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RONALDO P. AND RONALDO P. JR.

"I heard about YMCA Operation Backpack at the right time. I was seeking custody of my son and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to afford school supplies. YMCA Operation Backpack was a godsend and it saved me.” 
– RONALDO P. | Father of Ronaldo P. Jr. 

"It’s exciting to know that I can go into a room and pick out any backpack that I want. This last year I didn’t have to borrow anyone else’s supplies, like I had to do in third grade.” 
– RONALDO P. JR.

Ronaldo P., 48, is a single father who works multiple jobs to make ends meet for him and his son, Ronaldo P. Jr., 9.

The two came across YMCA Operation Backpack when attending a YMCA community event held at Ronaldo Jr.’s school last year. Ronaldo Sr. was seeking custody of his son at the time and wasn’t sure how he was going to afford school supplies. “YMCA Operation Backpack was a godsend and it saved me,” he said.

Since his initial contact with the YMCA, Ronaldo Jr. has been enrolled in the YMCA’s After School program, which has been very helpful for his father, who takes care of him full-time while working a day job as a contractor and a night job as a custodian.

“I've had to recreate myself. I’ve had to take my son to work with me when I didn’t have child care. It was tough,” he said. “I lost a couple of jobs. We went as low as you can go. With the YMCA’s help we are doing much better.” When he drops off his son at the Y, he feels relieved. “I know there is structure and security. I know he’s safe. He’ll work on his swimming skills, on his interaction with others, on his communication skills and on his behavior.”

Ronaldo Jr. and his father have been through a lot in life, and the Y has provided them with a place to belong and to overcome obstacles. Ronaldo Jr. also has participated in YMCA Day Camp where he made new friends. Together, they've attended Family Camp at YMCA Camp Cullen and experienced fellowship with other parents. They even went to a Thanksgiving community dinner held by the Y.

“The Y has allowed me space to go forward.” Ronaldo Sr. said. “It allows me to get resources and follow through with job interviews and appointments. I couldn’t have done it without the Y.” When asked about his favorite things at the Y, Ronaldo Jr. said without hesitating: “It saved my daddy’s life.”

 

NORMA, MADISON, JUANITA AND ZOEY

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Norma F. is a hard-working, single mother of three beautiful daughters, Madison, 15, Juanita, 13, and Zoey, 10 – all three adopted. Norma’s involvement with the Y dates back to 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area. The storm caused the child care facility where she worked in Galveston to close, and she lost her job. Norma soon found a job at a YMCA child care facility, which allowed her to keep providing for her children.

Years later, after Norma accepted a new job at a local college, she was reintroduced to the Y and its programs. Norma had concerns about her daughters’ swimming skills, as she doesn't know how to swim herself. “If something were to happen and they fell into the water, I wanted them to be able to take care of themselves and get to safety. To me it was a big deal for them to learn how to swim,” she says. Madison, Juanita and Zoey attended free swim lessons at the Y for two summers and were able to learn live-saving skills.

Another invaluable Y program for Norma is YMCA Operation Backpack. This will be the third year that Norma and her children receive backpacks and school supplies at no charge. “Participating in YMCA Operation Backpack is definitely a big plus. I’m a one-income home, and you’re multiplying school supply costs by three to get everything for everybody. Plus, their needs change every year," she says. “The Y has definitely helped me out in not having to buy quite as many supplies.” 

Life hasn’t been easy for Norma and her girls, but Norma is a dedicated mother and, with the help of her loved ones as well as the YMCA, she remains positive. “The Y has definitely helped me out. I have my girls, and I’ve had them since babies. We’ve grown together. It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn’t change what I’ve done. I would do it all over again."