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YMCA member shines a light on mental health

14 June 2022 - by Nicole Meredith
The YMCA of Greater Toronto is a charity, and it’s thanks to our incredible donors and volunteers that we can connect people with essential services, chances to better their lives, and a sense of community and belonging. Why I Give is a series designed to put the spotlight on these incredible change makers, sharing what inspires them to give back and what supporting our charity means to them.

Today, Tony Farebrother reflects on the ways our YMCA supported his community throughout the pandemic, and why he decided to change his monthly membership fees to donations while our gyms were temporarily closed.

Inspiration to give

“The Y is at the heart of my community. It’s where I learned to swim as a kid, where I volunteer, where I always feel appreciated, safe, comfortable. It’s so much more than a gym to me.

“When the pandemic hit, there was no question; the Y had been there for me for so many years, I wanted to be there for it. I had always budgeted for my monthly Y membership — so I decided to donate that money. COVID-19 has been tough for charities, so why not do what you can to help? After all, the Y was still doing things for me, it was still here for people. All those free virtual classes, every single day!

“I’ve also seen first-hand how exercise helps mental health — a challenge the pandemic highlighted, but has always been here. My friend has a mental illness and he lives on his own, so he used to feel so isolated. It turns out he qualified for membership assistance. He wouldn’t have been able to afford a membership otherwise. And it made such a difference. He was in better physical and mental health from working out — it meant a lot to him. And when we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything during the pandemic, we had those virtual programs, helping people release stress, and opening doors and connections to us.”

Thanks to donors like Tony, the Y will continue to deliver exercise opportunities that relieve stress, give people a sense of routine and structure, and connect members of our community to support their physical and mental health. Learn more about the meaningful impact our donors make every day by visiting


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