Helping those with special needs | The Story of FIT for ALL

Joe Cirulli, owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness, has long believed that the ultimate measure of a fitness business should be the health of the community in which it is situated. In the early 2000s he and his management team set a goal of having Gainesville recognized as the healthiest city in America. They proceeded to mobilize the community to achieve it, and in the spring of 2003 Gainesville became the first and only city to receive the gold Well City award from the Wellness Council of America.  Ask those knowledgeable about the international fitness industry to name the best clubs on the planet and Gainesville Health & Fitness will be on the list.

Enter Noah Hastay as the Operationals Manager of Joe’s flagship facility.  Noah has a passion for helping those less fortunate and shares his story below.  His “FIT for ALL” charitable organization is making a difference for people with physical and mental disabilities.  Like Joe, Noah has a passion to “give back” and make a difference in people’s lives and the community.  I hope you find Noah’s story of interest and should you want to contact him, hes available at: Noah Hastay, Gainesville Health & Fit 352-377-4955, 4820 W Newberry Rd, Gainesville, FL 32607 Noah.Hastay@ghfc.com

Should you have a need for financial support for a charitable event, please contact me and let’s discuss.

John

The Fit for All Story, by Noah Hastay

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”-Zig Zigler

In 2004, I met one of my dearest friends while on the playground at daycare. What I didn’t know that day, was that my friendship with him would have a profound impact on many facets of my life.

While visiting my friends’ home, I had my first interaction with someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It was with his older brother. After spending quality time with him throughout my senior year of high school and beginning years of college, I began working as his caregiver and behavior assistant.

This opened the door for an opportunity to work with a few other individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and implementing each of their behavior plans.

One of the individuals I worked with has ASD, OCD, and Downs Syndrome. His OCD behaviors were something that would often get him into trouble in school, in the community, and at home.  While I worked with him, I resided with him and his family. This led me to see more of his every day interactions and how they were impacting his life. One thing that stood out to me was his medication.  The medication he was on for his OCD was affecting his metabolism and causing him to gain weight. Since this was impacting his life and overall health, I decided to start bringing him to the gym to workout.  I noticed that exercising not only helped curb his weight gain, but also dramatically impacted his cognitive functions. I didn’t connect the dots until he started back up at school. This was the same time I began my internship with Gainesville Health & Fitness during my senior year of college. When I learned more about fitness, I decided one day that I would bring him along with me to do a workout.  After putting him through a high intensity strength training workout, I noticed his negative behaviors and compulsive actions drastically diminished!

This was intriguing to me. I knew there was a connection between exercise and the brain, but I never understood the true life-changer impact it could have on this special population!

That’s when I started doing some research and found a book called Spark by John Ratey. It justified my hypothesis and I knew I needed to get him into a routine program that he could sustainably participate in when he graduated later that month. This is where I hit a road-block. There was nothing. Nada. Zilch. The only program close to what I was looking for was not for his age group, it was geared towards school age and younger.

As I concluded my internship with GHF and graduated from the University of Florida, I was hired on as the Fitness Director for the three clubs. This opportunity gave me the capability to help GHF get one step closer to its mission and mine: Inspire an Entire Community…

With the owner’s approval, I got to work on developing a program for the individuals with special needs in our community. After reaching out to all of my local resources, I had my first group of participants (15) signed up to start in the program I called FIT for ALL; A Fun, Inclusive, Training for Individuals with Special Needs on March of 2015. Being entirely employee-volunteer ran, it allowed us to get great feedback after the first 6-week program for us to make adjustments to help the program become more sustainable.

Fast-forward 4 years, we have worked with more than 120 different athletes with all levels of ability levels and have had hundreds of volunteers (University of Florida students, GHF Members/employees, community members). It is a staple resource to the special needs population in our community.

Not only was it an extreme need in our community, but I began to realize the need for this program amongst other communities as well! FIT for ALL is now a 501(c)(3) charity with a mission of becoming the fitness model for adults with special needs all around the world.

 

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The Challenge:  Over 63,000,000 (and growing!) Americans are challenged by a physical or mental disability. In addition to needing various levels of support, most of those with special needs remain physically inactive throughout the week. Our goal is to provide an arena for these athletes to engage in physical activity. ​

The FIT for ALL Solution:  The FIT for ALL Program is the first of its kind, offering a guided exercise routine that encompasses the four primary types of physical activity, which are aerobic, musculoskeletal, strengthening, joint flexibility, and nutrition.

All exercises are done with the assistance of a trained volunteer, guiding the athlete to perform each movement with proper form and to the intensity required to achieve desired results safely. Each exercise can be modified per the athlete’s individual ability level.

Support: Through the support of our staff and coaches, we provide financial assistance to the athletes and their families. No longer will the financial burden of a costly gym membership or specialized program fees hinder the athletes from achieving their greatest potential.

 

We strive to become the most important part of every Athlete’s day through Fun & Inclusive Training.

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