MARQUETTE — Alan Stokes and his son, Jonathan, have made it a mission of theirs to swim in every YMCA pool in the state of Michigan.
The YMCA’s new Nationwide Membership program allows the pair free entry into the Mitten state’s 51 locations. The pair made stop number 27 in Marquette on Tuesday.
“Jonathan has always loved the YMCA, since he was two years old, and I just wanted to get him out and experience the state of Michigan,” said Alan.
Jonathan is an especially big fan of swimming, and the sport offers health benefits for the 13 year-old. Jonathan has autism, and swimming stimulates his senses.
“In a swimming pool, you can flap your hands, you can jump, and you don’t hurt anybody, yourself or anyone else. It really treats his condition really well, and gets him out there,” said Alan.
Originally from Lansing, the Stokes visit the Y twice a week: on Sundays, they visit one of locations in the Lansing area, and on Saturdays, they travel to other Michigan YMCA locations. This week, the Stokes are on vacation to visit the five Upper Peninsula YMCAs.
Alan said that these trips are a great way to bond with his son while showing him the different people and regions of Michigan.
“There’s metropolitan areas that we go to that are densely populated, there’s more rural areas like here, and there’s people that are just enjoying themselves. We’ve carried on conversations with people at the Y’s that we’ve met. Several of them have actually had some of the same conditions that we experience in our family. It’s been really nice to see that people all over the state can enjoy the Y,” he said.
But, the experience isn’t just exciting for Jonathan and Alan. The staff the YMCA of Marquette County jumped at the chance to interact with the Stokes and watch them enjoy the facility.
“It offers a great experience,” said Patrick Markey, the aquatics director for the Marquette County YMCA. “It’s what the Y is all about – people getting together and enjoying what they love to do.”
While in Marquette County, the Stokes also swam at the Y in Negaunee. They plan to visit the YMCAs in Escanaba and Menominee on Wednesday before hitting their 31st YMCA in Iron Mountain on Thursday.