Back home in Argentina, my son Juan was not allowed to go to school.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s, he was not accepted and there were no activities for him to take. I felt isolated; like a prisoner in my own house. As a mom, I knew I had to do whatever I could to help him. So, when Juan was nine, I left everything – my home, career, house and family – to move to Canada.

When we first arrived in Oakville, all we had was two mattresses, a fork and a knife. To make it fun for Juan, I pretended we were having picnics.

Then, a friend of mine told me about the Y. I reached out for support and the Y helped us with membership assistance so Juan would have things to do.

I couldn’t believe it. Juan was accepted and integrated right away.

People like Kat and Derek have taken care of him beyond any expectation. When Juan is here, he feels like the Y is “his house”. He’s able to take rock climbing, swim lessons, sports, and Youth Leader Corps. And he  smiles all the time. People call him by name. The first time I heard it, I cried.

I have seen huge changes in Juan. He’s more mature, self-confident and he loves to volunteer in youth fitness classes. Here, he has the right to go to school and he is thriving. He has made so many friends and he’s happy. I have also made friends, and Juan and I love to take classes together, like Zumba.

If it weren’t for the Y, Juan would never have been as accepted as he is, or able to participate in activities, just like anyone else.

That’s the best thing about the Y. It’s a place where no matter who you are, you belong.