The Y, the staff (you) and my Y colleagues are as much responsible for my personal wellness as is my VA primary care provider and my personal determination.

I am no stranger to the Y. I spent much of my early teenaged years, bicycling on Saturday mornings to the Y in Oil City, PA, my hometown, where I enjoyed a safe haven of sorts; gaining new friends and exercising in a supportive environment where I was encouraged and challenged.

Time has a way of making you take things for granted. For me, it involved the demands of my own family, a civilian career, and an Air Force career that spanned two wars and three deployments. A healthy lifestyle became an after-thought.

A year and a half ago, I went to a wedding at my hometown — only to be shocked at the grave health conditions that some of my family members were now suffering. I came away from that event with an epiphany that I was responsible for my own destiny. As an Air Force Retiree, I was reminded that I was taught a different lifestyle. It was time to get back with the program.

So, we (my wife and I) re-joined the Y and I started my personal fitness quest — at 5 a.m. every morning — with the help of the staff , and watching in awe as others would train toward their personal fitness goals or to compete in various athletic events or marathons. By their example, they became my motivators.

I walk because of injuries sustained from the Air Force, but that hasn’t stopped me. As my training progressed, I lost weight, and my health dramatically improved. I then found myself doing something I had never thought possible: competing in the 22nd Air Force Marathon 10k in 2018. I ended with a rank of 36th of 54 in my age group, among a field of 3,000 other runners and walkers. It was humbling to know that I was walking with giants — Air Force Wounded Warriors competing on adaptive wheel chairs or at one point walking beside me. The attached photo is me just after crossing the finish line.

Now the Y is once again the social center for my family and grandchildren, where we recreate, train, get challenged, and enjoy new friendships with others intent on a healthy life style…and I have already started training for my next event.

Thank you for this opportunity.


George L. Fillgrove