COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Christina Haskey holds son Lyndon Jr. as daughters Denyka, left, and Aspen play at the downtown YMCA on Sunday afternoon. Haskey and her children stayed at the YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter last March. During their 21-day stay, the YMCA provided her and her children with passes to the Y’s facility and the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign sent Denyka to a day camp for free.
When Christina Haskey and her kids left her husband one year ago, she had nothing.
A troubled marriage forced the Virden woman and her three children to the steps of the YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter last March — a fate so far from her previous life in a nice home and six-figure income brought in by her now-ex-husband.
What she realized was circumstances were not unique at the shelter: an upper-middle class woman from what looked like a happy life on the surface.
"It was surreal, it was not what I expected," Haskey said. "I didn’t think my situation was abusive enough to take up space in a shelter, I didn’t think I had good enough reason, or I was worthy enough to be there."
But when she got there, her pre-conceived notions melted away.
"It was mostly middle class women like me."
During her 21-day stay at the shelter, the YMCA provided her and the kids with passes to the Y’s facility, which she said became the first and strongest constant in her new life.
"It became a family," she said. "My kids use it as constant in their life.
"The YMCA was definitely a part of my adjustment period and gave me the support I needed to make a new life rather than go back to an unhealthy situation again."
Through the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, Haskey’s nine-year-old daughter Denyka was able to attended a day of camp for free — a single day, Haskey said, that was one of the most important in her daughter’s transition.
"That was probably the turning point as a child," she said. "It gave her a sense of hope."
The Strong Kids Campaign provides access to the Y to children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.
The organization raises funds throughout the year, with the goal this year to raise $85,000 by the end of August.
According to Alisa Nerbas, director of funds development and communications with the Y, the campaign has already raised $56,000 coming off a month-long national fundraising blitz.
Strong Kids provides things such as full YMCA memberships, summer day camp, community youth programs, leadership and development programs and family programs.
The Y gets referrals to the program through the Brandon School Division, Child and Family Services, Big Brothers and Sisters, YWCA, ministers, Mental Health Services and other organizations.
"Any agency that works with youth is pretty much an automatic yes," Nerbas said.
Families in need can also apply themselves, and Strong Kids currently supports about 300 kids in the community.
A year since Haskey found her new life, the casual-time nurse has settled into a home with her children and has since divided her time between raising her kids and giving back to the Strong Kids Campaign.
"I can’t give back enough," she said.
"If it hadn’t have been for the YMCA and the women’s shelter for me and my children, we would have been back in that situation.
"We left with nothing and that’s what we started with. A year later, there’s not one thing my kids and I really need."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 31, 2014