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YMCA-YWCA and Easter Seals Team Up for
"Fit Ability"

St. John’s, NL – Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador and the YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon announced a partnership today that will enable youth with physical disabilities to participate in a fully-accessible, personalized fitness program.  The six month “Fit-Ability” pilot project will address the unique needs of youth with physical disabilities by providing tailored, disability-specific instruction and fitness programming.  The program is a collaborative effort between Easter Seals, the YMCA-YWCA and The Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and is funded in part through the Y Assistance Program.

“Able-bodied children are able to exercise through their normal daily activities, but many children with physical disabilities are confined to wheelchairs or have limited mobility,” says Brent Smith, Executive Director of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador.  “It is therefore not surprising to learn that these children are more likely to lead sedentary lives, and therefore are more likely to develop a secondary health condition, such as diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease – all conditions that can be reduced or prevented with regular exercise.  This pilot project will remove barriers to exercise that people with physical disabilities usually face, allowing them to make health-improving lifestyle changes.”  A form of recreation therapy, Smith points out that the program is expected to have not only benefits to fitness and physical health, but also in regards to levels of self-esteem, confidence, self-image and socialization – all of which are particularly relevant to this population.

Jason Brown, CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon explains, “Initial participant assessments have been carried out by a physiotherapist from the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. These assessments have been used by YMCA-YWCA and Easter Seals staff to design individualized fitness programs for each of the participants.  YMCA-YWCA and Easter Seals staff and volunteers will work closely with participants as they move through the program, measuring their progress.”  Brown notes that one of the goals of the pilot project is to demonstrate that regular physical activity offered through this tailored approach will have tangible, long term results.  “The Y will be working closely with Easter Seals in examining the impacts of the pilot program in order to explore long term options for continuing and expanding this important community service.  We are hopeful that the program, in addition to improving fitness and overall health and well-being, will encourage the adoption of long-term lifestyle changes.  We are also very fortunate to have donors who make charitable gifts to the Y to help fund the cost of this very exciting new program.”

Seventeen year old Kristyn Collins, who has cerebral palsy, is one of the program participants.  She sometimes is able to use a walker, but often finds herself using her wheelchair as she tires easily, has weak muscles, and experiences low energy levels during the day.  “When I was a kid, I really didn’t think much about physical fitness,” says Collins, “but now I want to be in the best shape possible as I look forward to finishing high school, make plans for college or university, and start my career.  My independence is very important to me and I want to prepare myself as much as possible for the future.”  Collins’ goal is to work out three times a week, adopt better eating habits, and increase her strength and energy levels.

 Smith adds that “while physical therapy for rehabilitation purposes is well established, this kind of approach presenting accessible fitness as a preventative health measure for a highly at risk population is certainly new, as is the nature of the collaboration between our three organizations – The Y, Children’s Rehab and Easter Seals.”

For information:           

Brent Smith, Executive Director
Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador
754-1399 or 689-4477

Jason Brown, CEO
YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon
754-2960 ext. 41

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