{This is the first in our series of excerpts from staff interviews. We want to help you get to know the folks you see at the desk, the pool, the gym or class. We hope to strengthen your connection with familiar faces and maybe introduce you to new resources or support people.}

Introducing Keri Bills, who teaches chair yoga on Sundays. Keri is the co-owner of EpaTHeKeri, a health and wellness shop in Massillon. Her first job was at the Massillon Family YMCA. Later, she spent a decade with Radio Shack. Keri has lived primarily in Stark and Tuscarawas counties. She is married to Bill. She is mom to 5 kids and 3 fur babies; grandma to 2. (Ask her about the alliteration in family names!)

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY DOING AS A KID? Dancing, singing, playing any outdoor sport and laughing WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING AS AN ADULT? Dancing, singing, playing any outdoor sport, laughing and loving

WHAT HAS THE Y MEANT IN YOUR LIFE AND EVOLUTION? The YMCA has played a large part in the person I am. From a very young age, I used to go to the Massillon YMCA with my parents, Ron and Jeannie Smith, while they instructed Tae Kwon Do. Then I got my first job there in 1995, doing pretty much whatever they needed me to do (Child Watch, front desk, janitorial, life-guarding and water aerobics). I moved away from Massillon for a bit after that but when I came back to town and was capable, I came right back to take belly dance classes, bring my kids to swim and pretty much fit whatever healthy movement I could into my hectic life. I was incredibly grateful that I was offered a type of (scholarship) program where, even though my budding family didn't have a substantial income, the Y always made a whole family membership attainable for me. It has been a huge blessing for my whole family to be able to utilize these facilities.

WORDS YOU LIVE BY: “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” (Philippians 4:13)



WHY THE Y? We have so many options for where we can find physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. We're honored that our members choose the YMCA. We believe YOU carry powerful stories that show what a healthy mind, body and spirit can be. Meet YMCA member Chris Amato, 71, of Bolivar.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE YMCA? “I just knew I needed to get stronger and more toned-up, plus I have osteoporosis, and I know that strength-training is good for your bones. … I started slow and did Silver Sneakers a good while before I asked about training.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️ WHAT KEEPS HER COMING BACK: “Everybody seems to be working at their own level. Nobody’s looking down on people that are doing less.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️ WHAT SHE NOTICES FROM PERSONAL TRAINING: “Knowing that it’s structured for my benefit and that it’s gradually more difficult over time … it’s been very good from that standpoint. If I was in that room by myself, there would be times when I would be, like, 'Yeah, that's enough.' "

⭐️⭐️⭐️ This Bolivar resident has been coming to the Towpath Trail YMCA for about a year and a half. She primarily works with personal trainer Scott Laudermilk. Chris is a cancer survivor, nana to six grandchildren, mom to a son and daughter and one half of the couple that will be celebrating 50 years of marriage this year! Chris worked as a Canton area Realtor for 22 years and now likes to help people get healthy with better nutrition. Chris' wellness journey was inspired by her daughter and her oncologist. After her fourth grandchild was born, she watched daughter Maria lose 70 pounds and make choices to be a healthier mom. "It's a mother's fondest wish to see their kids be healthy," she said. Chris saw it was possible and considered her oncologist's warning: "She told me the number 2 risk factor for post-menopausal breast cancer was being overweight." So, Chris used the same weight-loss and maintenance plan her daughter did and eventually added more structure. Chris has been cancer-free since treatment in 2013. ... "My oncologist is thrilled!" Says Chris: "Not staying active can, in rather short order, have you spiraling in the wrong direction. I think people get old before their time because they expect to. And they look around and there's plenty of evidence around them that being old means you're deteriorating, and they just don't get that a lot of that is choice. "It's not all choice, obviously, 'cause we don't know what kinds of things are going to come our way, but the healthier we are, the better we are able to deal with those things." When she's not at the Y, you might find Chris sewing or posting inspirational things on Facebook.