I have always had two passions in life- helping others and health and physical fitness. Over the years I have pursued these two passions and that is what has led me to where I am today.
Through the process of earning my Bachelors and Master’s degree in Social Work I have gained the skills and knowledge to work with a variety of people and have formed the belief that every individual has abilities and strengths. As a social worker I have had the opportunity to work with a varied population including individuals with mental illness, individiduals with drug addictions, families in crisis, women with troubled pregnancies, and individuals with intellectual disabilities. During these various experiences, I often was completely astonished at the lack of attention given to basic health and wellness. Having always benefited from the effects of exercise and good nutrition, I had a hard time realizing that these basic opportunities were often hard for various populations to access or completely ignored as part of their overall treatment.
After several years of working solely in the social work field, I began to miss the athletic and wellness opportunities I had enjoyed while an intercollegiate athlete. I decided to earn my certification as an athletic trainer and began working with individuals professionally. This is where my passions truly met and came alive as I was given an opportunity to train a young man with Down Syndrome. The opportunity to work with this person was a revelation to me and a life changing experience for both me and my client. I witnessed an absolute transformation in all facets of life for my trainee - from increased confidence, to reduction in existing health risk factors, to a healthier and more diverse diet. A variety of tangible indicators attested to the positive effect of exercise on the quality of life of the individual.
I became convinced through this experience that all individuals with disabilities could not only benefit greatly from professional wellness programs, but that this population of individuals were grossly underserved. I began to do research into the subject matter on my own and also as part of my course work for my MSW. I was left with very little evidence-based research on the benefits of health and wellness programs for individuals with disabilities. Knowing first hand the benefits, I was disappointed to find little or no academic research to back up my personal findings. I knew I wanted to make health and wellness services available to all individuals with disabilities but never knew how to make it happen. When Jen reached out to me about her ideas and plans for BuddiesInAction I was immediately thrilled. I quickly recognized this as an opportunity to put my passions, beliefs and knowledge to use in order to advocate for a very special population of people that deserve the right to pursue and benefit from a healthy lifestyle.