ENGLEWOOD — The South County Family YMCA is restoring its walking club today thanks in part to the efforts of the Englewood Area Cancer Foundation and Merrill Donaldson, a local cancer survivor.
Michael Schyck, wellness director at the Englewood Y, started the club in November for people who enjoyed the outdoors. Activity was suspended in January as attendance was sporadic and interest waned.
“My goal was to get people out to see our property,” Schyck said. “I don’t think people had any idea how much land we have there.”
The Englewood Y spans 33 acres and the walking route is 1.5 miles long. Donaldson, a cancer survivor and Englewood resident, became the inspiration and driving force for resuming the walks.
The Y partnered with the Englewood Area Cancer Foundation to restore the program. The foundation is footing the membership bill for cancer warriors looking to sign up.
That means Englewood Area cancer warriors and their caregivers, all under age 65, can join the Y for free.
“Merrill’s been super,” said Lou Long, president and founder of the Englewood Area Cancer Foundation. “God bless him.”
Donaldson said he wanted to help get an exercise regimen going.
“I’ve had three cancers in three years,” Donaldson said. “Before I had bladder cancer. Now they found a spot on my lung. Walking and water exercise is fine for me, because it’s low impact.”
The walks will be held at 8:20 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Participants are not required to walk the entire 1.5 miles.
“The process (to get the program started again) is what’s taken the longest because we had to sort through insurance coverage issues with the Y,” Long said. “We revised the process so that those who were under 65 and one caregiver were admitted free. Those who are 65 and over are covered by their insurance.”
Long said he’s confident he’ll improve Y recruitment with the foundation. There are 1,000 cancer warriors in the greater Englewood area and Long says more than 100 work with his foundation.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 100 people in the program this time next year,” Long said. “The most important thing our cancer warriors need to know is that this is a great opportunity to get some exercise. We have to get the word out about wellness just as much as the events we promote.”
The Englewood Area Cancer Foundation is holding the Parade of Lights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday Feb. 16 on Dearborn Street. The parade will run from the Elsie Quirk Library to Garrett Park. There will be food, refreshments and music, and the results of the Kiss a Mullet fundraiser will be announced. A four-minute inspirational film funded by the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club will be shown on a big screen at the event.
The South County Family YMCA is located at 701 Medical Blvd. Go to south countyfamily ymca.org or call 941-475-1234.
For more on the EACF and Parade of Lights, go to theeacf.org or call 941-475-0683.