped him along the road to recovery. Doug volunteered as an instructor for his favourite class, AquaFit, and he even joined the Sweat For Good Challenge, our biggest fundraising event of the year. The money Doug raised helps others in the community access the same YMCA programs that supported him in his journey of healing. Funds go towards financially assisted memberships for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to join the Y. For someone going through life-altering changes like Doug was, getting access to these supports can mean a world of difference.

From barely being able to walk and needing two hands to pour his coffee, to leading group fitness classes every week and participating in a fitness fundraiser, Doug has come a long way in a short amount of time.

We continue to be inspired by Doug, and we hope you are, too. Join more activities and connect with others through The Bright Spot. We’re thrilled to bring you fitness, mindfulness, and community, right to your home.