Since the Mayerson JCC and Access started the YPs at the JCC program a little more than a year ago, hundreds of young professionals have participated in everything from exercise classes and special events, to pick-up games and pool parties at the J, all created specifically for their demographic. And while everyone between the ages of 21-35 in the community is welcome to take part in these programs, most of the activities have not necessarily been geared for YPs with disabilities—until now!
Thanks to the vision of popular JCC group exercise instructor and membership director, Lorri Munafo, a brand new inclusive initiative specifically geared for young adults with intellectual disabilities was recently created in partnership with Access, an initiative of The Mayerson Foundation, and the YPs at the JCC program.
Fitness and Friends: Where Fun has No Limitations, is an eight-week series open to young adults with and without disabilities who want to “exercise and socialize” together. It will take place every Sunday at 11:15 a.m. at the Mayerson JCC, beginning on Jan. 8 and will include a low impact group exercise class and activity where the emphasis will be as much on “hanging out” as it will be on “working out.” After the first class, participants are invited to enjoy a free lunch in the J Café and a chance to spend some down time in the lounge playing Wii, video games, pool, cards and more. Lunch after the first class will be provided compliments of The Mayerson Foundation. After all subsequent classes in the series, lunch can be brought from home or purchased at the J Café.
According to the Inclusive Fitness Coalition, people with disabilities have a higher risk of developing chronic health issues such as diabetes, depression and heart disease. Unfortunately, due to attitudinal, social and programmatic barriers that may limit their inclusion in fitness-related offerings such as exercise classes, sports teams and recreational events, their efforts to participate in these forms of physical activity can be very difficult. “Thanks to Fitness and Friends, as well as other inclusive programs such as Camp at the J, our JCC is breaking down barriers and giving people of all abilities a chance to make meaningful connections with one another,” said Josh Rothstein, YP outreach and engagement coordinator.
“People with disabilities want to work out for the same reasons everyone else does—to stay well, active, and to be part of the community,” explained Munafo. “While the JCC is inclusive of everyone, regardless of ability, we want to send an even more welcoming message, especially to the many young adults in our community with intellectual disabilities who have not had the same opportunities to take advantage of the age-specific programming we offer. I have been so inspired by the clients with disabilities that I currently work with one-on-one, that I thought it would be great to create a series that would allow YPs with and without disabilities to get to know one another in a fun and active atmosphere,” she added. “I have wanted to do something like this for a very long time and am glad to be partnering with Access and the YPs at the JCC program to help insure that the program is populated with participants of all abilities!”
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Karly Saeks, a 21-year-old young adult who attends the Project Launch program at the University of Cincinnati for students with intellectual disabilities. “My family has belonged to the J for a long time but I never took any of the exercise classes before. I am excited about hanging out with some of the people I know who go to Access. It’s going to be fun to meet new people. I hope everyone will enjoy it. I know I will!”
The first class in the Fitness and Friends program is free to all participants with an advance RSVP to Lorri Munafo at the JCC, and open to all young adults who can take part independently, without a one-on-one support person. A special focus group for parents of young adults with disabilities will be conducted for those who want to stay and give their input, ideas and suggestions for other programs and events the JCC might consider hosting in the future. Tours of the facility will also be available for parents and participants upon request.