YMCA of Greater Erie

Matt BorzonA 2010 deployment to Afghanistan returned Matt Borzon to his family with issues with his hips, neck and post-traumatic stress disorder.  “At my worst, I felt, am I going to let this break me, or will I be disciplined enough to get over my setbacks?  Big things, small things – experience opens a part of you that wasn’t there before.”  Matt volunteers as an instructor of Tai Chi to veterans.  “I believe in energy medicine.  For me, martial arts have kept me moving and flexible,” says Matt.  “As a vet, I like helping other vets.  I like knowing that I am giving them tools to help them cope.”  Tai Chi, often described as meditation in motion, involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.  “One of the benefits of Tai Chi is that you can practice the soothing mind-body concepts without performing the actual body movements when you are in a stressful situation.”  Matt emphasizes the importance of what he calls breathing mindfulness.  “It’s about visualization, movement and a distinct breathing pattern.  When you practice and combine all three, little else can get in the way.”

Our Impact

The Y’s Military Outreach Initiative supports families by providing memberships when a loved one is deployed.  The Wellness Series for Veterans is a natural extension when these family members return.  More than 5,000 veterans in Erie County are currently treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.  We provide free wellness programs and Y memberships for veterans to help them deal with anxiety and return back to society.

400 monthly memberships were provided to Veterans.  Thirty-two veterans participated in holistic classes and 82 percent report going from having extreme daily anxiety to having moderate daily anxiety.  Vets also ranked their general level of motivation to participate in social activities on a typical day.  After three months of membership, 74 percent reported an increased level of motivation to socialize.