Chelsea Sacher forms a special bond with clients she works with at the Madison Area YMCA. Most of them live with conditions that are life-changing. Chelsea pours her heart and soul into helping them overcome a negative life-change to make it as positive an experience as possible.
As the health & wellness coordinator, Chelsea coaches cancer survivors in the LIVESTRONGâ at the YMCA program, conducts Delay the Disease classes to help Parkinson’s disease patients, works with the Multiple Sclerosis population and trains people in the special needs community which includes Down syndrome and autism.
It’s not uncommon for people who have had the good fortune to work with Chelsea to note how grateful they are for her expertise, knowledge, dedication and compassion.
“When I hear the nice words that people say about me, I say to myself—this is right where I need to be,” says Chelsea. “This is part of my life’s mission. It comes from the heart. I understand when I’ve made an impact for someone. That’s a really warm feeling.”
A single mother, Chelsea has a son Bryson, 12, and two daughters, Presley, 10, and Campbell, 8. Each afternoon, she tells the kids about the inspiring people she worked with that day. “My work is having an impact on my kids too. Campbell developed an interest in the bones of the body—probably starting with getting bumps and bruises,” laughs Chelsea. “Presley came to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” to help me teach a LIVESTRONG class and Bryson now works out in the Fitness Center.”
The family moved to the area four years ago and began coming to the Y. Chelsea was taken by the Y’s sense of community and how she was welcomed. “The staff said, ‘Good morning, Chelsea.’ I was stunned they knew my name. The Y represents something so positive. It’s like a safe place to go,” she says. She started volunteering at the Y and then became part of the staff. “Working here in this building I find strength and re-charge. My spirits are always lifted after working with clients—they are, unknowingly, my therapy. I channel any negative energy I might have into something brighter through my work with these incredible people,” says Chelsea who is nationally accredited to teach LIVESTRONG and Delay the Disease. She also completed a one-year traumatic brain injury internship which has helped her work with brain cancer survivors.
Chelsea shares a piece of her own story that is intertwined with one of her clients’ families. Last summer, Chelsea’s boyfriend drowned in a boating accident and two weeks later, one of her LIVESTRONG clients Beth lost her battle with cancer. Beth was the mother of Chelsea’s 16-year-old CrossFit client Jane who has Down’s syndrome. “Weeks after her mother’s passing, Jane came into the Fitness Center and started sobbing. She said, “’I know that you understand because you lost someone too. You lost your special love.’ It was a moment where everything froze. I got on my knees with her and we both just cried.”
Chelsea also treasures her work with Parkinson’s disease patients in the Y’s Delay the Disease program. “It’s all about strengthening and training the body for basic functional movements such as getting in and out of a car or getting up off the floor if you’ve fallen,” she says. Acknowledging that it’s tough work for participants to do, she still pushes them to test their limits. “A woman told me, ‘Thank you for making me do the exercises. From what you taught me, I was able to get up off the ground when I fell in my backyard when no one was around.’”
A LIVESTRONG graduate recently stopped Chelsea in the hallway and told her that before she started LIVESTRONG she had stopped working, was tired and felt defeated. Then, she took Chelsea’s class and things changed. “She told me, ‘I was down and you took me aside and had a long talk with me. You wouldn’t let me walk out with my head down. You told me to dig down deep from within and find my fire—to let my light burn bright.’”
“That’s what I want for all my clients,” says Chelsea. “I try to give them the magic wand of empowerment.”