Transforming Lives

In 2016, Donald Wallace was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, suffered a massive heart attack, and had quadruple bypass surgery. Followed by several months of healing, he was determined to change his lifestyle and get back on his feet. In 2017, he registered for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the Ken-Ton Family YMCA. Little did he know the program would help to completely change his life.

DPP is a 12-month community-based weight loss program designed to help people learn the tools they need to make lifestyle changes and improve their overall health. “The program helped me learn how to eat differently,” says Donald. “I’ve learned different ways to establish a healthy diet. My numbers have dropped tremendously. My doctor is overjoyed. The program has been helpful and I’m glad I joined.”

At first, Donald says he was unsure about joining the program. “On my first day I thought to myself, ‘Oh no I can’t do this. This isn’t for me.’ But I’m glad I stayed because I’ve learned so much. Knowledge is key when you’re dealing with so many chronic health issues. The more you learn, the easier it gets.” DPP Coordinator Mary Shaw says Donald was a model participant. “I think as he became more knowledgeable and felt better, he was more positive about his life. He came every week for almost two years.”

Aside from the educational component, Donald says he enjoyed the comradery with others. “It’s all about learning new things and sharing experiences,” he says. “I’ve met some pretty amazing people and we push each other to achieve our goals. The group is sociable, and everyone just wants to get better, and the coordinators want to see everyone in the program get better. I look forward to my daily workouts and the social atmosphere of the Y. If I can help one person, or one person can help me, we lift everybody up.”

After completing DPP and continuing his wellness routine at the Y, Donald accomplished an amazing feat: finishing the 123rd annual YMCA Turkey Trot. To prepare, every Saturday morning he and Mary walked the Ken-Ton Family YMCA’s outdoor track. “He ended up being the only person from the DPP group who originally wanted to participate in the Turkey Trot to actually do so. I was very excited for him,” she says. “It was cold that day and he was having second thoughts, but he ended up finishing the event. That’s what’s amazing about Donald – his level of motivation.”

Mary says watching Donald’s journey has been a rewarding experience for her. “His progress has been so significant. It reinforces for me why I’m here and the impact the Y has in the community. I really believe we’re able to make a huge difference and help transform people’s lives through healthy living programs like Diabetes Prevention,” she says.

Donald was able to participate in DPP thanks in part to the Y’s financial assistance program. As a non-profit organization, the Y does not turn anyone away due to an inability to pay, something that Donald is grateful for. “When I got sick, I fell behind on my bills, so to be able to receive financial assistance from the Y was very helpful. It’s great knowing it’s available and I can continue my journey.”

Donald hopes others who have gone through similar experiences give the Y and the National Diabetes Prevention Program a try. “You can’t feel intimidated,” he says. “Just do the best you can do for yourself. I’ve learned to take things step by step. If I can survive open heart surgery, I figure I can do anything. I’m glad I stepped into the doors of the YMCA, and I’m glad I stuck with the program. I feel so much better.”