PHOTO BY J. Alan Paul Photography
The YMCA has been making an impact in our community for more than 130 years. For February’s cover story, we met with individuals and families who’ve been a part of the organizations past and present to share stories and hear the reasons why they continue to support the Y.
Fitness With Mohamed Khaadi
Mohamed Khaadi’s first experience with the YMCA was when he was seven years old and at a friend’s birthday party. “It was one of the best experiences I had as a kid,” he said. “Afterward, I talked with my parents about going to the Y and we opened a membership.”
Since then, Khaadi has utilized different fitness components the Y has to offer. He works on his own training but also helps other kids who use the Y — including his 11 brothers and sisters — reach their goals.
Were you still involved at the YMCA in high school?
“My family ended up moving way south for my freshman year of high school. I didn’t really like the gym I started going to down there because the atmosphere and playing style was not the same as the YMCA. We ended switching back to the Y and from my freshman to senior year, I would go to night basketball on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30-9 p.m. Then I’d workout afterward.”
How did you start working there?
“I graduated from Fargo Davies in 2016. I did a year of college but decided to take time off to stop wasting money until I found a career I could fully commit to. I had a conversation with someone in the youth programs at the Y and she told me they were hiring. Now, I work the front desk, so I scan people in, give memberships and new cards, and help with whatever concerns the members have. I also work in the Xerzone.”
Tell us about your involvement with Xerzone:
“I work Friday nights from 4-8 p.m., which is the busiest time for adults to come and drop off their kids. I deal with some of the funniest, craziest kids while I’m there. Usually, it’s the same kids who come in every shift, which helps you build relationships. For example, one of the kids who comes in is part of the basketball program on Saturday mornings so I see him all the time there. I’ll take him on a Friday night when we’re in the Xerzone not doing anything and I can help him with some basketball skills he can use the next morning.”
What other areas do you utilize?
“I’m in the gym a lot and the locker rooms because they have the saunas and whirlpools. I try to get in the pool often, but I can’t swim very well. It’s still pretty fun.
“When I’m there with my friends, we play basketball. We get there around 7 p.m. and play until the gym closes at 10:30, then we immediately hit the weights. We try to do as much as we can while still running on the treadmills, going back and forth to keep our stamina up. Some of us have been offered a chance to play at Fergus Falls College and we were told to work on our stamina.
“You have to be able to get to the gym and weightlift. Once we ended up doing that, we really saw how connected people are. The trainers, if you need help, are instantly there to help you with anything or if you were to ask another member who is working out for advice or help, they’d answer the question or assist in a heartbeat.”
Tell us about noon ball:
“Around 30-40 guys come in every day at noon to play basketball. It’s mostly businessmen who work downtown and are on their lunch breaks — bankers and lawyers and they are there religiously, every day. The cool thing about noon ball, too, is it’s all ages — 18- to 70-year-olds.
“You’re on a team and you get to see how people played basketball years ago versus now. There is a guy who has come to noon ball for 40 years. He’s been going since he was a kid and the rules have not changed. The rules are you play a game and then wait a game and if you don’t, you can’t play. He said things have been like that for years.”
What is your favorite thing about the Y?
“My favorite thing about the YMCA is probably the basketball and how often you see those people every day. I’ve been able to transition into playing in the mornings with the older men and getting to know guys I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t played basketball. We’ve made a lot of good connections, especially with the older generations who give us a lot of advice. You can ask them any questions about both basketball and life and you get some of the best advice you otherwise wouldn’t have received.
“I also love the mini-communities in basketball and the weightlifting room — whatever you partake in. It’s smaller families underneath a larger community, the Y as a whole. The YMCA is more of a community than anywhere else I’ve been.”