Bill Lauer knows the benefits that the YMCA brings are endless.
It’s where he learned to swim, rehabilitated after surgery, forged numerous friendships and met his wife who he’s been happily married for 46 years.
As a member of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA’s board of directors, Lauer also dedicates his time to ensure the YMCA will grow and be just as important to future generations as it has been to him.
Lauer said the he believes in the YMCA’s mission of developing a healthy mind, spirit and body.
Recently, he celebrated 70 years as a member of the Joliet Area YMCA, including serving on the board for about 50 years.
“Friendships are made,” he said of the Y. “People are excited to be there and interact with others.”
Lauer recalled that his parents bought him a membership to the YMCA when he was 8 years old. Every Saturday he looked forward to attending classes and eating lunch with his friends.
After his parents dropped him off, he headed for swim class, he said.
Next were programs in the gym followed by craft time. At lunch, the group would dine on hot dogs, chips and milk or pop. They’d sing songs of the Armed Forces, catch a news segment about the latest happenings in World War II, watch a cartoon and then head home.
“We looked forward to it,” he said. “You couldn’t wait to go.”
Lauer, an Army veteran, retained his membership at the Y, but also believed a person has a responsibility to give back to the community in some way.
He began serving on committees to help the organization and also on the board of directors.
In 1965, he met his future wife, Sharon, a YMCA employee who was in charge of the women and girl’s physical education programs. The couple has two daughters and three grandchildren.
Today, Lauer, 78, spends several days a week in the weight room, on the treadmill and in the pool.
The YMCA helped him rehabilitate after having emergency brain artery bypass surgery several years ago. He fully recovered from a quadriplegic state to the point where he recently completed his first 5K walk in Chicago with the use of a cane.
“I’ve spent much of my life there,” Lauer said. “Many of my closest friends I met at the Y. Time after time after time, wonderful things happen.”
He hopes other people have the same good memories of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA. Programs are available from infants to the elderly, and financial assistance is offered for people who may not otherwise be able to pay, he said.
“Regardless of money, they don’t turn people away,” Lauer said.
Sports programs focus on good sportsmanship in a non-competitive environment. Swim classes also teach pool safety and rescue skills, and day camps foster new friendships among children.
“It’s not a health club,” Lauer said. “It’s much more.”