Pete and Jessie Bradley are regulars at the Y in Arnold. Several mornings a week around 5:30 or 6AM they are on the fitness floor working hard to stay fit. When you meet Jessie and Pete, the first thing you realize is how very approachable and kind they are. I have been seeing them for at least 3 or 4 years in the early morning hours at the Y when I teach cycling and yoga. We hadn’t introduced ourselves until recently, but for several years, we always chatted and said hello as if we were neighbors. That’s the genuine sense of community, warmth and friendship that Jessie values at the Y in Arnold. When she arrives, she knows that even if she doesn’t know someone by name, the fact that you are there with the same crowd several mornings a week makes for a unique circle of friendship-A shared awareness of community and an appreciation for a healthy mind and body.
Pete grew up in the Marine Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of seven kids, Pete remembers learning to swim and play basketball in the early 1950s at the Flatbush Y of Greater New York. As a 10 year-old boy, Pete and his younger brother would take a bus into the center of Brooklyn, and then walk to the Flatbush Y several days a week, year round. Talking to Pete about his experiences at the Flatbush Y, I learned that the programs then were geared toward boys only and that he and his brother made that journey from Marine Park to Flatbush alone. He remembers the process of getting to the Y, signing in and then going off to his activity of choice. Listening to Pete talk about the structure and simplicity that characterized his experience once he and his brother arrived at the Y, I breathed a sigh of relief after hearing about their commute there. We agreed that both experiences gave Pete “life skills” and we observed that times have changed. Even in the 1970s and early 1980s, I walked or rode my bike everywhere, with a boldness and independence that few kids have a chance to experience now. Was the world any safer then than it is now? It’s hard to say, but the Y has been a constant for many of us.
Today the Y’s Give Every Child a Chance Campaign hopes to provide kids with access to some of the “life skills” that Pete and I were lucky enough to experience. No matter how they get to a local Y, once they arrive, the Y is committed to being a memorable place of warmth, community and friendship that Jessie appreciates among the dedicated neighbors who she and Pete meet in the early morning hours on the fitness floor at the Y in Arnold.