Local Portage residents who have school age children are no doubt familiar with Amber Bardsley. She’s worked hard to help teach, motivate and inspire children visiting the YMCA for the last three years.
An Illinois native, Amber was born in Elgin but eventually moved to Indiana for a change of pace.
“I was done with the busy city life, so I came to Indiana for some peace and quiet,’ said Bardsley, who particularly loves her new hometown, Valparaiso.
“I feel safe there. Valpo has a very calm pace of life. It’s just a wonderful, safe location to raise my children.”
Bardsley studied business administration at a small, local college in Illinois, and recently she graduated from Ivy Tech, where she studied as an EKG Technician and become certified in dementia care.
Amber started her career at the Portage Y three years ago, when she was hired to work in the Y’s Fun Zone.
“I worked my way up to child care last year. I was the office manager for a year, and recently I was promoted to Child Care Coordinator for the Y,” said Bardsley.
Amber says that her greatest challenge so far in her career at the Y is her most recent, organizing the Trick or Treat Walk at the YMCA.
“That’s our annual Halloween special. It will be on Friday, October 13th, from 5:30pm to 8pm. There is a $5 entry fee for members, $10 fee for non-members. The trail walk starts from the YMCA entry, winds its way through the building, out to the forest then back inside. There will be different vendors there, handing out treats and goodies to all the children who come visit. We’ll also have a concession stand where we’ll be offering lots of delicious things to eat.”
There will also be games and a photo booth.
“This is my first year organizing this. I’m pretty excited and really want it to be fun for the kids.”
The children really are a big draw for Amber, who says that her favorite thing about working at the Y is being able to help kids learn.
“It’s just an amazing feeling! We help the children with their homework. And when they finally get it, and that little light bulb goes off in their head, it’s just awesome!”
Amber says that her typical day consists of running errands, getting her kids off to school, putting in a full day at work, then meetings with parents.
But, that’s not all. Somehow, this mother of four also finds time for her own small business.
“I used to have a chocolate business, but I had to give that up. So, now I make caramels - Homemade Caramels by Amber B. I have 35 different flavors. When I sell at the Y, I usually donate half the profits to the YMCA. I also do it for other non-profit organizations.”
Amber lives in Valpo with her husband Johnny, who works as a CNA at Porter Regional Hospital, and their four children: Kiara, 17, Alanna, 9, Draco, who is looking forward to his 8th birthday this month, and their youngest, Tygera who is 6.
Amber says that her children’s names have unexpected origins.
“Everyone thinks that I named Draco after the character in Harry Potter, but I didn’t. I’ve always been a severe workaholic so I have never really watched movies or television. I didn’t even know about that character - I just picked that name because Draco means ‘Dragon,’ and I thought that would be cool,” said Amber.
“Well,” Amber laughs, “I love cats wanted to come up with a name that was original and unique. So, I started playing around the names of different types of cats, and I finally came up with Tygera.”
Amber says that she lives her life by the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“No matter what someone has done to me, I’m still going to treat them right. I want to serve God. That’s one reason why I enjoy working at the Y; it gives me a chance to put my Christian principles into practice, helping to build mind, body and spirit for all. I truly believe that.”