In their corner

TIM JEAN/Staff photoHaverhill YMCA Director of Operations Colette Ekman holds some of the brochures about the new Corner Stone program for families dealing with cancer treatment.

Whether it's a parent, child or other family member undergoing cancer treatments, the Haverhill YMCA is working to help reduce the stress for everyone involved.

About 75 families who have registered for the YMCA's new Corner Stone program are benefiting from a host of support services provided at no cost.

Non-medical supports available include a one-year free membership to the Y, along with free, drop-in child care and other services.

"I truly appreciate what Corner Stone will mean to so many people in my community," said YMCA Executive Director Tracy Fuller, who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and is now cancer free.

"I was fortunate to have friends, family, and co-workers who supported me through a difficult time, but that isn't the case for everyone," she said. "I'm so excited that this collaborative program will allow survivors to thrive and not just survive."

Since launching the Corner Stone program last November, 131 individuals have been enjoying group fitness classes, swimming, yoga and other aspects of both the Haverhill and Plaistow YMCAs.

Fuller said the Y is providing one-year complimentary memberships to those diagnosed with cancer and their families, with extended options for those still actively in treatment.

Anyone who is in remission qualifies too, so this effort is retroactive five years from diagnosis, she said.

Child care is offered Monday through Friday.

"Most people have medical appointments during the week, although in some cases it could be on a weekend," Fuller said. "Our goal is to meet people's needs where they are at."

The Y also offers a complimentary week of summer camp at Camp Tricklin' Falls to enrolled children.

In collaboration with Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill, the program is providing essential daily living support to cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families. The Y has also partnered with other area healthcare providers to conduct support groups, education and screenings at the Haverhill and Plaistow YMCAs.

"We have a lot of young families in our Corner Stone group. And because we just started in November, as we get to know these folks and what their needs are, Holy Family can help provide workshops and screening supports depending on the need, as we're looking to address the more holistic side of cancer."

As this area experiences a high rate of cancer, the Corner Stone program is a welcome addition to the services already provided to the community by the YMCA, Fuller said.

She said Essex County's cancer rate is 51 per 10,000 individuals, which is higher than the national per-county average of 44 per 10,000 people.

"It is also the leading cause of death in Essex County," she said.

For more information about the Corner Stone program, call the Haverhill YMCA at 978-374-0506 or visit online at


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