“I have a deep love for the community and for the YMCA. I would like to leave a legacy and make a difference. I want to help make this an even better place to live,” says this week’s Life in the Spotlight about her hopes for the future. Ruth Cavanaugh is the Building Supervisors Coordinator at the Valparaiso YMCA, and for thirty-nine years she has been positively impacting the lives around her through her work with the organization.
Ruth first became involved with the YMCA when her children were young. She wanted them to learn to swim, so she worked in the nursery to help pay for the swim lessons. From there she moved on to working with preschool, then aquatics, as an instructor, a lifeguard, and then finally becoming an overseer.
Over the years she has taught a variety of age groups in swimming, but Ruth prefers teaching children. “I love people,” she says, “but I really love the kids. I love being able to see them grow.”
Ruth has focused her lessons on helping kids to understand the why behind the skills and lessons. “I want them to understand why they do something. I teach them to explore. You can teach a child a skill, but they really need to understand the background.”
The motto she gives her students is, “I will try.” She aims to impart values and perseverance in those she teaches, and over the years it has been apparent she has done just that with the amount of lives she has touched.
When asked what aspect of her job Ruth enjoys most, she replied, “Seeing a child persevere and then succeed. That smile on their face when they achieve their goal is priceless.”
“Sometimes you don’t realize you impart something with someone or that they take something from you,” Ruth comments. “But it’s so rewarding when a student who was once fearful comes back and thanks you, or you see them do well at a swim meet.”
Ruth finds it important to incorporate in her lessons the value of each individual child and person. Building trust and relationships with her students and those she meets at the Y is important to her, and is the reason she is so loved among those who know her.
Over the years, Ruth has seen the Y grow from 6,000 members, to over 16,000. “I like to see the growth and all of the lives we have touched,” she says, smiling. “I want to see it continue.”
Likewise, Ruth has enjoyed seeing the growth of Valparaiso itself, incorporating family values in the community and seeing everyone work together to build.
Aside from her duties as the lead building supervisor, Ruth also remains teaching a number of swim classes. Additionally, she teaches classes on CPR and helps out around the Y where needed.
Her daily source of inspiration is found in the Bible. “I think of difficult situations I encounter and reading the Bible helps see me through those times,” she explains.
Additionally, Ruth finds her inspiration and much of her success due to many of the influential people to have touched her life. “Wilma Sinclair believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” she states, “other people, friends and family, have stood behind me to help me through difficult times.”
She recounts many moments where she felt “stressed to the max, but a little kid would come along and say something and I couldn’t help but smile." For these people and these moments Ruth is deeply grateful.
Ruth looks to the children as our future. “We need to build a circle of life,” she says. “We must help and support the elderly, because they are our teachers. But we must respect the youth, because they are our future.”
With an outlook such as this, and all of the incredible work she has done, it is no wonder Ruth has touched the number of lives that she has. Individuals such as Ruth ensure the bright future that she sees for this community, and it is a wonderful future indeed.