The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Rob Schroeder

Running His Way to a Drug-Free Life

Meeting Rob Schroeder, a healthy, fit, and funny guy, you wouldn’t imagine his troubled past. When he hit rock bottom, he had nowhere to turn but the YMCA. Rob began his Y membership after being released from jail and mandated to the La Crosse County Drug Court.  “I was an addict at an early age,” he says. “As I got older, my addiction became progressively worse. I was constantly in and out of jail.”


The Y gave him a chance to make more positive connections and choices. “The court program helped save my life,” he says. “Over 13 months, I transformed in a way I didn’t think possible.” Running became his ticket to freedom from addictions and a healthier lifestyle. When he left jail, he was out of shape, due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise. “Running was the positive trade, the replacement for my addiction,” he says. “Going to the Y, being accountable to the court, and continuing my running were instrumental to my recovery.” The Y’s Financial Assistance program made his membership possible, and through the Y’s Annual Campaign, aid is available for everyone, in all situations.


Today at age 35 Rob has been clean for over six years. He shares his success story to help, inspire, and motivate others. He’s a drug court ambassador and recovery activist. Recovery is possible, no matter how low you feel. In his third year of sobriety, he even completed the Boston Marathon. “I never imagined my life could be this good,” he says. He’s diligent, disciplined, and sets goals. Rob is a full-time student. His career goal is to work with at-risk youth as a social worker. He’s employed with United Way and Western Technical College in community engagement. “I work in a job I love with people I look up to,” he says. “They trust me. I get goose-bumps just thinking about it.”


Rob knows to remain drug-free requires regular maintenance, like keeping a car engine running smoothly. This means continuing to train for various running and other athletic events and going to the Y, where he enjoys biking, group cycling, and swimming. “I’ve always felt welcome at the Y. I’ve never heard anything negative here from staff or members,” Rob says. “Everyone who is here wants to be here.” His family also motivates him; he and his fiancé, Lauren, have an energetic, ambitious young son. Eight-year-old son Noah accompanies his dad in training and competing at races. Noah has excelled at the Y’s Tri, a mini triathlon for youth. Rob is living proof that when our justice system takes a public health approach to substance abuse, we All Rise.

– by Kim Seidel, writer/editor, Seidel Ink LLC