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Sandy’s Story

February 13, 2024

Making An Impact, One Wave At A Time

My name is Sandy Teagardin Thomas and the Y has been a part of me during many phases of my life. I'll admit it was a while ago, but I've been at the Baxter Y since it first opened. As a child, I was on the swim and dive team. I became a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons. Eventually, I became a Water Safety Instructor and was the Aquatics Director for a short time. This job as a young person taught me patience, responsibility and teamwork. More than that, it gave me a place to belong. Today, I still see many names I recognize from way back then.

I left the Y in the late 70s to make a new career, get married and raise my two children, Matt and Krissy. I kept the lessons I learned at the Y in my heart as I raised my children. They both learned to swim before they could walk. Being a Mom was the greatest joy of my life. One child graduated as an honor student and one graduated class clown! I am very proud of both.

Last year, my life began to change. Retirement loomed and I decided to take charge of my life and my fitness. My daughter and I signed up for a water aerobics class. We were welcomed not just by our instructors, Dee Dee and Sarah, but by a large diverse group of people. It was so much fun and it truly was a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE!  We quickly became part of the group. I not only improved my health but also my social life. Again, I had found a place where I belonged.

I semi-retired not long after joining the Y. I began looking for something to fill my newfound free time, and realized it was right in front of me. The Y has always had a special place in my heart. I applied for the second time in my life to be a swim instructor. When I received a call from Heather Scholz, our Aquatics Director, I was excited but a little nervous to climb into a swimsuit and teach at 66 years old. We, the swim instructors, were kept busy all summer. I was in and out of the Y several times a day. I began to notice the Y community. Doors were held open by young people. The check-in and membership desk actually remembered who you were, and were ready with a greeting and smile. I felt like I had come home.

We welcomed Ashley Fineran as Associate Aquatics Director in the fall. We all thank you for making teaching swimming a pleasure. Your willingness to jump in and find solutions is an asset to the swim program.

I quickly found a program I was passionate about. The WAVES program, Water Access For Very Exceptional Students. This program connected me with students who have different needs than other students. I admire these children and their families. I am grateful to have a job where I get to witness small miracles.

Sam is a child in the WAVES program who had a near-drowning experience. After months of repetition and lessons, Sam put his head underwater. His mother was crying. I was crying. But the real miracle was four teenage Swim Instructors noticed what was happening and turned and applauded for Sam.    That is the Spirit of the Baxter Y. That is why I work here.

To make an impact, please donate to the Baxter YMCA Annual Campaign.


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