The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Darla Bingham

to Serve as Ride Master at 1st Annual Riders for Survivors Event


Even without fully knowing Darla Bingham’s incredible journey – a story of perseverance through the darkest of times – most anyone would feel inspired by her commitment to staying active. After undergoing a complete heart transplant just months prior, Darla, who is also a breast cancer survivor, chose to participate in LIVESTRONG at the YMCA for the second time in three years. Darla’s dedication and the hope she so naturally passes on to others are just two of the many great reasons she was invited to serve as Ride Master for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA’S first annual Riders for Survivors Event on Sunday, June 26, 2016. “Darla Bingham is a person whom other cancer survivors can look up to as a role model. She’s the perfect fit for our first Ride Master,” says Denise Malone, program manager for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. “She’s someone who has been deep in the cancer trenches and has dug herself out, always smiling, encouraging others, and moving forward with plans and dreams for a bright future.” Darla embodies hope. Darla couldn’t even walk across the room last fall 2015 before her full heart transplant. Less than six months later, she has improved significantly with cardio, strength, and flexibility at LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. “You just can’t ever give up,” says the 50-year-old Darla matter-of-factly. She returned to her home and her job and set her sights high on kayaking and spending time on her countryside land this summer, all remarkably within months.


Complications from some of her breast cancer treatments 10 years ago damaged her heart, which led to her transplant in November 2015 at Mayo Hospital in Rochester, Minn. Although she stayed for five months in Mayo’s hospital and transplant house, Darla says her value in always having a sense of humor was vital for the surgery and healing process. She shares her humor in every situation and with everyone she meets. Her husband of 23 years, Bruce Bingham, stayed with her nearly 24-7, thanks to his employer. The Bingham’s have a daughter and son, both of whom attend college, and they also were faithful visitors. Always an optimist, Darla says this life-changing experience gave her many new insights, including an increased awareness of how important a role exercise would play in first, her recovery, and second, her success in staying healthy.  “Activity is so important,” Darla says with conviction. “It’s so important to stay active.” She knows first-hand that keeping fit isn’t always easy, especially when you’re struggling with illness and recovery.


Before she could receive a medical release, Darla needed to show doctors her activity plan for back home. “LIVESTRONG was my plan, and it fit Mayo’s cardio plan perfectly,” says Darla, who is no stranger to the 12-weeek, small-group fitness program with big results for adult cancer survivors. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA once again offered her a perfect match.  She started the twice-a-week sessions in February 2016, and returned to part-time work in March 2016. As a 2014 graduate, she believes the program strengthened her to endure many medical problems and eventually her transplant. “We would love for LiveSTRONG at the YMCA to be every cancer survivor’s program,” Denise says. “We believe that the Riders for Survivors Event will allow for more cancer survivors to experience this program, which the Y remains committed to offering as a free program for all cancer survivors.” The fundraiser for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, from which about 350 cancer survivors have graduated since it began at the local Y in 2011, is highly anticipated. “Being Ride Master for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a great way for me to give back to the community. It’s an honor,” says Darla, quickly adding, “I’m not a hero. This was the path that God placed me on, and I accepted it.” – By Kim Seidel, writer/editor, Seidel Ink LLC