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Raquel’s race to redemption starts at the York JCC

Raquel J. Lilly was depressed, overweight and questioned daily if her life was worth living. A kind therapist and the York JCC convinced her otherwise. And we’re so glad that she shared her story with us. Raquel is our second place winner in our “Tell Your JCC Story” contest. It’s a story of grit and determination on Raquel’s part, and the warm welcome and support she received at the York JCC as it helped her overcome her obstacles. The J lives by the enormous banner that hangs on the front of the building, “Everyone is welcome at the JCC.”


Raquel J. Lilly

It is because of the York JCC I can attest to the old adage:

“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” This is my story of the “Race to Redemption.”

In 2014 I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I found that out after doing something that I would have never done: I went to a psychologist. You are probably wondering what’s the big deal; everyone does this. Well, as an African-American woman, I can tell you that wasn’t how we did it in our culture.

Well, this leads me to something else I would have never done. I had been raised a Southern-Baptist Christian all of my life. Entering a distinctly Jewish facility, or any organization representing other faiths—especially within a suburban, primarily Caucasian community—wasn’t something that I did growing up. But my family joined the York JCC.

My therapist, suggested that I get back to doing something that was important to me. Something that I loved. She told me to get back to doing “me.” I couldn’t even remember the last time that I enjoyed something. Anything. I could not even remember the last time I felt like “myself.” I weighed 175 pounds. I had gained 58 of those pounds within the three years prior to my diagnosis. I was considered obese. I was pre-diabetic. I had high blood pressure. I was tired all of the time. I had lost interest in basically everything. I was an emotional wreck and struggled with this severe mental illness that made me question my life daily.

We can just assume that, I had not been “me” for a very long time. I didn’t even know where to start. All I knew is that I had been instructed by my therapist to begin a journey of finding “me” again. That journey began on a treadmill at the York JCC.

Now, almost everyday you can find me in our JCC running on a treadmill. I often average 20-30 miles a week. I started by trying to complete at least one mile a week. If I could do just one mile a week, I could do anything. This came with a lot of heavy breathing, a tremendous amount of doubt, and a horrific amount of crying.

But I didn’t stop. Each week became easier. I found myself running to lose weight. I ran to better my health,to release the emotional pain that had secretly plagued me through my battle with depression. But most of all I ran to remind myself that each time one foot hits the belt of the treadmill, I’m still alive. I’m still able. I’m still here. I’m still running this thing we call life. Doing “me” is continuing to run every leg of this race until I am not able to run anymore.

The JCC was the place where I learned to keep running.
Running for my family. Running for my health. Running for my spirit. Running for my life.

I met myself for the first time at the York JCC.

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