The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Julie Van Den Heuvel

Working with Y Member Boosts Her Fitness Level

Julie Van Den Heuvel offers so many skills and talents it naturally appears that she’ll never lack in having opportunities ahead of her.


She works in construction, repairing and remodeling homes. She’s educated as a recreational therapist, serving those with special needs.  She’s training in the insurance business, assisting professional agents with their busy offices. Those are just a few examples.


One of her jobs as a nurse’s aide led her to such vast improvements in her physical fitness levels that she completed her first half Iron Man contest this summer. Julie works as a nurse’s aide/manager for Mike Kabat, whose legs and arms became paralyzed after a bike accident.  As Y members, she and Mike started going to the Y together, three mornings a week about two years ago.


Julie met Mike while she was remodeling the Kabats’ bedroom and bathroom to make the areas handicapped accessible. After she finished the project, Julie told Mike and his wife, Deb, to let her know if they ever needed her nursing assistance. They contacted her shortly after that time, and Mike and Julie have become a great team.


Since working out with Mike at the Y North Branch in Onalaska, Julie has lost about 40 pounds. As Mike races around the track in his wheelchair, Julie says she runs hard to keep up with him. He has passed on his passion for running to Julie. They motivate each other to keep on working out – even on those days that seem tougher to get to the Y.


While Julie admits that running isn’t her favorite sport – she’d rather swim or bike – she’s completed several community 5K runs, including the Y’s Winter Running Series in the past two years.  She participated in the Y’s Got Energy Triathlon the past two summers. In all, she competed in three triathlons last year. She has plans to run her first half marathon and would like to take on another half Iron Man to improve her completion time.


Julie often refers to herself as “stubborn.”  Once she starts something, she won’t give up. Now that she has begun racing, she wants to improve her times. She’s persistent in so many facets of her life.


At age 42, Julie says she has more time now to dedicate to athletic competitions because her only child attends college. Successful parenting and athletic training require dedication. She raised her daughter, Ashley, as a single mom. They are both long-time Y members. Julie honed many of her skills into employment opportunities to ensure she and her daughter always had a “roof over their heads, and food on the table.”


Working out with Mike for longer periods at the Y has afforded Julie the chance to build up her fitness levels. Along with improving her exercise habits, she enjoys the people she has met at the Y through Mike.  Talking with Julie, it’s obvious she has an excellent sense of humor. She’s funny and she’s upbeat. That’s reflected in many new friendships that she’s formed. “People are so super-friendly at the Y,” Julie says. “Most everyone wants to get to know you.” – By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink, LLC