benMy Mission Moment

Ben Sealts

I was 7 years old the first time I walked through the doors of the Putnam County YMCA. I was too young to realize it then, but my life changed that very day.

My parents brought me to the YMCA to check out the new swim team. They talked to the Y director and the swim coach and explained I was deaf. The coach said two words to my Mom, “so what?” That was it. I was in. They were happy, I was not. The Y was a new place, new faces, new rules, new things to see, smell and do…and I couldn’t hear any of it. It was hard at times, but we all worked together to figure it out.

Since I was deaf I relied on sign language. My Mom stayed with me at all the swim practices and swim meets to interpret for me. I didn’t put my face underwater most of the swim season just so I could keep one eye on her! Soon some of the other swimmers began to learn a little sign language. People began to recognize me and I made new friends of all ages. I remember Tom Zimmerman from the Y would stand near the front desk just waiting for me and the other swimmers to walk in so he could give us a smile and a high five.

By the time my first swim season ended, I was a Y kid. I wanted to go every day. And many times my family did.

Eleven years have passed. I am fortunate that I have become a competitive swimmer. After several years swimming for the Y, I also joined other teams including a club team at the University of Findlay, the Ottawa-Glandorf Tigersharks summer team and the Ottawa-Glandorf High School Swimming & Diving Team. Last March, ten of us who swim for both the Y team and high school team qualified for the Ohio High School State Swimming Championships. It was a great experience. The coaches and mentors I’ve had growing up at the YMCA have made all the difference.

The Y is now helping me gain work experience. Several nights a week I work with the youngest swimmers on the Y team. I hope my enthusiasm for swimming shows and gets them excited too. I always tell younger swimmers hard work will help them be the best they can be.

I’m now a senior in high school and in my last year of swimming. I’m looking forward to another great year of accomplishments and memories with my teammates. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue swimming in college next year.

I feel blessed that I have been able to achieve so much in my life already and I know that my Y experiences are has helped shaped me into the person I am today.

To some the Y might be just bricks and mortar, just a building on Putnam Parkway. To me, it is a source of hope, learning, hard work, respect and friendship. It is a place of endless opportunity.