Being out on the bocce court at the Madison Area YMCA’s annual charity bocce tournament this fall had a special significance for Jim Patterson. The tournament, which raises funds for the Y’s paths to wellness programming, includes LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. Jim knows LIVESTRONG well. “Beautiful Beth” as Jim describes his late wife and best friend of 35 years and mother of their 16-year-old daughter Janie, who has Down syndrome, was a graduate of the December 2016 LIVESTRONG at the YMCA class. Beth had bravely battled ovarian cancer twice over two years, for the last time this past summer.
“Beth enjoyed her LIVESTRONG experience,” says Jim. “It gave back her energy, strength, balance and hope. Most importantly, it gave us more quality time with Beth and allowed her to have a ‘bucket list’ dream ski vacation with me, Janie and friends. Beth skied circles around me! That certainly made her proud,” he reminisces.
Jim points out how everyone at the Y, whether they were staff members or Y members, just embraced his daughter from the start. The bocce team, Great Balls of Fire, also made Janie an honorary captain. “We are so happy to be part of the Y community,” says Jim. “The Y staff always knew what to say to Janie to make her feel better about her mom.”
To show his gratitude to the Y, Jim plans to share Beth’s story at the banquet next week that closes the 17th annual bocce tournament. “I have to make sure I deliver the message that Beth would want,” says Jim, noting Beth’s eloquence and gift for writing.
During her graduation, Beth, a nurse, who also earned her master’s degree and law degree, shared her experience with cancer and LIVESTRONG. She spoke about how cancer took away her sense of security, health and energy, followed by how LIVESTRONG not only helped her achieve what she had set out to do which included getting her energy and flexibility back, the Y made her feel comfortable doing it and made her feel good about herself.
“I was not ready for Beth’s heartfelt address,” says Jim, sharing another heartfelt memory: Janie’s catechist Tara at Assumption Church assisted Jim with talking to Jane about her mother’s passing. “Janie said, ‘Mommy went to see baby Jesus. There’s no cancer in heaven,’” recalled Jim. “From that moment, and throughout this journey, Jane has been the adult in the room."
The family joined the Y in 2016 when Beth joined LIVESTRONG. “Beth went to LIVESTRONG and Janie and I did our thing,” says the cyclist and former marathoner, who completed eight New York City marathons. “I started working out again and getting back into shape. Janie, an accomplished skier, started doing CrossFit. Both Janie and I are one thousand percent better, thanks to the Y,” Jim says, adding that he’s decided to dedicate himself to Janie—being more health conscious so that he can take the best care of his daughter. “And, we’re having so much fun,” he says.
Jim says that the Y has made such a difference for Janie during such a pivotal moment in her life. “I’m so grateful to Chelsea,” he says, referring to the Y’s Healthy Living coordinator Chelsea Sacher, who was Beth’s LIVESTRONG coach and is now Janie’s personal trainer who introduced her to CrossFit training.
“I cherish that Chelsea works with Janie especially since she was Beth’s LIVESTRONG coach. Chelsea gets her to do things—Janie pays attention to her and follows instructions. Over the past two years, Chelsea has helped Janie mature from a giggly child to a beautiful young lady,” Jim says, adding that the Y is filled with wonderful role models for his daughter.
“Chelsea cajoled me into playing bocce and I’m so glad she did,” says Jim. “It’s been a great way to stay involved in the Y community and honor Beth.”