EllenandJoelPeterson | West Suburban YMCA

Mission Moment: Ellen & Joel Peterson, Fun in the Pool During the Long Months of 2020

May 24, 2021

When the Y reopened in July 2020, the lap lanes were set to a reservation system. This allowed the staff to start learning members’ names and greeting them more regularly when they arrived at the pool. As we continued to greet the members, we started to learn more about them and their lives outside of the Y.

In the fall of 2020, we met Ellen and Joel Peterson and learned about their amazing story and relationship. Ellen and Joel are siblings. Joel has Down syndrome and was living in a group home. When the pandemic hit, Ellen removed Joel from the group home and took him into her own home, where she thought he would stay for a couple of weeks until the pandemic was over. Joel continues to live with Ellen today.

Ellen and Joel love to swim. Since the fall, they have been to the Y every Monday & Friday for their regular swim times. Every time they come in, we get to see Ellen and Joel’s smiling faces, as they are so excited to get their swim on. During their swim, we enjoy a fun conversation with them and learn more about them and what they do outside of the Y.

Ellen and Joel are part a very large family. Every Monday, they do a big family Zoom chat. On Thursdays, it’s family game night. 

Ellen and Joel’s love for swimming runs deep. Ellen was previously a teacher, and during the summers, she was a Pool Director for a summer camp. Joel participated in the Special Olympics for swimming and golf.

Joel has shared his love of Disney and Broadway musicals, specifically “The Little Mermaid”. During one of their swim reservations, we surprised Joel with the Disney soundtrack.

For Christmas, Ellen and Joel brought in a card for our Aquatics staff, full of pictures of Joel’s smiling face while tap dancing.

We are so amazed by the bond between Ellen and Joel. During these challenging times, the Y has been a bright spot that adds structure and fun to many of our members’ days. We are so grateful that the Y can be a little piece of Ellen and Joel’s lives.