The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

The Ericksons

Creating a Healthy Normal at the Y

One afternoon, the Erickson family - Joe, Heidi, Claire, and Hanna - were taking a lunch break in the La Crosse-branch Y lobby in between activities. On Mondays, they visit three times - Heidi participates in boot camp, an early exercise class; Claire and Hanna practice gymnastics later in the morning; and Claire swims with the Wave team in the afternoon. They don't typically attend three Y programs a day, but it's normal for them to go to the Y about four days a week.


The Ericksons, who have been married 10 years, like to create family time at the Y. They'll pack a picnic to eat in the lobby, where they also enjoy playing games and reading books from the shelves. "It's easy at home to get distracted, and it's nice to have this time together," Heidi says. "Everyone is so good to us here."


Claire, age 6, and Hanna, age 3, love to play together in the newly remodeled Family Fun Center. Claire pulls herself quickly across the monkey bars, while Hanna runs around on the mats with other friends. Heidi appreciates the time her daughters spend together at the Y. When asked what they like about the Y, Claire and Hanna agree they love the Family Fun Center and spending time with friends and making new friends. "A lot of people have invested in the Y with our kids," Joe says. "The coaches and staff are experts and professionals."


Along with family time, Heidi appreciates the hour or two she exercises while her daughters go to Y watch. Joe prefers outdoor workouts, but he also uses the child care program when he's running or biking. "The staff knows all of our names, and I never worry about the girls when they go to Y watch," Heidi says. For her 40th birthday in December 2008, Joe gave Heidi a Y family membership, along with a completed entry form for the spring La Crosse Marathon. This gave her the boost she needed to train for the run. The couple had then recently adopted Claire from Ethiopia, and a couple of years later, they would bring Hanna home also from Ethiopia.


After they adopted Claire, Heidi decided to take a break from her teaching career and to stay home with her family. Utilizing the Y membership and training for the marathon in 2009 gave her a routine with her new baby. Heidi completed the marathon with Joe's encouragement, and he even ran some of the middle miles of the race with her. Currently, Heidi is homeschooling Claire. Joe works many nights in urgent care for Gundersen Lutheran, so this enables the family to spend time together during the day. The socialization that Claire receives at the Y, espeically through gymnastics and the swim team, is important to the Ericksons. "The Y is very helpful to us. We're creating what's normal for our kids. We appreciate that the kids can exercise, and mom and dad work out, and we spend time together as a family being active," Joe says. "They will grow up learning what's normal by what they see us doing. It's a big responsibility."


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2012