Irene and her two sons in Nairobi

Irene and her two sons in Nairobi

The Y brings families together

Irene, from Kenya, arrived in Eugene with her two sons in 2014. As a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, Irene’s workload is significant, especially as an international student raising three children on her own. In her unique situation, Irene found the Y as a welcoming space within which she could be an outstanding parent and student.

As a graduate student, parenting comes with unique challenges. Ours is a house of international students, so we have to make Eugene our home away from home. Both of my boys enjoy the Y, my youngest through the afterschool program and my oldest is always doing workouts and playing basketball games there. During summer, they frequent the pool and enjoy the summer programs with their friends.

In the last academic year, having my youngest at the Y after school care eased my load profoundly. I was able to complete my comprehensive exams, oral defense and dissertation proposal defense. Any graduate student will tell you this is a period of intense studying that requires focus and determination.

As members of the Y, we have become part and parcel of a community. The best part is that I am at peace knowing my boys are in safe hands, as they enjoy the programs offered at the Y. The Y has been a blessing to us in more ways than one.


 Danielle and Emma

Danielle and Emma

 Baby Emma

Baby Emma

 Teenage Emma

Teenage Emma

y HELPS FAMILY AND INSPIRES BOND

Danielle Uhlhorn is the Board President of the Eugene Family YMCA and is in her third term on the Board. Board participation is completely voluntary, but critical to the YMCA as we are a volunteer-led organization. Often, our Board members are inspired in some way by the Y’s cause-driven work as a non-profit organization that has been in Eugene for 130 years.

Thirteen years ago, my husband, Kris, and I went through an extended period of hardship as young parents, and it was the Eugene Family YMCA that supported us during this critical time.

It started with a 911 call when our 4-month-old daughter Emma went into anaphylactic shock, after exposure to dairy.  Over the next several months, Emma developed the most severe case of eczema local allergy specialist Dr. Jacobson had ever seen.  Her case was so severe, she required an adult to hold her to prevent her from damaging her skin.  Kris had to close his business so he could stay with her and we had to find childcare for our 2-year-old son, Will. With doctor bills piling up and our new family down an income, Kris suggested we call the Y for help. 

The Y offered us financial assistance so that Will could be cared for while Kris cared for Emma at home and I was able to make a career change so that I could provide for our family’s new way of life. 

Over the next couple years, Dr. Jacobson helped us get Emma’s condition under control.  She eventually learned how to sit, walk and crawl, toddler milestones delayed because of her condition.  Dr. Jacobson told her story at conferences around the country. 

When Emma had met the age requirement for Y childcare at two and a half, she was welcomed with open arms, despite the extra care that she required. I met with staff on a weekly basis to review meals and activities to ensure her safety.  It took a while to get over the paralyzing fear of dropping her off everyday, waiting for the call that she was being rushed to the hospital -- the call never came.  The Y went above and beyond to keep her safe while Kris and I got back on our feet. 

Today, Emma is a healthy, beautiful teenager, thanks in no small part to the love and care she received at the Y. My husband has a thriving company and I have been blessed with a successful career at McKenzie River Broadcasting. I don’t know how we would have made it through that time of stress and uncertainty, without the Y’s financial and emotional support. 

Many people think of the Y as simply a place to work out, shoot hoops or take a swim.  But, as my own story demonstrates, the Y is so much more than that. The Y is this wonderful cause-driven non-profit organization, led by volunteers, dedicated to helping people of all walks of life to thrive, no matter where they are in their journey. Our community is stronger, I am stronger, and my family is stronger because of the Y.

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