Y Stories

Members of Interest and Inspiration

Our members have some great stories, and we want to share them with you! This page is devoted to sharing the interesting and inspiring life experiences of our members. We're sure there are many stories out there, so we hope you'll fill us in. And please consider the many ways you can join us in helping to make a positive impact in the community. Learn more about volunteering and getting involved with your Y.

Melba BisulcaMeet MELBA BISulca


"I don’t let it take hold of me,” Melba Bisulca says of the cancer she is fighting. “There’s just no way it’s going to take me down.” Strong words from a strong woman.

The wife of a Marine pilot deployed in Afghanistan and mother of three, Melba relies on the Y as a place to focus on her health and gain support from the friends she has made. See the full story.

Diane Hirakawa

We first published Diane Hirakawa's Y story back in 2011. We caught up with her again in 2014 and found out that her Y story is one we must share. You could say that swimming saved Diane Hirakawa’s life.

Diane has polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that eventually (and almost always) leads to kidney failure in the absence of a transplant. Until recently, Diane was close to end-stage renal failure. Throughout this years-long process, she has been a regular on Mission Valley YMCA's Masters swim team. Between dialysis and other testing, she managed to drive four times a week from Chula Vista to swim and connect with her friends in the Masters program. See the full story

Steve Pearson

Steve Pearson is a regular in the water at Mission Valley Y. After some three years of regular exercise and better eating habits, he is 80 pounds lighter and well down the path to regaining his health. Getting started was a challenge, but, as he says, "I could continue what I was doing and die, or straighten up, fly right and do the things I needed to do to stay alive."

Read Steve's story

Meet our members

Michael Geier

Team Challenge

Michael Geier had almost given up on himself after his fitness routine fell apart. He gained weight and he was frustrated. Then, he saw a flier for the Team Challenge Weight Loss for Life program, and he got busy. Read more

Marlowe Berg

Water Exercise

Last summer, the view from the Acropolis was extra special for Marlowe Berg. While the hike to the top wasn’t all that strenuous, the journey leading up to it was painful and frustrating. Read about how her hard work with our Kari-Lorraine Scott paid off. Read more

Ted Lorenzen

"Dad, come to Africa. We can climb Mt. Kilimanjaro together!"

That was in October 2012 and is typical of my daughter’s notion of planning; she was giving me until December — two months!— to train for a climb to 19,341 feet. We have backpacked before, but not nearly to that elevation. I had been going regularly to Toby Wells YMCA and had been losing some weight, but my workouts have been scattered and lacking focus. I did not want to go half way around the world and fail on a distant mountain without exploring my preparation options before going. I determined that I needed to have a trainer that could guide my efforts. The question: was there enough time? Read more

J.J. Knightly

J.J. Knightly weighed 200 pounds in 2007, and there she stayed 2011, when she got serious about her health and took on the Team Challenge. As her weight went down, her determination soared. She completed not one, but four sessions. Today she is 60 pounds lighter, rocking a pink bikini and feeling great. Read her Team Challenge blog to learn more about how this mother of four turned around her health.

Chris Spangle

Chris Spangle was eating poorly, sitting all day at work and then coming home to the couch and TV at night. He needed something to kick himself into gear, and he found the Team Challenge. Now he's 50 pounds lighter, with a whole different outlook. Read his Team Challenge recap.

Eileen Purnell

Eileen Purnell took to the water to get her body moving. She admits to trying "every diet there is — I've probably lost two elephants in my lifetime. Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. ... Water exercise — I'll do it forever. It doesn't matter how old you are or what kind of shape you're in." Read how Eileen lost 12-1/2 pounds and is still going strong with the Big Splash Challenge.

Nora & Cameron Hussey

Nora Hussey's 9-year-old grandson comes to visit from South Carolina every summer. He is a bright and energetic boy, and he is autistic. He is a beautiful child, she says, but as you can imagine, it’s challenging for a retired grandmother with multiple sclerosis to channel the energy of a young boy and minimize the frustration he experiences when he communicates. So, she turned to the Y. Read more...

Roderick Sewell

Roderick Sewell learned to swim at the Mission Valley YMCA & is now training for the 2016 Paralympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. Read more...

Nelson Vargas

After morning practices with the masters program, Nelson Vargas watched kids from two Linda Vista elementary schools shuttling in and out of the indoor pool at Mission Valley. Unfortunately, many of them are unable to afford bathing suits, so he watched as kids learned to swim in cut jeans, shorts, pants, etc. He had an idea. Read more...

The Knitters

If you’re ever at Hazard Center, you may happen upon a growing group of ladies with a shared interest. They don’t come to work out on the treadmill or take a yoga class, though some do that on their own. They come to spend time with each other, trade stories — and knit. Read more...

Jacob Thater

"Youth & Government made me more confident in public speaking, which has already helped me in college. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had without the Y." Read more...

Peter Attia

At first glance, Peter Attia looks like your average, physically fit, 38-year-old. And he is. What you might not realize is how healthy he really is and what he ate to get there. After extensive reading and studying, Peter had an epiphany: Fat can be your friend. The key is to teach your body to burn it instead of storing it. Intrigued? We surely were. Read more....

Patricia Poston

Patricia Poston read the stories on this page and was inspired to share her own. This military spouse enrolled herself in a Y nutrition class and went to work reclaiming her health. Read more...

Cheryl Anderson

Cheryl Andersen has been a foster parent for more than a decade. She’s been a mother, teacher, counselor, and mentor for dozens of young people of all ages. She’s worked hard to provide a sense of normalcy for children in a situation that’s anything but, and as long as she can remember, Mission Valley YMCA’s summer camps have been a large part of that. Read more...

Jennifer Whitton

Jen Whitton joined the YMCA in 2005 to get into shape. Not a regular exerciser or a natural athlete, she was anxious about going to a gym. By her own estimation, she was overweight, and while she wanted to get into shape, she was terrified to work out in a traditional "gym" setting, regularly coaxing friends to come with her. Read more...

John Holman

At 72 years old, John Holman finished his third Ironman triathlon at Kona. And just six years ago, this elite athlete was barely treading water! Read more...

Diane Hirakawa

When exercise-induced asthma forced her to cut back on running and dancing, her doctors suggested swimming. She’s currently a member of the Masters Swim program at Mission Valley YMCA. And while many team members compete throughout the United States, Diane also swims for her health. Read more...

Elicia Hill

Elicia Hill’s first association with the YMCA in San Diego came when she was a young girl playing sports. So, it’s no surprise that she turned to the YMCA again when her daughter, Mikaila, was entering kindergarten and needed childcare. Since kindergarten, Elicia has enrolled Mikaila (now in 4th grade) in the Character Builders program – formerly known as YMCA Childcare – through Mission Valley YMCA. Read more...