“Tough Cookie” Julianna Vano Fights Lymphoma

April 27, 2015 by karen

— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton

 

Young Club Fit Member Juliana Vano battles lymphoma with attitude and energy to spare. She is “One Tough Cookie!”

"Tough Cookie" Julianna Vano Fights Lymphoma
Club Fit Member Julianna Vano is “One Tough Cookie.”

“One Tough Cookie”! That is how Julianna Vano’s family and friends describe the energetic, nonstop 10-year-old. And she has proven this to be true since her diagnosis in December of Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma, the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, accounting for up to 30 percent of newly diagnosed cases in the United States. It is an aggressive cancer, but the Vanos, members of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, reacted quickly, and Julianna is well on her way back to good health.

Mom Joann noticed something was wrong back in November, when Julianna became lethargic and was experiencing abdominal pain. “She’s my Energizer bunny!” she said of Julianna, an avid dancer, and soccer and basketball player. “I knew something was wrong when her energy dipped.” The initial bloodwork at their doctor’s office hinted at Hepatitis A, but when it didn’t improve over two weeks, they went to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and scans revealed masses on all of Julianna’s organs. Treatment was started immediately.

Julianna was on a 20-day chemotherapy cycle, checking in to the hospital every 20 days for 5 to 7 days, then taking a week or two off. But she remained active while she was home, continuing her dance classes 3 to 4 days a week (hip-hop, jazz, ballet…you name it, she does it!) and actually competing this past March! She also recently performed at the halftime show during a Westchester Knicks game. Because of the risk of infection, Julianna was taken out of school and her tumbling classes, but is being tutored at home. Does she miss school? “I think she misses her friends,” laughs Joann.

It was supposed to be a three-month process, but the treatment schedule became longer when a follow-up scan showed a small mass remained on Julianna’s kidney, but the hope is that the additional treatments she is receiving now will take care of that. Going forward, they expect her to have four rounds of “maintenance” treatments, then be free and clear by August. “Through most of this experience, if Julianna didn’t lose her hair or wear a face mask, you’d never know she was sick!” says Joann.

The whole Vano family is active, with Julianna and her two siblings, Bella and Tommy, frequenting Club Fit’s Energy Center, and Mom and Dad spending time in the Fitness Center. As mentioned earlier, Julianna plays travel soccer and travel basketball, and is also a Girl Scout, and plans to return to her activities once treatment is completed. Club Fit is showing their support by hosting two fundraisers for the family at both Club Fit locations, a Spin Class and Kids’ Zumba class. May 20th at Briarcliff and May 27th at Jefferson Valley. All proceeds are going back to the Vano family.

The Vanos are also starting a team for Yorktown’s Relay for Life, aptly named “Team Tough Cookie” (which at this writing is the top fundraising team so far)! Look for their tent on Friday, June 12 at Jack DeVito Field in Yorktown Heights. But you can also get in on the action early by joining us at Club Fit for the Spin and Zumba events, and showing your support for our Tough Cookie Julianna and her family!

Jimmy McDonough Cancer Foundation

January 28, 2015 by karen

[written by Club Fit blogger Lisa Skelton]

Jimmy McDonough Foundation founder Suzi McDonough
Jimmy McDonough Foundation founder Suzi McDonough

It takes a special person to take a family tragedy and turn it into a positive, but that’s just what Suzi McDonough did. When her husband, Jimmy, a longtime member of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and passed away less than a year later, Suzi and her family didn’t turn inward. They founded the Jimmy McDonough Foundation, a nonprofit that supports cancer patients and their families in the local community, and makes a big impact despite keeping a low profile.

“Our goal is to relieve as much stress as possible for families going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Suzi. “My family and I know firsthand the importance of a good support system, and want to provide that to those who don’t have the support they need.”

Her husband’s diagnosis was a surprise to everyone. Father of five, Jimmy never smoked and was focused on his fitness routine, working out at Club Fit almost every day. He was an involved and enthusiastic supporter of his community and kids’ sports in Mahopac, continuing to coach even after his diagnosis. He was being treated for pneumonia when a CT scan and subsequent biopsy revealed Stage 3 lung cancer. He passed away in February 2005, after seven months of chemotherapy and alternative treatments, but he and his family remained optimistic and positive throughout.

Since its inception, the Jimmy McDonough Foundation has helped countless people in our community. From rides to appointments to financial assistance to family outings, the Foundation supports families through their cancer journey. Family members serve on the Foundation’s board, and their single fundraiser is a golf outing held every May at Mahopac Golf Club. “One hundred percent of our fundraising proceeds go to funding our services,” says Suzi.

An additional fundraiser was held last year at FDR Park in Yorktown, a 5K Run that involved Club Fit’s Jason Needle, who is also battling cancer. “Jason is so like Jimmy with his positive attitude, and he is such an inspiration,” says Suzi. “His enthusiasm during the 5K event reminded me of Jimmy’s optimism throughout our family’s ordeal.”

Suzi has kept herself busy in the years since Jimmy’s passing, not only with the Foundation, but as Town Councilwoman in Carmel. She also works for the State Senate, and enjoys spending time with her five now-grown children. “I have a choice,” says Suzi. “I can wilt away or look ahead.”

But the Jimmy McDonough Foundation is clearly her priority. “Through the work we do, Jimmy’s legacy will live on,” says Suzi. And Club Fit Jefferson Valley is jumping on the bandwagon, donating all proceeds raised at the club’s Open House on January 31 to the Foundation. With a $50 donation, attendees received raffle tickets for prizes including massages, tennis lessons, a week of summer camp, a big screen TV, etc. A win-win for everyone! If you couldn’t make it and would like to help Suzi and her family make a difference in the lives of cancer patients in your community, you can mail your donation to The Jimmy McDonough Foundation, 72 Lockwood Lane, Mahopac, NY 10541, and know that you helped brighten someone’s day!

Club Fit Membership Rep and “World Racer” Jenny Muller

April 28, 2014 by karen

Club Fit Rep Jenny Muller
Club Fit Membership Rep Jenny Muller is preparing to participate in The World Race for charity.

“Race” can mean a number of things, whether you are rushing to get to the grocery store or competing against elite runners on the world stage. For Club Fit Briarcliff Sales Representative Jen Muller, “race” is going to mean a life-changing experience, as she prepares to participate in The World Race, a journey into eleven countries in eleven months to serve the underprivileged. Participants such as Jen experience an adventure where they abandon worldly possessions and a traditional lifestyle in exchange for a true understanding that it’s not about them, it’s about helping those in need.

Jen first found out about The World Race when her older brother entered the program, after searching online for missionary opportunities, something he had been interested in pursuing. As a professional poker player, he had the flexibility to take the year off − not so for Jen. But when she heard how rewarding his experience had been, she decided to take the plunge, which includes a year-long break from life in Ossining , NY, and her job at Club Fit.

The actual trip begins in September, after an intensive training session in July, where the participants are exposed to the conditions in each country they will visit. According to Jen, “Each day of training will mimic everything that can happen in a particular month in a particular location.” The itinerary currently has her beginning in Thailand, then going to Cambodia, Vietnam, Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Turkey, Albania, the Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The three she’s looking forward to the most? Thailand (“So beautiful!”), Albania (“It’s where Mother Teresa is from.”) and South Africa (“Who wouldn’t want to go on safari?!”).

But the trip is about so much more than seeing the world for twenty-six-year-old Jen. “I felt it was like a calling from God to serve the poor,” she says. “I wanted to get out of the Westchester ‘bubble’ and open my eyes to the rest of the world, which is made up of so many people who don’t have as much as we do here.” Jen will be part of a “squad” of approximately 60 people from all over the country (interestingly enough, there is a participant in her group from Mahopac!) who are broken down into teams of 8 to 10 in each location. Each team is given a specific area to focus on, which can include working with orphans, building and repairing houses, and helping victims of human trafficking. Jen is most looking forward to working with the kids. “I love kids, and you can learn so much from them!”

The main thing the teams are taught is, “Expect the unexpected!” Participants are matched up with host families at each location, usually religious leaders in the community, but living conditions vary from location to location. You can sleep in a bed, in a tent, on the floor; participants have to be prepared for anything. They travel with only a hiking backpack, and are only able to bring the bare essentials, which hopefully will include space for a tent.

As you can imagine, when asked what she will miss the most, Jen says, “A shower and a bed!” She will also miss her co-workers at Club Fit, as well as the members she has gotten to know so well since beginning in Reception four years ago. But she hopes to be back! “Everyone at Club Fit has been so supportive!”

As far as funding the trip, Jen saved her money and is paying her own way, but, like most participants, she is doing some fundraising to help cover the cost. Before she leaves at the end of June, she and Personal Trainer Jess Manfro plan to hold a special CFX class event – we’ll keep you posted! – and donations can be made directly to Jen or to the organization in general at www.theworldrace.org.

But before donating, Jen encourages everyone to check out the rest of the web site, including the blogs posted by participants. Jen already has her own blog (jennymuller.theworldrace.org), and she invites you to follow her progress as she moves through her journey. “When you have a better understanding of the difference this organization can make in the lives of so many people, it makes it so much easier to give, even participate,” she says.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: First Club Fit Fitness Assessment

April 4, 2014 by Kurt


My name is Kurt Kannemeyer and I am the Director of Development at St. Christopher’s, Inc. St. Christopher’s, Inc. is an innovative adolescent development organization dedicated to helping children with special needs and their families by delivering a seamless continuum of care. We provide quality education; therapeutic intervention and life planning skills in a safe and nurturing environment with the goal of helping each child reach his/her full potential.

Last year, I traveled all the way to Africa to attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for all of our children! Though I did not reach the top, I am determined to achieve my goal this year! My belief is that when we fail at something, we must try again and most importantly, never give up.

This year I have some very essential help from Club Fit! They have provided me with gym membership as well as trainer, Sarah. Just yesterday I met with Sarah and Liz Swan, Club Fit’s Social Media Specialist, along with other Club Fit Staff. After an initial consultation and orientation, we went straight for my fitness assessment! There was no better way to get into training mode than to jump right in!

In this blog, I intend to chronicle my journey back to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Stay tuned for fitness updates, healthy eating tips and more on my inspiration – the wonderful children of St. Christopher’s, Inc. For more information please visit, www.sc1881.org.

I hope you all will read along about my journey and achieving my goal of climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro with the help of Club Fit and their amazing facilities!