On a recent Friday morning at the Madison Area YMCA, Betty Dickson Dudderar has finished her workout in the Fitness Center. She now peers out the windows of the lobby to see if her friend Ann Cascino is driving into the parking lot.

At about 9:15 a.m., she recognizes Ann’s silver Avalon pulling into a handicapped-accessible parking space. Ann has arthritis and has difficulty walking. Betty exits the sliding doors, walks the short distance and opens the door. A smiling Ann maneuvers out of the driver’s seat and steadies herself with a cane. Betty links her arm into Ann’s and slowly they make their way into the building so that Ann can do a 20-minute workout in the Fitness Center and an hour-long Senior Fitness class at 11 a.m.

Settling into a seat on the sofa in the lobby and looking over at Betty, Ann says, “See how lucky I am? She’s my guardian angel. I’m so happy.”

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“She found me,” says Betty who recalled Ann teetering next to her car one day. “I went over and asked if she would like some help. She did and it kept going from there.”

Ann and Betty’s friendship encapsulates the sense of community that the Y provides for people of all ages. Every Monday, Wednesday andFriday, Ann can be found socializing with Betty and friends before she takes on her fitness routine. And her grandson, Sal, who lives in Manhattan, also ensures it. “My grandson calls every day to check on me and ask if I’m going to the Y,” Ann says.

“The classes are wonderful,” continues Ann, noting that she sets her own pace. “I can sit in a chair and use the weights, ball and stretchy bands to work out every part of my body.” Getting serious for a moment, Ann says, “I always pray: Dear God, just give me one day with no arthritis pain.” She then brightens and says, “I’m 86 and still on the move.”

“Ann has told me that she’s sad on the weekends when she doesn’t come to the Y,” says Kathleen Dinan, a member services representative who befriended Ann around the time of the Y’s senior Masquerade Ball. “She had bought a ticket and told me she wasn’t sure if she could go because of the physical limitations she has walking and getting into the building.”

“I explained that a handrail would be so appreciated—and it was installed right away. I’ve been shown great kindness here,” says Ann. “It’s a huge help and it makes me so happy when I see other people using it.”

A Y member for 11 years, Ann can’t say enough about the joy that the Y brings her. Naming fitness instructors including Susan Sheeley and Donna Sue Dowton as well as physical therapist Matthew Riordan of Professional Physical Therapy, LLC, who has an office at the Madison Area and Summit Area YMCAs, she says, “They’re all so kind, caring and compassionate. I feel different when I come out from when I go in. The Y picks me up,” she laughs, adding, “And my Betty is always my steady.”

“I’ll keep coming to the Y for as long as I can drive,” says Ann who drives 25 minutes from East Hanover. “This is a great place to come. There’s something for everyone and it’s safe, friendly and fun.”