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Shikitha Russel and her family quickly became regulars at the Sarpy County YMCA after moving to Papillion.

Shikitha Russell lived in Missouri, Washington, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Germany during her career with the U.S. Army.

Retirement from the military led her and her family to Nebraska and their “forever home” in Papillion more than four years ago.

Shikitha and husband Lamonte relocated from Rhode Island shortly after welcoming daughter Nadia into their family. The couple also have a son, Caleb, 10.

“Papillion is regarded as a Top 5 city for military relocation and living, based on a Forbes magazine article we read during our research,” Shikitha says. “There are great schools, low crime, not an overwhelmingly large population and an affordable cost of living.”

Shikitha was a stay-at-home mom when she first moved to Papillion and found her way to the Sarpy County YMCA, where she and her family quickly became regulars.

“We’ve really been able to connect and interact with the community through the Y,” she says.

Lamonte, who also is retired military, and Shikitha, who both work full time, make a point to visit the Sarpy County YMCA with their children. The couple have been active in Y programs, as well, coaching youth soccer and hosting trunk-or-treat events for member families.

“We love coming to the Y, and the kids love swimming there and being involved with teams and sports and other activities,” Shikitha says.

She suffered post-traumatic stress disorder related to a tour of Iraq in the mid-2000s, she says. She struggled with depression and public anxiety and often stayed home with the kids when the family first moved to Papillion.

She credits a small all-female exercise class at the Sarpy County YMCA taught by a personal trainer and fellow veteran with helping her come out of her shell.

“I was there to get the kids involved with sports – soccer, T-ball, swimming – and didn’t expect to find a group for me, but that’s how it worked out,” she says. “I had put on some weight between retiring, having my daughter and being home so much with the kids.

“It didn’t take long before I was opening up to some of the people in the group and forming friendships. It was quite unexpected but life-changing.”

A blood clot in her lung required a month-long break from her exercise group.

“Adam (the class instructor) helped coach me through my recovery, and I dropped weight,” Shikitha says. “I also got started in yoga, and that helped me with my breathing and flexibility.

“All-in-all, my family loves the YMCA, and in so many ways, it helped change my life for the better. It’s our refuge. It’s our home away from home.”

You can join the Y community for only $1 when you become a member April 12 to 15. Join in person or online.

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