Trainers look to create fitness program for those with special needs

LISBON — After obtaining special certification to work with special needs individuals, two of the trainers with RAM Fitness approached the Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities last Wednesday to better explain their program.

Elaine Gardner, who said she was inspired by her 25-year-old son who has autism, began certification with the Special Strong program. She then got Randy Heffner, who also has a special needs daughter on board in creating the fitness program they are offering for those 13 and older in classes held on Saturdays.

Most importantly it involves adapting the moves in several ways for those with disabilities so everyone can participate in some way. Gardner said the program provides fitness, strength building and socialization for the special needs person. For an additional fee the caregiver can participate too. Often those taking care of a special needs family member find it difficult to get away long enough to take a fitness class themselves.

“I can’t imagine my son’s life without me,” Gardner said of the importance of fitness to extending the life of the care giver. She loves what she has been able to create through this program.

“When you do something you love, it’s so fulfilling, so rewarding,” she said.

Members of the board discussed the cost of the program. Gardner said they are talking about whether the classes may be covered by some of the waiver money. It was noted by Board Member Tom Andrix that classes can be expensive for families in the area.

Heffner said they are talking to businesses and getting support for the program. They will be offering scholarships to help those who cannot afford to attend the program. The board also suggested they consider getting a 501C3 designation for the program, so people can receive tax deductions for donating.

RAM Fitness is located on Bell School Road near Beaver Local Schools.

In other matters:

— The board approved the renewal of the contract with Magnolia Music LLC for music therapy for the students of the Robert Bycroft School.

— The board approved the renewal of membership in Family Children First Council at a rate of $5,500 and Columbiana County Special Olympics at a rate of $2,500.

— The board approved paying Fred Miller $500 per month to write articles for the programs related to the CCBDD.

— The board voted to eliminate one of the business engagement specialist positions effective March 31.

— The board voted to purchase signature software at a price of $255 per month and a Steam Jenny pressure washer for the transportation department at a cost of $2,500.

— Graduation of Robert Bycroft will be held at 1 p.m., May 18. The next meeting of the board will be held at 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 17.



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