The YMCA helps build confidence for youth and teens of all situations—including young Lily Krishnan.

Eleven can be lonely age for any kid. But, it’s even harder when you have to wear a brace for about 20 hours each day. Lily has scoliosis, hypermobility in her joints, and an inability to regulate her body temperature. She has bad days, when she can hardly walk. But, she also has good days—when she gets to swim.

Lily has found her place on the Tigersharks, the youth swim team at the North Rutherford Family YMCA. She joined the team back in August when her doctor recommended swimming. Lily worked on her strokes out of the water, practicing on a bench and watching tutorial videos to master the techniques. Her favorite? Butterfly—“because it’s the hardest.”

She was embraced into the Tigersharks family immediately. When she’s in the water, Lily isn’t limited by her body, or her brace, or her pain. She can overcome where her body falls short. “It’s still hard for me to do,” Lily says, “But I keep on learning new things.”

Her mom, Casie, says that Lily just takes off when she gets to dive in the pool. “Being in the water, she’s just able to go and she’s a little bullet. She’s just gone. She loves it so much.”

Her instructors – Head Coach Bailey Ford and Assistant Coach Alaina Hunter – encourage Lily to try her best and push herself further. They cheer on her attitude, her dedication, and her passion—recently giving her the MVP TigerShark Award. “I’m proud of it,” Lily says. “I felt like I worked hard for it, and I hope it will encourage other people to work hard, too.”

In addition to being one of the strongest swimmers on her team, Lily also has a way of brightening everyone’s day. “She comes into practice every single day with a big smile on her face,” says Alaina. “She comes in and gives me a big hug and says, ‘I’m ready to swim.’ She is like the sun of my day.”

The affirmation from her Y coaches has created an environment of comfort and belonging for Lily; she feels like she’s welcome and she’s wanted. And even on days when she’s not up to swimming, Lily shows up to support her team. “It’s not just about me,” she says. “It’s about the whole team. I just feel good when I’m [cheering them on].”

Since joining the Tigersharks, Casie has noticed an uptick in Lily’s personality. She gets to socialize with other kids on the team. She looks up to her coaches as mentors. She gets to be a normal kid doing what she loves to do—swim. And that, her mom says, “means the world.”

The Y gives kids like Lily a place to improve their swimming strokes and compete through our center swim teams. Find a team near you at