Monday, June 25 , 2018, 6:02 am | Overcast 63º


Ventura Family YMCA Member Virginia Chavez Overcomes Her Fear of Swimming at the Age of 75

Virginia Chavez practicing the crawl stroke. Click to view larger
Virginia Chavez practicing the crawl stroke. (Ventura Family YMCA photo)

Throughout Ventura County there are people of all ages facing the challenges of homelessness, obesity and the struggle to reach their full potential. For 128 years, the Ventura Family YMCA has been stepping in to address these community struggles through the help of volunteers, collaborators and generous donors.

Virginia Chavez has been battling oesteoarthritis for over 20-years, so at the urging of her husband she became a member of the Ventura Y. After one-year of consistently working out and attending classes, both her mobility and mental health began to improve.

“The Y saved my life because I’m so old that I felt as if I had nothing else to learn. So, I gave up on life and seriously considered suicide,” Virgina Chavez recalls.

At the age of 75, Virginia did not even consider learning how to swim when becoming a Y member. Like many people within the community, she came for the gym membership, not realizing that the Y offers not only just programs but also altruistic benefits that differ from a regular gym.

“My entire life I was terrified of swimming because I grew up in Moorpark and didn’t go to the beach a lot…I know it sounds strange because I wasn’t so far from the ocean, but that’s how it was," she said. "So the first time I saw the water and the waves, I thought it was humongous and became scared.”  

Virginia eventually grew more confident mentally through her exercising and the Y’s positive family environment, giving her the mindset to overcome depression and to battle her fear of swimming. 

She eventually saw swimming as an obstacle to defeat and made a private swimming lesson reservation with the Ventura Y’s swim instructor, Cathy Bryant. Cathy’s kindness and compassion gave Virginia the courage to enter the swimming pool. 

“You can do this, you can swim,” recalls Cathy’s of Virginia's first swimming lessons. “She only needed encouragement because I knew she could swim, so I was there to give her the support she needed.”

Cathy has over 24-years of experiences as a swimming instructor and continues to teach at the Ventura Family YMCA. Virginia still attends her classes and attributes much of her life’s happieness to the support the Y and Cathy has given her.

“I am no longer terrified of the water or of swimming because of Cathy, and now I love to swim, and I love my life,” Virginia Chavez.

Learn more about the Y, watch Virginia’s entire video story and help make more of these videos possible at

For more information, please contact Alicia Cattoni, the Y’s marketing and communication director by email at [email protected] or call 805.642.2131 x18.

The Ventura Family YMCA would like to thank its volunteers, donors and board of directors for their support: Board Chair Danielle Vera, Past Chair Jim Duran, Todd Beguelin, Peter Berson, Pattie Braga, Rich Favor, Randy George, Rafael Gonzalez, Coral T. Hansen, Jeff Hata, Rick Jeffery, Dan Lyon, Doug Miller, Paul Mistele, Doug Moe, Tom Nevins, Ric Ruffinelli, Cherie St. Jean, Gema Walk, Jim White and Kay Woodburn.

Alicia Cattoni represents the Ventura Family YMCA.


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