The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Schneider-McKinney Family

Y is ‘second home’ to their eight children


      “The YMCA is our extended recreation room,” says Larry Schneider, recounting how much his family of eight children utilizes and benefits from the facilities. He and his wife, Shannon McKinney, live close enough that their family can walk and bike to the La Crosse location. They participate in Y activities nearly every day. “The Y is our second home, and that’s not overstating it,” he says.


      Larry laughs as he describes the eagerness Shannon shows when she’s paging through a new Y brochure for a fresh session. Shannon, who homeschools her children, focuses on scheduling them for academics, but also in Y activities and fitting in everything that they love to do. If it weren’t for the Y, Shannon says, “I wouldn’t be able to put them in so many different activities. They’re learning a variety of skills. They’re with me all day, and this gives them a chance to be around others.”


      It’s no easy feat, but some classes take priority. Having the kids in karate at the Y, Larry says, means a lot to him. “It has taught the kids self-defense. It has created an awareness of their surroundings for personal safety that they wouldn’t have had,” he explains. “I think that’s important, and we’ve made sure the kids take karate.” It’s the same story with swimming; it’s vital that the kids take the progressive Y swimming lessons.


       “This is the place where I met people and where I had a lot of fun with new friends as a kid; I loved the dance classes,” says their oldest daughter, 20-year-old Madeleine. Everything she needed to succeed at body building, she found at the Y. In high school, she won several awards at shows. “Continuing to come here really has a positive impact on my life,” Madeleine says. “It helps me handle my stress. I’m surrounded by people who are trying to better themselves.”


       Along with the children’s natural talents and skills, the Y assists them to grow well-rounded in both physical fitness and the arts. Shannon teaches piano lessons at home to complement their voice and music lessons at the Y. As a mom filled with a healthy pride for her kids, Shannon easily recites the numerous activities that each of her eight kids experience. Eleven-year-old Michelle’s favorite sport is gymnastics and she enjoys tap, jazz, and ballet. Thirteen-old Sam also likes dance as well as playing basketball. Another one of their sons, Benjamin, age 9, likes hip hop dancing. Each of the older boys takes an interest in cooking, but especially Johnny, age 7. He’ll grill outdoor meals at home and help with the weekly Saturday morning family pancake breakfast.


      The children appear to take after their athletic mother, who once held the No. 1 runner spot, from 1989 to 1990 at Central High School in La Crosse. She obviously loved to run and still has a passion for it. Preparing at the Y, she completed several half marathons. She also has a strong interest in weight lifting. Training at the Y, Shannon competed in a body building show, which sparked the interest in Madeleine. She feels she’s slowed down since she gave birth to Gabriel in May 2015. Her two youngest children, Lucy, age 3, and Luke, age 5, keep her on the move, however. Shannon plans to get back into weight lifting and running as she maintains her active family life. When the next Y brochure comes out, she’ll excitedly plan their next round of activities.

– By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC