HEATHER NEILSON MAY BE A 65-YEAR-OLD RETIRED PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHER, BUT SHE’S CERTAINLY NOT SLOWING DOWN.
Thanks to the YMCA of Fredericton, “Mrs. Neilson” maintains an active lifestyle — both physically and socially. She lifts weights in the morning three times a week, and enjoys a 9 a.m. Tabata interval-training class on Wednesdays. The Y is a “dynamite” place for seniors, says Neilson. She says she sees tons of seniors in the mornings at the gym, in the pool, and in the training classes. “I love to work out, and I love to work out because I love to play,” she says. Besides being able to exercise, Neilson goes to the YMCA because she loves the people and the welcoming community. “It’s a retired person’s dream. It’s a super way to meet people.”
Neilson, who loves meeting new people, says one of her favourite parts about the YMCA is the long lasting relationships she has made over the years. “I get to meet the best people ever here in Fredericton,” she says.
Her passion for the YMCA started when she first joined in 1981. An active woman who once played softball and ringette, she began going to a fitness class with her fellow “stay-at-home gals” when she had her son.
Six years later, she started teaching fitness classes, which she did for 10 years. She also got involved in fundraising by helping coordinate the YMCA’s annual fashion show.
In the 1990s, Heather became a member of the YMCA operating board for five years, and in 2000 she became the president of the operating board.
Over the years, Neilson has done a lot of volunteer work for the YMCA, and says her specialties include fundraising and “friend-raising.” Neilson is currently a member of the YMCA’s endowment board and volunteers with the fundraising for the Strong Kids Campaign — a program that helps children and their families who can’t afford to go to the YMCA.
While she worked as a teacher, a job she held for 32 years, Neilson saw firsthand how the Strong Kids campaign benefits children. Each year, some of her students were selected for the campaign. After they started going to the Y she noticed improvements from the children especially in their behaviour, all thanks to the program. “I love it here because I love to see children and families together, being physically and emotionally health always” she said.
In addition to working out and volunteering at the Y, Heather likes to play badminton and ski, both downhill and cross-country. On Sunday mornings, she plays hockey, and says her newest addiction is tennis. In the summer, she says you can find her on the golf course.