Years ago, George was visiting his eye doctor when he got the news he had always feared but knew would eventually come. He was going blind. Damage suffered while serving in the military in Vietnam compounded by a diabetes diagnosis meant George would be completely losing his sight soon. His optometrist told him he’d have to prepare for a life staying at home and being less active, George didn’t see his future playing out that way. After finding a new eye doctor with a more positive outlook, he set out to make the most of his situation and the South Spokane YMCA has been an essential part of his journey.
Being active for George is more than getting out of the house and being social. For him, it’s a chance to prove his capability to that optometrist from years back and anyone else who doubts people with disabilities. He isn’t just working out to stay alive, he’s proving that people who are blind can continue to thrive.
A couple times a week George walks into to the South Y alongside his service dog, Sampson. The mild-mannered black Labrador helps him navigate through some of the obstacles until it’s time for one of the staff to help him through his routine. Front desk staff will make sure George gets started on the treadmill without a hassle, after a while he’ll move onto the weight machines. “Sergio teaches a circuit class and he whips me into shape pretty good,” George said. After he’s done with his workout George will await his ride home, in the meantime making conversation with members, staff and the occasional child who asks to pet Sampson.
George knows all the effort staff go through to make accommodations for him. “It’s pretty nice that they do this for me, they don’t have to,” George said. “Not every place does this. I have to rely on a lot of people when I go places and do stuff.”
“I’m not going to be that blind guy sitting on my butt until I keel over,” George said. “Being here at the Y helps prepare me for all of my adventures and doing the things that I love.” You can find him snowshoeing, kayaking, fishing and even riding tandem bikes with his son around the Spokane area. All of those activities wouldn’t be possible if George wasn’t keeping up with his health regularly, an opportunity he attributes to the nurturing environment the YMCA staff has made around him. “I would be lost if I couldn’t be here,” George said. “They take good care of me.”
The YMCA of the Inland Northwest is proud to give everyone a place to learn, grow and thrive. Anyone is encouraged to connect with YMCA staff to see how we could accommodate needs to make your experience as beneficial as possible. Visit the Member Services desk to see how we can help you reach your goals for physical, emotional, or social wellness.