Here for the Schermerhorns

The Missoula Family Y is here for it all—the good times, the hard times, and everything in between. Michelle and JJ Schermerhorn can attest to that after coming to the Y over 10 years ago in search of a safe and welcoming place for their son, Michael.

Michael was diagnosed with cancer at the age of four, leaving him with a severely compromised immune system that kept him confined at home and away from other children his age. As Michael eventually began to recover from his cancer battle and grow stronger, his parents knew they needed to find a healthy environment where he could play and learn with others, and forget about the needles, scans, medications, and medical procedures he’d grown accustomed to. They found that safe space and support at the Y, in more ways than one.

"We were so financially devastated by the burden of the cancer that we didn’t know if we could actually afford the membership and the Y came through,” Michelle explained. In addition to financial assistance, the Schermerhorns found support and peace of mind through the Y’s after school care.

"We had to work. We had to find a way to make everything come together, and the Y was always there to help. It was a place where we knew Michael would be taken care of, educated, and not just treated like some special kid who had issues, but as a special kid who deserved attention, and deserved to feel safe and secure,” JJ said.

Their journey began with after school care for Michael and evolved to encompass the whole family. Despite lingering physical side effects from chemo, Michael was able to find his place on the Y swim team. “He found his passion, and the support he receives from the coaches and all the Y staff is something I can’t quite put into words,” Michelle said. Their younger daughter, Hannah, enjoys the swim team, after school care, and summer camps, while both parents use the Y facilities to exercise and stay healthy. On top of his passion for swimming, Michael grew to find a job he loves as a Y camp counselor.

The Schermerhorn family found a fun, inclusive community within the Y, and they can’t imagine their lives (or Missoula) without it. For countless families in Missoula, JJ summed it up perfectly: “You know, we have our work, and that’s pretty intense. And we have school, and that’s pretty intense. But then we have the Y."


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