Bloomington-Normal YMCA

Maddie Barbic's Story: A heartwarming YMCA journey about lifeguarding

Published 02.27.18

     A long whistle blast, followed by a splash, is echoed throughout the pool area. A crowd of people gather around the pool deck to see what the commotion could be. The child is reaching for help, and within seconds, is swept away to safety by a lifeguard. This is not just any lifeguard, it’s Maddie Barbic. Maddie is one of the many lifeguards that have experienced saves just like this, that work to promote the safety for all members and staff that swim at the YMCA.

    Maddie first started her journey through the Galowich Family YMCA in Joliet. What first drew her to the Y, was the sense of community. The Y offered many different opportunities and programs that encouraged members and staff to learn, grow and thrive. The ability to connect with different people is what drove her to be apart of the variety of programs. Originally, Maddie started out as a lifeguard, but through the internal connections she made through the pool, she found herself coaching soccer, running aftercare programs, and becoming the head guard. The YMCA helped Maddie create an identity for who she was as an individual and find her life’s passion.

    One day, when Maddie was teaching swim lessons, she was handed an unexpected task. She was told to teach a child with Autism how to swim. Immediately, Maddie jumped at the idea of helping a child learn to swim, but she had never taught a child with special needs. Over the course of a few weeks, Maddie found herself invested in these swim lessons with this child. This sparked an idea to start a career that allowed her to work one-on-one with kids that had special needs.

    In the fall of 2017, Maddie transferred from Joliet Junior College to Illinois State University. Along with the difference in location, Maddie also had a different study in mind than she did previously when she was at her community college. Since working with a child with special needs, she decided to transfer her major from general education to special education.

    Since Maddie made the decision to switch majors, she also made the decision to switch to a different YMCA, one that was much closer to where she attended school. At first she was nervous about starting over in a new organization. Not only was she surrounding herself in a new community, but she was concerned with how welcoming a new organization would be with a new hire.

    Maddie’s hesitations were immediately put to rest. Even only working as a substitute, Maddie quickly learned how inviting people are. She felt, not only a sense of true community, but a connection with all members and staff. The depth of the conversations she had with the Bloomington-Normal YMCA family proved to her that she was not just seen as a staff member. Words of encouragement and reassurance to push her to her individual goals were seen as a priority.

   Here at the Bloomington- Normal YMCA, there is a promise for people of all ages and genders to share a passion and strengthen the foundation of the community. Maddie knew she made the right decision joining the Bloomington-Normal Y,  because she knew the welcoming atmosphere was guaranteed and targeted towards all people. Although every Y brings its own unique twist, Maddie proved that no matter what Y you belong to, one thing will never change, all are welcome.


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