January ACTION Leader of the Month: Eric 

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

Eric loves how FITBuddies improves his dancing. His break dance moves are something unique he’s mastered. He enjoys putting in work to get more fit so he can get better at dancing.

What's your favorite music?

Frozen, specifically “Let It Go” (who doesn’t love that song?!). Eric also loves hip hop dance music.

These are a few of my favorite things…

Running, swimming, riding the tandem bike, hiking and camping. 

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

The rowing machine and burpees. Eric’s mastered his signature burpee-break dance move! 

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

Eric likes to teach people to be better dancers and better leaders. He likes to motivate and lead by example. He’s learned to self advocate and set a good example for his community; specifically, Eric is an awesome ambassador for Down Syndrome. Eric comes in willing to volunteer, help, and work with other people — this all manifested from coming to FITBuddies.

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

It makes Eric happy and and an all around better person. Exercising makes him feel good about himself, boosts his confidence and makes him go out there and participate in other activities. He’s more confident and comfortable around other people. Eric is much less a spectator as he was before, now he’s a participator. 

More from Eric's dad and Coach Jen!

As a parent, what goals have you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

Eric has achieved a lot of goals. The main goal is getting him more physically active and not having him treat it like it's some sort of punishment. In the past, exercise was some type of punishment. Now, after all the years at FITBuddies, he's going in there and willingly participating. That's crossed into other things — 5K races, hip hop dancing, etc. Eric has incorporated more physical activity into his typical routine. Surprisingly, all the activity has led to improvement in so many areas — cognitive, social, emotional, expressing himself, development has been improving all around. That was a surprise, he's become a new person! Eric is more outgoing, more willing to try new things. This carries over into his diet, which is a huge lifestyle change.

What skills learned at FITBuddies does Eric use in his daily life?

His coordination — he was told early on that he had apraxia; he had difficulty with balancing and going up and down stairs. Through FITBuddies, his whole coordination has improved and opened the door for him to try new things. He has no problem going up and down stairs. He never wanted to carry things, now he has no problem doing things. He now steps over the dog and his overall balance and coordination has improved. That has opened the door for many things he perviously didn't like. His core strength has developed and now he's more comfortable sitting at the table, doing writing, etc. Recently, in the last 6 months, he's become a lot more independent. I no longer walk him inside the gym at FiT, no more chaperoning him into the building. Now, we pull up in front, he gets out of the car and goes in and after the activity he goes out on his own. We call him Eric 2.0, he's the revised version. In the last two months, he started talking a lot more and making complete sentences.

What has Eric demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

Eric has achieved SO much but he was chosen as this month’s ACTION leader particularly for his newfound independence. When Eric started at FITBuddies, he barely participated and his Dad attended every single session with him, hand over hand helping him and pushing him to try new things. Eric’s dad deserves a part of this award as he remained dedicated and committed to Eric’s progress. The progress was slow and I think it’s safe to say both his Dad and I really weren’t sure how far we would get or really if we would get anywhere! But twice a week, every single week, they have showed up to class since 2012. Eric has gone from 5 minutes of participation to being fully engaged for the full hour (he now attends classes 3 days/week); his Dad no longer stays with him at class and not only does Eric do the movements on his own but will demonstrate (or show off) for his peers. And the latest — Eric is now dropped off and struts into class on his own with his head held high, high fiving and giving hugs to anyone who will take one!

As his coach, describe Eric's growth that you've observed.

Eric is the definition of growth. In the last 7 years, he truly has blossomed into a mature, independent adult. I think Eric’s growth defines what FITBuddies is all about — it’s 20% about the fitness gains and 80% about personal growth and development. The confidence he has gained is contagious and his newfound sense of independence is really what we, as coaches, strive for with all our young adults. Since March when we had to put a pause on our in person classes due to Covid, I have truly missed working with Eric but could not be more proud to hear about his efforts to remain active on his own — including hiking and taking up swimming. Keep up the great work Eric! 

ACTION Leader of the Month: Eric 

February ACTION Leader of the Month: Zach 

This month we are honored to highlight Zach and all that he accomplished during his time at FiT and with FITBuddies. Zach passed away in August 2020. We feel so fortunate to have captured this interview with Zach last spring. This month we highlight, honor and remember the strength and energy Zach brought to our group —  he will forever be missed and forever inspire us all to do our best every single day.

What do you love most about FITBuddies?

I love working out with my friends who support me.

What's your favorite music?

Hip Hop

These are a few of my favorite things…

Hikes, beaches, sushi, dogs and rollercoasters!

What FITBuddies exercise move do you love most? 

Pull ups

Why are you proud to be a FITBuddies ACTION leader?

I'm proud to be an ACTION leader because I have worked so hard in my pull ups and other exercises. 

How does spending time at FITBuddies make you feel?

I like going to Fit because everyone is so friendly and working out makes me feel good about myself. 

More from Zach's parents and Coach Jen!

As a parent, what goals had you observed being achieved through FITBuddies?

FITBuddies provided Zach with a supportive environment where he built lasting relationships and learned the importance of exercise and wellness as a way of life. With the help of his coaches, Zach learned strategies to manage his emotions and build resilience.

What skills learned at FITBuddies did Zach use in his daily life?

Being part of FITBuddies taught Zach important life skills like working with others toward common goals and being emotionally available to a friend in need. He learned discipline and the importance of showing up for yourself and others, regardless of how life challenges you. It was heartwarming to see Zach grow into a young adult who embraced emotional and physical fitness. We are forever proud of him.

What had Zach demonstrated and achieved to be distinguished as this month's ACTION leader?

Zach was chosen as this month’s ACTION leader for his willingness to take every opportunity he could to learn something new and stretch himself out of his comfort zone. Zach was a part of our FITBuddies program for 11 years and was a friend to everyone he came in contact with at FiT. He brought an energy and unity to our FITBuddies group that is hard to explain — he stepped up in every conflict offering a solution, provided empathy to anyone having a tough day and always brought a daily dose of laughter (as well as a good joke).

As his coach, describe Zach's growth that you've observed.

Zach started at FITBuddies in 2009 and in the beginning, always thrived off a very set routine and only liked to do movements that were familiar or easy for him. Over the years, we slowly started working on "being flexible" as well as trying to tackle the movements that appeared "too hard" or out of Zach's comfort zone. Before we knew it Zach was revving his engine with Coach Chris to pump himself up and give him the confidence to try all the hard stuff. He was so proud of himself for his ability to be flexible and now thrived off a challenge. Watching Zach's progress brought us all so much joy - the smile on his face and the extra pep in his step were priceless; but I can say with certainty Zach taught me way more than I could ever teach him as his coach. It was truly an honor to work with Zach and I feel so incredibly lucky that he was a part of our community for so long. He will forever hold a special place in our hearts at FITBuddies.

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