By Dan Plouffe
As the National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA celebrated the second major multi-million-dollar renovation and expansion project of two of its facilities on Saturday, Sept. 18, there wasn’t a traditional ribbon cutting at the newly-renamed Taggart Family Y on Argyle Street.
Instead, officials opted to assemble the pieces of a photo to symbolize that it’s people that make the Y the special place it is, and there probably wasn’t anyone who embodied that spirit better than Diane Ladouceur, a group fitness volunteer of over 28 years at the Y.
The 55-year-old first started going to the Y in her 20s, eventually leading muscle conditioning and aerobics group classes. The past year has been a bit tougher for Ladouceur since the effects of multiple sclerosis are catching up to her a little, although she still takes part in a chair fitness class where participants with injuries or reduced mobility can exercise in a seated position.
“Fitness has been very important (in battling MS),” Ladouceur notes. “I was diagnosed when I was 31 and I’m now 55. It’s just recently that I started using a cane. I was able to keep strong and able to keep moving because of my fitness. And for 24 years, I could do whatever.”
Her own example is a prime demonstration of the value of exercise, she notes. And having a group to work out with and a place to go to do it makes the activity more enjoyable.
“When you do exercises at home, it’s so easy to say, ‘Oh no, I’ll do it tomorrow,’ but here, people see you and so you continue and it encourages you,” Ladouceur explains. “I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s fun to get people excited about doing different kinds of fitness.”
Ladouceur says the renovated Y is now “an even better place,” but she also agrees that it’s the people inside the walls that make the biggest difference.
“When I first started coming here, I just found it was a really great place to be,” Ladouceur explains. “It’s a great equalizer. One person might be a minister and another person might be on welfare, but you don’t know those things when you’re sweating it out. It really is a community, and no matter what, everyone’s welcome.”
TAGGART FAMILY SHARES LONG HISTORY WITH Y
Ladouceur represented the volunteers at the grand opening event, while other groups that participated in the project were also saluted, including the three levels of government, Y staff, members, families, partners, coordinators for Y programs such as transitional housing and employment access, and the Taggart family, which kick-started the capital campaign with its major contribution to the center that now bears their name.
“We’re very proud to be a part of this and to have our name attached to the building,” Keith Taggart said to an audience that overflowed the lobby area for the opening, noting his mother was a YWCA director in the 1950s, which meant that everyone in the family took part in Y camps or nursery schools.
“When it came time to help out, we thought it was a good thing for us to do,” Taggart added. “We feel that with this renovation, this building will continue to be the focus and central meeting place for the vast variety of people who live in downtown Ottawa.”
KIDS ZONE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL
The list of renovations and enhancements is a long one – amongst the improvements are the modernized fitness facilities and equipment, as well as refurbishments just about everywhere in the center, including the pool, locker rooms, and program rooms.
The major highlight, however, was the Kids and Youth Zones on the upper level. There is now a jungle gym, as well as interactive video games that incorporate physical activity into them. A first in Ottawa, the kids and youth zones are also present at the Ruddy Family Y in Orleans, which held its grand re-opening a week earlier than the Taggart Y.
To finally celebrate the completion of most of the centers’ new features – a bit of work remains to be done – after three years of work on it was almost surreal for National Capital Y Acting CEO Deirdre Speers.
“You know, I was upstairs walking through the new facility giving tours and it almost gives you little goosebumps,” Speers described. “Creating a vision and then seeing it being used, families participating together and being active – to really see that is phenomenal.”
HELPING YOUNGSTERS BUILD ‘A FOUNDATION’ FOR SPORT
The Y’s fundraising mission isn’t quite complete yet, with 30 percent and $5 million still missing from the total goal of the campaign, which has already raised the second most out of any Y campaign ever in Canada. Getting back on the fundraising horse is one of Speers’ next duties, although she was enthused about being able to offer more and better sports and recreation opportunities to the community with the facility enhancements.
“When you start looking about sports and activities and what are we doing to create that – this is all about that,” says Speers, whose organization hosted a beginners’ clinic in conjunction with Water Polo Canada on grand opening day. “For a sports-related community, it’s about getting them involved in recreation, giving them the skills and abilities so that if they choose to get involved in a competitive sport, you’ve got the foundation.”