A story of hope and possibility: Dennis, creating healthy habits

Dennis, a loyal Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA member, shares his story of hope and possibility.

He begins, “I died and the Y saved my life.”

The hospital staff at Grand Strand for saved his life after experiencing full cardiac arrest on July 3, 2012. 

He went through Cardiac Rehab until February, 2015, when the Y assumed responsibility for managing those Cardiac patients who had completed Cardiac Rehab at the hospital.

He shares, “The Y was a better option for those of us who had moved on from Cardiac Rebab because we could attend the Y as often as we wanted while Cardiac was limited to 3 visits per week.”

He continued, “The staff at the Y has always been available to help me personally stick to my exercise program even though the staff members have changed over the years. The current staff is well qualified and are able to relate to all age levels.”

He notes that it is very noticeable how the staff is able to meet the needs of a multigenerational customer base.

“This is a comfortable and safe place,” he explains, “and everyone cares for each other here.”

Dennis continued exercising at the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA and loves being a part of the Y community.

Last year, Dennis joined the Healthy Habits Challenge, which tracked daily healthy habits such as eating well, moving for 30 minutes, and drinking water. For each healthy habit tracked, participants earned a point.

Trish Harrison, Healthy Living Director, shares, “I wrote his name down at the top of the Healthy Habits Leader Board every week.”

Dennis shares that the Healthy Habits Challenge influenced him to start a food journal. He stayed with the healthy habits program even after the challenge ended, and by the end of the year had lost 40 pounds!

Dennis is an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story with the Y community.

Story of Hope and Possibility: April, a grateful parent

April, a Swim Team volunteer parent, shared her story of Hope and Possibility with the YMCA of Coastal Carolina Leadership Team. She said, “My son is Autistic.  Years ago we came to the Y for additional swim lessons.  Jillian immediately recognized and remembered my son.  She said that’s she had seen him swim and that he could be on swim team. 

“He could be part of what?”, I asked.  

I never thought he would be part of a swim team.  We were just there for lessons. 

She has been one of his biggest advocates and supporters since. He has learned, has grown, and developed so many friends and social skills through the program.  

Both our lives have been profoundly impacted by swim team’s inclusion and support. There are special people in the world who see the child behind the sensory meltdowns, hesitation to just jump in, frustrating moments behind the block, and the need for things to be explained 10 times. This is the child that is encouraged and coached regardless of the challenges. 

We were invited once to participate in a Special Olympics team. When I mentioned it to my son he said, “No thank you.  I am already part of my team.” That statement was everything for a child with daily struggles. He knew he already had a home. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 

Story of Hope and Possibility: Mary (Lefty!)

Mary is a member of the Myrtle Beach YMCA community. Mary suffered from a Transient Ischemic Attack and two Ischemic Strokes in April of 2022. She spent a month in rehab, setting goals and slowly regaining functions through various therapies. Mary looked to the YMCA for extra help getting her back on her feet. She practiced water aerobics and weightlifting with Dylan, a trainer for the YMCA. Mary continues to make impressive progress and says that “Every time I’m with Personal Training, Golf Therapy, staff or the many classes offered, I walk away with a new tool to help my continued journey to getting better!”

Mary’s Story

On Thursday evening, April 14th, 2022, I had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), which passed by 2 a.m. and I was sent home believing everything was OK. On Friday morning around 8 a.m. I knew things were happening, so we went back to Waccamaw Hospital and that morning had two Ischemic Strokes on my left side, leaving me paralyzed (hence why I am called Lefty).

I was transferred to Rehab on Tuesday for 1 month and released on May 11th, 2022.  While there I did Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Speech Therapy 3 times a day. Once released from Rehab, I started Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy at Tidelands Neuro Therapy from May 23rd through December 30th, 2022.

No matter where I did my rehab, I established goals for myself.  

1) I never stopped exercising.  Whatever the therapist taught me I wrote down and continued to work on (until today).

2) In rehab they asked what my goal was . . . I wanted to get out of the hospital; on May 11th, I walked out with my walker.

3) By July 15th, I was able to walk without my walker.

4) While still doing Neuro Rehab, around August 1st, I knew I needed to find more ways to help improve my recovery.  I started Water aerobics at Healthpoint (which is now YMCA).  NOTE: Around that same time, I traveled to New Jersey for 6 weeks and continued water aerobics at the YMCA in New Jersey.


Upon my return in October, I returned to the YMCA’s water aerobics.

Following my release from Tideland (Neuro) Therapy in December, in January 2023 I started Personal Training with Dylan focusing on exercises, weight training and various machines. I continued with Dylan through May.  

I also did and continue to do online exercise programs. A major one was Jamber.com (hand yoga) and Motion Coach, which helps with all of the areas I continue to need help with (shoulder, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle and balance).  

In June, another goal was to get back to playing golf, so I started Golf Therapy with Richard Morris (which I’m still taking).  A note to mention about this program is that I thought I was taking “golf lessons”, which turned out to be more therapy related exercises. 

Interestingly, there is a saying in golf that no matter how you play, “you only need to hit one good shot during your game and that is enough to keep bringing you back to play another round.  That is exactly how I feel about the YMCA.  Every time I’m with Personal Training, Golf Therapy, staff or the many classes offered, I walk away with a new tool to help my continued journey to getting better.

Thank you for inviting me to hear my story.

Member Story of Hope & Possibility: Maria

Maria is a member of the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA. When she discovered frightening news about her health, she made the YMCA a priority in her life. By taking classes and working with our trainers, Maria built up her strength. She says that her personal trainer Haywood pushed her “not only physically but mentally.” With all the YMCA there to support her, she lost 50 lbs!  

Maria’s Story

She shares:

“In February of this year, I went to see my primary care physician to read my labs. He told me my glucose level was elevated. I immediately left his office and went straight to the YMCA to start my fitness and wellness journey. I signed up for classes like strength and stability, Zumba and Aqua Fit. I even took classes to learn how to swim. I started personal training with Haywood, who showed me how to safely use each machine and explained which areas of the body they targeted. He pushed me not only physically but mentally. The entire YMCA staff has been so encouraging, especially Trish who continuously motivates me each time I see her.  To compliment my wellness journey, I took advice from my daughter who is a nutritionist. I started by eating more plant centered meals, reduced my sugar intake and stopped eating highly processed foods. I learned that not all carbs are created equally and get a good source of energy from complex carbs. In six months, I have lost a total of 50 lbs. by moving my body five days a week and sticking to my nutrition plan. My goal is to be mobile, healthy, and feel good for the longevity of my life.”

Member Story of Hope & Possibility: Kathryn

Kathryn has been a member of the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA since 2022. While recovering from health impacts from COVID-19 and being a new resident of the area, Kathryn found a wonderful community at the YMCA of Coastal Carolina. Kathryn says “My battle in regaining my health since COVID has been a long and sometimes painful one, however, Trish, Haywood, Michelle, Wes, and staff at this Y have helped me in this recovery more than I can tell you. I honestly don’t feel that I could have come this far without them.” The YMCA invests in you, your health, and your happiness! Kathryn says that joining the Y was “such a positive turning point in my life!” 

Here’s what she says:

Katheryn’s Story

I wanted to write to let the board of directors know what a blessing the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA is to Horry County.  

I moved to Myrtle Beach from Maryland in 2021/2022 after losing my partner, Steve, to COVID-19.  

We both became ill with it at the same time in January 2021. I was quite sick with symptoms that left me with a 30lb weight loss, extreme fatigue and other long hauler problems. I was so sick with severe headaches and awful joint pain that I thought I would never get well again. I could barely walk even short distances and became extremely weak. I was pretty much bedridden for 3 months. 

To make a long story short, my beloved partner passed away from COVID pneumonia in February 2021. My quality of life had already taken a huge low due to being sick with COVID; but, now losing my partner so suddenly devastated me.  

Several months later, I began the very slow and painful journey of getting better. As I became a little stronger, my brother, David, suggested I leave MD and move south to a better climate and where my month would go further.  

My brother brought me to Myrtle Beach in the summer of 2021 and I began looking for my forever home. I found a lovely condo at Magnolia Pointe and moved into it in January 2022.  

I continued my journey to regain as much of my health as possible. I slowly built up more strength and began walking 5-7 miles per day on the waterway and trails. I love to swim and was thrilled with I learned about the Clarie Chapin Epps Family YMCA; that it had a lap pool and a gym. Even better, it was within easy walking distance.  

I remember coming into the Y and how friendly and helpful the staff were. I was very happy to become a member! 

This was such a positive turning point in my life!  

I started swimming and using the gym. I signed up with Michelle who spent several sessions as my personal trainer. She worked on strength and balance exercises with me which I needed so much.  

Several months have passes since first joining this Y. My battle in regaining my health since COVID has been a long and sometimes painful one, However, Trish, Haywood, Michelle, Wes, and staff at this Y have helped me in this recovery more than I can tell you. I honestly don’t feel that I could have come this far without them.  

How far have I come? 

On April 16, 2023, I’m so happy to say that, at age 65, I ran my first ever 5K race, placing 5th out of 14 other women in the 60-69 age group!!  And I ran it in 34 minutes 45 seconds!! 

I never thought after being so sick that I would ever be able to do half that much. Thanks to Michelle’s working with me and to the fantastic staff, I did! 

I’m looking forward to continuing my membership at the Y and working on improving my health even more over time. 

I hope the Horry County government knows what an asset the Claire Chapin Epps YMCA is to this community; and all the good it does those, like me, in restoring and maintaining quality of life.  

I can’t express enough appreciation to everyone! 

Updated Hours Today

We hope you and your family stayed safe during the storm. We will resume normal operations at all three YMCA of Coastal Carolina center locations at 11 a.m. today. 

  • Thursday, August 31: All three center locations will reopen at 11 a.m.
  • Friday, September 1: All three center locations will be open during normal hours.
 24-hour access will be unavailable to Tidelands Health Georgetown Family YMCA during the times the center is closed but will resume as normal tonight.