By Cami DiBattista | for Trib Total Media
Cathy Graham of Ligonier received a health and fitness award during the YWCA of Westmoreland County's annual Sports Women of the Year Banquet. Graham is the director of the Graceful Aging Wellness Center at Bethlen Communities.
Cathy Graham opened the Graceful Aging Wellness Center as a way to give back to the Ligonier community.
She was recently recognized for her efforts during the YWCA of Westmoreland County's 21st annual Sports Women of the Year Banquet, a celebration of women and girls in sports and fitness.
“Cathy was chosen for the YWCA's Health and Fitness Award for significant contributions to the wellness of the community as founder and director of the Graceful Aging Wellness Center,” said Kathy Raunikar, executive director of the YWCA. “Through her efforts at the center, Cathy has demonstrated leadership in the area of women's health and fitness.”
At a recent ceremony, Graham joined the more than 1,000 outstanding local females who have been recognized for their accomplishments through the years by the YWCA.
“The accomplishments of the awardees are so very impressive,” Raunikar said.
Graham said it was an honor to have been included in a group of so many incredibly amazing women.
“It feels really good to be honored for something I feel so passionate about and love so much,” she said.
Graham opened the Graceful Aging Wellness Center at Bethlen Communities a year ago with Melissa Marasia, the center's lead fitness instructor.
Today the center is thriving with more than 300 participants. Graham said she could not be happier about it. As director of the facility, Graham said her goal has been to encourage aging adults to pursue and maintain optimum health.
“We are a lifelong learning center that supports well-being by educating adults about continuing care,” Graham said.
The center, open to anyone living in the Ligonier Valley or surrounding communities age 50 and older, provides opportunity for physical activity, educational classes and those that focus on meditation and socialization.
Graham, a certified wellness coach for more than 10 years, said she developed the center to thank the local community that gave her so much support during her battle with breast cancer in 2008.
“When I was sick, I got so much help from the community and a lot of the people who helped out my daughter and I were seniors,” Graham said. “We're so lucky to live in a great community and I just wanted to give back.”
Feedback from attendees has been positive and valuable, according to Graham.
“Participants say we're improving the quality of their lives,” Graham said. “We're growing and I'm learning every day.” A recent grant has allowed the center to hire a new employee to run the learning center at the facility.
Graham said the award she received last week was the first time she has been recognized for her fitness efforts.
“The Graceful Aging Wellness Center is a success because of Cathy's dedication, spirit and enthusiasm,” said Annie Urban, who nominated Graham for the award. “She is a vital part of our Ligonier community and I felt it was important that she be recognized for her achievements.”
Urban, who has been involved with the YWCA for more than 20 years, said she felt Graham was the perfect candidate for the health and fitness award as she has dedicated so much of her personal life and professional career to helping others work toward a healthy lifestyle.
“The whole experience was very humbling,” she said. “I never knew we had so many talented young ladies in Westmoreland County.”
Graham said the women from the YWCA deserve a lot of credit for the enthusiastic way in which they are recognizing local athletes and sports teams.
“They're empowering local women and that's such a great thing,” Graham said.
For more information, call the Graceful Aging Wellness Center at 724-238-2142.