St. Louis Center in Chelsea, MI has been serving the needs of persons with intellectual & developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families for over fifty-two years, and now as a result of two grants obtained from the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan/Chelsea Community Foundation, a groundbreaking program is being developed to serve the fitness needs of St. Louis’ residents, as well as persons w/IDD still living at home or in group homes. Known as the St. Louis Center Community Fitness for Life Program, its objective is to improve the quality of life for persons w/IDD by providing a “functional fitness training program” to increase the physical fitness level of residents, thereby increasing their capacity to perform normal daily activities more safely and independently.
The new program will start with an open house on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, at 6:00 p.m., so that parents and caregivers can visit the St. Louis Center and ask questions about the program. It will be open to qualified residents of the “5 Healthy Towns Project,” which includes Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester, and Stockbridge.
According to SLC Development Director, Peggy Cole, “The original idea was to focus on the functional fitness needs of the residents of St. Louis Center, but the need for this program among people with special needs in the 5 Healthy Towns is great. St. Louis Center has the capacity to offer these fitness and wellness opportunities to people with special needs who do not reside at St. Louis Center and we are grateful to Fitness for Life funders for supporting our efforts.”
Caitlin Deis, a 2001 graduate of Chelsea H.S. with a B.A. in psychology from Alma College, became an employee of the Chelsea Wellness Center in 2006, and began volunteering at St. Louis Center in 2011 after working with several St. Louis Center residents at the Wellness Center. She was hired to become the part-time Fitness Specialist in September 2011, and was offered the position full-time in June 2012.
When asked about her interest in working with persons w/IDD, she explained, “While I was completing an Independent Study program during my senior year of college, I developed an interest in using exercise as therapy for persons with special needs. For them, ‘Fitness for Life’ is based on functional fitness; the ability to perform basic tasks of life more easily, safely, and independently. The program that we have developed here at St. Louis Center is unique in that we begin by establishing a ‘fitness baseline’ for each resident, and then tailor the program to meet the needs of each resident.”
“What’s unique about our approach, is that if someone is afraid of using a free-weight to build arm strength, we might use a household object like a water bottle instead. Several of our participants don’t like standard exercises, but most like to dance, and we’ve even introduced them to Yoga as a fun way to stretch and increase their flexibility and core strength. We’ve already experienced tremendous success with several of our residents, who have lost as much as 15-20 pounds. One young man here has even dropped 60 pounds through regular exercise and a change in his diet.”
The program will be offered in six week increments beginning on Monday, October 1, 2012, with Beginner to Intermediate Level training on Tuesday-Thursday nights, 6:00-7:00 p.m., and Intermediate to Advanced Level training on Monday-Wednesday nights from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Costs will be $10 for pre-screening which will be applied to the program fee if accepted, and the program fee is $48/person. Someone wishing to enroll in both programs will pay $72/person, and medical clearance from a physician will be required for all participants.