To our Social Media family and readers of the Soapbox blog/newsletter. I met Mike Alpert at a Fitlife event and found his story very uplifting. His story demonstrates a movement I see spreading throughout North America, the movement of making a difference in people’s lives and “Giving Back”. Mike provided me with the details of how his desire to help those in need started and evolved. My non-profit charitable foundation “Caritate” has contributed to Mike’s foundation (you are able to make a donation with a credit card through his website at www.claremontclub.com. You will see the Non-Profit Foundation tab at the top and it will take you through the process) and know the donated money will make a huge difference in so many lives.
Should you have a need for financial support for a charitable event, please contact me and let’s discuss.
April 29, 2019
Article for John Mickelson, by Mike Alpert
I believe that there are occurrences that happen to each of us that have a major impact on who we will become and what we choose to do with our lives. This happened to me back in 1992 at The Athletic Club of Bend in Bend, Oregon when I was working with a 5-year-old little boy who had Spina Bifida. He was confined to a wheelchair and would never be able to walk on his own. Twice-a-week his mother brought him into our Club where he participated in a program that we ran called Team USAble Oregon that worked with physically challenged children. I would take him in the warm water section of our indoor pool and let him feel the freedom of the water. To this day I remember how happy and excited he would be to get in the water where he felt buoyant and like he could move his hips. He would often hug me and kiss my cheek. The thought occurred to me that if our Club could bring so much joy to a little boy who had so much to deal with, why were we not doing more of this and helping more kids. It also occurred to me that there were adults in similar situations who were challenged with chronic injuries and chronic illnesses and I wondered where they went after their insurance had run its’ course of reimbursement for medical coverage. Were they isolated and left to simply deal with their injury/illness? Everyday I saw the powerful effect that exercise and being in a social environment had on these children and adults and it really changed my life. In a sense, I became obsessed with it.
I left The Athletic Club of Bend in 1995 and came back to Southern California where I ran a large Club in Irvine for 2 ½ years until it was sold. During that time, I was recruited to come to Claremont as their President/CEO on August 1, 1997.
At the 2005 IHRSA Convention I took my Wellness Director, Denise Johnson to hear a presentation that Julie Maine was doing on a program she had developed with a hospital in Santa Barbara called The Cancer Wellfit Program. Julie was someone that I knew through the industry and we were so moved by her presentation that I asked her if she would share the template with us and allow us to customize it for our Club in Claremont. Julie was such a special person and so gracious that she was happy to accommodate us. Working with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center we developed The Living Well after Cancer program. The program at the onset, focused primarily on women who were dealing with Breast Cancer and the first group that we put through had 8 women. It became obvious to all of us that we were not just working with the women who had cancer but rather with their entire family. The program runs for 13 weeks and consists of a support group; cardio & strength training; oncology massage; nutrition counseling and cooking class. There is no cost for the program and Club usage is afforded to each family. As of today, we have helped to improve the overall quality of life for almost 1,100 women, men (we have had 7 small men’s groups) and their families through this program.
Seeing the incredible impact that the Living Well after Cancer program was having, I began to wonder why we were not offering a program for children and young adults who were battling cancer. We had a Personal Trainer whose wife was an Oncology Nurse at City of Hope and she made a connection for us with Dr. Joseph Rosenthal who is a Baron Hilton Fellow and also head of Pediatric Oncology at City of Hope. Dr. Rosenthal invited me out to give a presentation of our adult cancer program to a select few Oncologists. Several weeks after that presentation, he invited me back to do another presentation to a larger group of Oncologists and Administrators. During the following couple of months our Childcare Director; Group Exercise Director and our Wellness Director put together a fantastic program for both the children/young adult and for their parents and we began that program in partnership with City of Hope. At the beginning of the 2nd year of that year-round program a member came to see me whose son had Leukemia when he was eight years old. She was telling me that when young children have cancer many of their friends believe that they can catch the cancer and avoid the friend. Many times, this causes the child with the cancer to withdraw and feel very isolated and alone. The member asked if we would consider allowing the child to bring a friend with them to the program, which we all thought was a great idea. Since then we have encouraged each child to bring their best friend with them for the entire year, which includes Club membership; all social activities; all 13 weeks of summer camp and field trips, lunches and t-shirt. We just started our 4th year and the program has been growing.
Back in 1999 at our annual Manager’s Retreat, our Day Spa & Salon Director, Maggie Weeks brought up the idea that we should start a program to raise funds for people in dire financial need during the Holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The program adopts 14 – 18 families each year that are brought to us by several school districts, churches and local city fire & police. The departments at the Club adopt these families and then go to visit them. It is a very sobering experience when you see a family of 5-6 living in a one room apartment with 2 gallons of milk on the floor because they do not have a refrigerator. The children are not asking for video games or toys, but rather for underwear and socks and shoes. We make sure that these families have an extra special Christmas and a Holiday dinner.
All of the above programs are privately funded through our TCC Non-Profit Foundation and from Club profits. These and many other Community Outreach programs (like our Cycling for Parkinson’s; Ontario/Montclair School District and Claremont Unified School District programs; High School Prom programs; Urban Garden and others) are offered free of charge and are at the core of our Culture. They have not only changed the lives of our members, staff and communities that we live and work in, but they have also had a major effect on both Member & Staff attrition and retention.
In life, we are given the opportunity to work with great people to help build our passion. Great people are built upon the creation of opportunities for purposeful & meaningful work. It takes someone being in that environment to really learn how to motivate, guide and encourage those around them. Building great passionate people leads to an overall better culture. But nothing beats the power and results that exercise has on someone’s life. Exercise is Medicine.