Through the Doors of the YMCA – Meet John and Gary

By April 10, 2019 Y Stories

John and Gary met because they had one thing in common; they both had a membership at the YMCA. Their story is a testament to the power of mentoring and its everlasting impact.
John joined the YMCA in 1991. He enjoyed swimming laps in the downtown pool. Gary came to the YMCA because his mom worked at the Y. He would take the bus to the YMCA after school to hang out. John and Gary would run into each other frequently at the downtown Y. It didn’t take long before the two of them became friends. At the time, Gary didn’t have an older, male figure in his life and John was able to provide some direction and supervision for Gary. John says, “It was an easy friendship. I was just present. We would run errands, clean out my garage or go play basketball at the Y.” John could see very early in the relationship that Gary was a smart kid who just needed some encouragement and guidance. The two had a fondness for Notre Dame football and John offered to take Gary and his brother to South Bend to see the Notre Dame campus and go to a football game. The two boys were awestruck by the campus. Gary says, “Coming from a family that really didn’t have much growing up, Notre Dame didn’t seem like a place that I could go and succeed. But I had John on my side to tell me you can do this, and this is something that is attainable.” Gary’s decision to attend Notre Dame was because John knew Gary would flourish there. Gary is first generation college and law. He graduated from Notre Dame and then went on to obtain his law degree. He graduated from the Michael Maurer School of Law at Indiana University in 2018. Gary is currently in the Chicago area working for Baker McKenzie as a law associate.
Gary does not know what kind of trouble he would have gotten into if he had not met John or if the YMCA was not available. Gary says, “My opportunities would have been more limited if I did not meet John and forge that relationship early on through the YMCA. Meeting him definitely allowed me to expand my horizons and reach higher goals that I may not have reached if I had not had that relationship and those opportunities through John.” There are so many benefits to mentoring youth. Mentoring connects young people to personal growth and development and social and economic opportunities. Self-confidence and self-esteem create a foundation where goals can be achieved simply through the support and guidance of a positive role model. John and Gary met because they both walked through the doors of the YMCA. Their story is a great example of the successes a child can have from being supported by someone who believes in them.