Making Mondays Fun Again
Sydney Fitzpatrick is your average teenager. A freshman in high school, she enjoys bike riding, swimming, camping with her family, eating mac and cheese, and squabbling with her younger brother, Jacob. She’s a determined and very positive young woman who just happens to have cerebral palsy.
Sydney started coming to the YMCA over one year ago.
“We saw remarkable gains that she did,” says Sydney’s mom, Vikki. “We had to continue. It was just amazing what she did, the core, the walking, the confidence that she gained. The esteem that she presented, how good she felt, saying ‘I can do it. I can do it. I want to walk.’”
Because of her cerebral palsy, Sydney uses a motorized wheelchair to get around. That hasn’t stopped her from trying new things and going on adventures. This past summer, she went water skiing for the first time and loved it. She is used to, but dislikes, the fact that people often stare at her, and wishes they would ask questions rather than just stare. Her family knows the answer is because “They just haven’t seen a pretty girl in a wheelchair before.” Through her work at the YMCA, Sydney has made a lot of new friends, and finds the Y trainers and members more outgoing and willing to ask questions about her life.
Sydney’s regular workouts consist of swimming on Sundays and using gym equipment too. But her favorite day of the week is Monday when she works out with personal trainer, Mitch Cook. Working on skills that grow Sydney’s balance, coordination, and movement, they have set the goal for Sydney to walk by herself.
Each week, Mitch coaches Sydney to walk a little bit further on her own than the week before. She has to walk between a series of gates stationed at various intervals apart, turn around, and stop without falling down. If she does fall, Sydney says that Mitch “makes me get back up myself.”
“Mitch has shown her the proper way to fall and the proper way to get back up,” adds Vikki. The pair have bonded and worked together so well, they sport matching shirts that read “Sydney + Mitch = Mitch Mondays”. Vikki laughs, “She loves school, but she used to dread Mondays. Now on Sunday nights, it’s ‘Oh, tomorrow’s Mitch Monday!’”
Friendship makes all the difference in their partnership. Sydney feels motivated because when she arrives on Monday afternoon, “Mitch asks me about my day, and listens to my day.” Their training is both a physical and mental one. Even when the workouts are difficult, like planking for instance, Sydney chugs along, telling herself, “I think I can, I think I can, I can do it.”
Given her positive attitude and focus, it’s no surprise that Sydney has a fan club. “She’s met a lot of other people in the fitness area. They’ve gotten to know her and cheer her on,” says Vikki.
If Sydney didn’t have the YMCA in her life, her week would look very different. While she does keep very busy with other groups such as Able and UWLwell, without her weekly workouts, “She’d be bored,” her mom laughs. Through the YMCA, Sydney has gone downhill skiing in winter and jumped from the La Crescent pool’s high dive in the summer. She hopes in the future she can work at the YMCA, or a place like it, and help others to push themselves toward their goals too.
-Jess Witkins, Writer & Producer, Witkins Productions LLC