Healthy Living YMCA Health and Fitness

North York YMCA wins 2 awards for offering the biggest lifesaving program in Ontario

A teen girl looks out over the Brampton YMCA pool during Junior Lifeguard Club

Last night, Toronto Sheppard YMCA staff Andrew, Amanda, and Hassan attended the Lifesaving Governor’s Award Gala to accept not one, but two awards in recognition of their centre’s outstanding contributions to lifesaving.

For the second year running, the Toronto Sheppard YMCA has won the Arnold J. Morphy Cup, which is presented annually to the Lifesaving Society’s single-facility affiliate with the largest lifesaving program. In addition, they were awarded the John H. Crocker Cup for the fifth time, which goes to the YMCA with the largest program.

For many parents, the Y is the number one choice for introducing their toddlers to the water, and helping their pre-teens hone their swim skills in instructor-led, levelled classes. But few people realize the Y also trains the next generation of lifesavers. From 2014 – 2016, the Toronto Sheppard Y alone helped over 4,400 candidates complete their National Lifeguard, CPR, Bronze Medallion, or Bronze Cross certifications.

These certifications look great on a young person’s resume, of course, but there’s more to it than that: participants often have unique stories that piqued their interest in lifesaving. Yoojin now has her Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, SFA and National Lifeguard certifications, all because of a scary experience she had as a child: “When I was younger, I almost drowned,” she says. “That made me want to raise awareness about safety around water, because I didn’t want anyone else to experience what I’d gone through.” Today, with so many certifications under her belt, Yoojin says, “I am one step closer to becoming a lifeguard and swim instructor,” which she describes as a “dream job” to have part-time while she’s in school.

Andrew, who’s a Lifesaving Society course instructor, examiner, and supervisor at the Toronto Sheppard Y, says these certifications are a crucial part of keeping Canadian waters safe: “Drowning prevention training is key to reducing unnecessary deaths. Newcomers are at an especially high risk: 11 – 14 year olds who are new to Canada are five times less likely to be able to swim than their Canadian-born classmates. When we deliver lifesaving programs to teens in that age group, we’re empowering and preparing them in the event they need to help someone who’s struggling or in danger.”

But for those lucky enough to never need to rescue someone in distress, these certifications still open doors. By helping them build confidence, leadership, and teamwork skills, Andrew says lifesaving training provides young people with the “key life skills and knowledge that will help them succeed later in life.”

Amanda, an instructor and examiner at the Toronto Sheppard Y who’s personally certified over 100 people, agrees: “The most rewarding part of delivering these programs is watching my students challenge themselves and learn new skills.” She’s proud to hear that her work is being recognized through its two Cup wins. “It’s pretty cool to know that I was able to help the Y earn these awards again,” she says. “We all work really hard to ensure our students receive the best quality of classes.”

Hassan, an instructor and examiner who’s received every certification he has through the Y, explains that the awards are important because they mean “we have a large and growing community that values lifesaving. The people earning these certifications aren’t only gaining job opportunities and life skills; they’re learning how to help others, and there’s no better feeling for me than that.”

Know someone who’d make a great lifesaver? Learn more about our wide range of lifesaving programs, open to kids as young as 7.