[quote]“Recent evidence suggests that although childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, this problem appears to be even more prevalent among children with developmental or learning disabilities. Obesity poses medical problems such as sleep apnea, insulin resistance, and hyperlipidemia, as well as psychosocial consequences such as social isolation, pain, and depression. Moreover, studies suggest that adolescent obesity may persist into adulthood and be a predictor of additional comorbidities later in life. Thus, obesity can significantly worsen the already fragile health of children with special needs.” -CDC, 2013[/quote]

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In 2013 I had the good fortune to spend many months traveling back and forth from Washington state to Ohio to spend time with my dad while he was battling cancer. During those many trips I got to spend an abundant amount of time with my niece, Kimberly. Kimberly is 19 years old and living with Cerebral Palsy. Between the ages of 2 and 4, Kimberly took her first supported steps. With hard work and often times painful PT Kimberly continued to defy her doctor’s expectations and spent her childhood and adolescence with the ability to walk, supported only with her trusty quad and personal fortitude.

Unfortunately, as Kimberly grew in years so did her weight. Like most teenagers, Kimberly found interests in all things sedentary; the internet, movies, and TV. During those visits in 2013 I realized the negative affect Kimberly’s weight, but more importantly her sedentary lifestyle was having on her balance, coordination and ability to be weight bearing. I recall having long and lengthy conversations with my dad on ways to help connect Kimberly with resources that would empower and strengthen her as a young woman.

Build5-proposal-pdf7Together, Kimberly and I visited various health clubs, community organizations and meet with personal trainers but we were unable to find a program that met hers needs. This was unfortunate because Kimberly’s needs were simple; a fitness program set in an environment that did not emphasize that she had a disability but took her disability into account when programming. Kimberly and I decided to work together to create her very own program. I combined my knowledge working in the social service field, mentoring life skills to individuals with developmental delays, learning disabilities and behavior issues with my conditioning knowledge I used to train for my many half and full marathons.cropped-EquippedFitnessLogo-e1396724516263.jpg

Together we created a program she was able to do when I was present and when I would travel back home. That was the beginning of Equipped4Life Fitness. Many refresher classes, certification courses and mentoring sessions later, Equipped4Life Fitness was created.