My Y Story: The Daniell Family


The Daniell Family Story: Making Waves Together

The Daniell Family

Michelle Daniell grew up in New York and experienced what she shared as a “traditional Chinese upbringing.” An upbringing that didn’t allow for extra-curricular activities, including learning to swim. It wasn’t until Michelle was an adult and married her husband Michael, who is a big water person, and they started their own family, did she realize that not knowing how to swim was a safety issue.  The couple who has four children, all under the age of 6, starting searching for a program to enroll their oldest child in swim lessons.  At first Michelle was looking at swim-specific programs in the surrounding communities. Friends of theirs were family members of the Y and recommended the Y swim program.  The Daniell family took a tour of the Y and liked that the facilities were clean and welcoming and the staff was well trained.  They felt their child would be safe, so they signed up for group swim lessons.  After a while they added another class so their oldest child could have additional instruction and enrolled their second oldest child so the siblings would be in the same class.  Now that her children were enrolled in lessons, Michelle saw the safety aspect as even more urgent.  She decided to enroll herself in the adult group lessons since she had never had proper training.  Her goal was not to just learn how to swim but be able to assist her children if anything were to happen.  She shared that first she felt embarrassed and vulnerable, but being a group setting with other adults set her at ease knowing that others were in a similar position.

Soon after enrolling in multiple swim lessons, the Daniells joined the Y as family members, and began to explore the idea of participating in personal lessons to gain a more tailored experience.  The family worked closely with Denean Johnson, Nashua Y Aquatics Director, to get all four children and Michelle signed up for personal lessons, which could now take place back-to-back to accommodate the family.  Michelle shared that even after just one lesson she noticed dramatic improvement for the older children.  The experience working with Denean on a personal lesson plan had great benefit for their youngest child, who has autism.  The lessons provide exposure therapy to water. Michelle expressed that the youngest does not like water, even at home during baths, so the personal lessons in the pool provide both instruction and therapeutic purpose.

For the Daniells their lessons are a family affair.  Both Michael and Michelle assist in the water with the older three siblings, while a behavioral therapist provides support for the youngest child.  During the younger kids’ lessons, Michael’s mother picks the oldest child up at school to make sure they are at the Y just in time to hop in the pool for lessons.  It’s exciting to see so many supports come together for this family in a short window of time. Michelle shared it truly is a system the family works well with.  In overcoming her initial embarrassment and learning to swim, Michelle provides so much inspiration and is a role model for her children. “As I get better learning in my lessons it encourages them. As they are learning we are going over the same skills in each of classes.”  Because Michelle is also taking lessons, she is able to be fully present at her children’s classes.  “It’s great seeing my kids learn” she beamed.  Michelle commends Denean and her ability to customize lessons for the family, “We’ve had a really good experience and really enjoyed having Denean as an instructor. She has made me feel more comfortable.”


May is Water Safety Month here at the Y.  Through our swim lesson and education programs, we’re empowering children, adults and families with lifesaving skills.  Our adaptive swim program allows greater access for everyone around water. But we couldn’t do it without the generous support of our donors.  By donating to our annual fund during Water Safety Month, you will provide the resources we need to reach more families with our swim and adaptive swim programs.


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