Club Fit Staff Spotlight: Matt Macias

November 19, 2018 by jeanne

Marathon Man

By Jeremy Brown

Matt Macias’s run at the New York City Marathon turned tragic circumstances into a day of triumph.

It seems that Matt Macias is always running. Between teaching full-time in the South Bronx and working at Club Fit’s Energy Center, he’s perennially on the move. But recently, Macias was running not because he had to, but because he needed to.

Last month, Macias participated in the New York City Marathon, running to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. It was an emotional and challenging run, particularly because the cause is one that is very close to his heart.

“My grandmother was very sick with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” he said. “I was feeling kind of useless in a way. Like there wasn’t anything that I could do. So I decided to try and run and raise money for the cause.”

Macias said that he was inspired to take on the marathon by Chris Becker, another Club Fit employee. Two years ago, Becker ran the Chicago Marathon, raising more than $2,000 for breast cancer research in the process.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Macias said. “So I knew that, if he could do it, I had to one-up him!”

Macias had run a number of half marathons but had yet to actually run a full marathon. The closest he had come was a race in San Diego, but an injury had forced him to walk the course instead. In addition, his training was made more difficult by the fact that his grandmother had passed away.

“Everything was just so tense,” he recalled of that time. “The stress was getting to me physically. I know running probably would have been better for me, but I just couldn’t.”

Luckily, Macias said, he had a built-in support system at Club Fit, with many of his co-workers stepping in to help him out when things became too trying.

“Chris Becker was always there, Angelina Curcio always had my back, Kristen Saffo was also there for me,” he said. “All those people helped me every step of the way. I’m starting to realize that all my friends work at Club Fit!”

On the day of the marathon, the unthinkable almost happened when Macias awoke with a fever of 101 degrees. Determined to compete in spite of his illness, he hauled himself out of bed and hit the pavement. However, about halfway through the race, the fever began to catch up with him, and Macias began having second, and maybe even third, thoughts.

“I actually thought about quitting and started texting people saying, ‘I shouldn’t have done this, I’m too sick to run,'” he said. “But, in my armband, I had my grandmother’s prayer card. So I just took it out and ran with it in my hands the rest of the way. That’s when I knew that I was going to finish.”

Having crossed the finish line and raising more than $4,000 for Alzheimer’s research, Macias said that the whole experience was overwhelming.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “Especially all the support I received from everyone. And not just the friends and family who came to watch, but all the people who were tracking me at home and everyone who helped me raise money for this great cause. And being able to run through the streets of New York City was just insane. There’s nothing quite like it.”

Next up, Macias and Becker plan to run a marathon at Disney World in Orlando, with a course that will take them through all five parks in one day.

“I haven’t started preparing for that one yet,” he said. “I’m giving myself time to recover from the last one. But the physical part isn’t as challenging as the mental part. Once you get to mile 18 and you say to yourself, ‘I still have six more to go!’, that’s when you start questioning what you’re doing.’ But the more you work at it, the easier it gets. Practice makes perfect.”

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Loretta Whipple

August 30, 2018 by jeanne

Still Going Strong

By Jeremy Brown


Loretta Whipple has been a member at Club Fit for four decades, and she’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

During the 1970s, while attending graduate school at West Conn, Loretta Whipple struck up a conversation with her professor about their extracurricular activities. The professor told her he was a member of Club Fit in Jefferson Valley and waxed rhapsodic about racquetball. Whipple was immediately intrigued. “I investigated it,” she said, “and joined up with a group of ladies who played racquetball there, loved it, and stayed with it for many years.”

Whipple started playing racquetball at Club Fit back in the days when there were still eight courts available and she and her husband quickly became very involved in the sport. “We soon got wrapped up in racquetball and played frequently,” said Whipple.

An active traveler and adventurer who has visited all 50 states, Whipple came to Yorktown from the small farming town of Peabody, Kansas. “I was a farm girl,” she recalled. “After school, I went home and gathered eggs, fed the chickens, milked the cows, all those sorts of things.” When she arrived in Yorktown and began teaching 5th grade at Crompond School. Whipple made sure to bring a little bit of her hometown with her. “Kansas’s birthday was always a special day in the class,” she said. “And for a number of years, I actually made a sheet cake in the shape of Kansas and decorated it with products or towns related to the state. It was always a special day!”

Whipple’s impact as a teacher was strong enough that remains in touch with three of her students who had her as a teacher back in 1966. “That was 52 years ago and today they’re getting ready to retire! As a teacher, that’s one thing that’s a lot of fun, to see students that I’ve had through the years come over and say, ‘Do you remember me, Mrs. Whipple?’ It’s nice that they acknowledge some of the things that we have interesting conversations about their lives today.

Although she retired in 2000 after nearly 40 years on the job, Whipple continued her adventurous ways. That same year, she and her husband, Fred, made the journey all the way to Churchill, Manitoba to view polar bears in their natural habitat. “We took a lot of pictures of the polar bears on the tundra,” she recalled. “And then I came back and went to different classes and made presentations with the pictures that we’d taken. It was a lot of fun!”

Today, Whipple remains as active as ever. She and her husband visit Club Fit three times a week, and more in the winter months. “We love the variety of programs,” she said. “They have the swimming pool, they have racquetball, they have tennis. They have so many different types of classes, from spinning to yoga and many others. Club Fit is a family-oriented club, but they also have programs for seniors and programs for teenagers. They appeal to a wide variety of people and it’s very exciting to be a part of that.”

During their visits to the gym, Whipple’s husband tends to work out in the aquatics center, while she herself takes classes or works with a personal trainer. “It’s just something that’s a part of our life,” she said. “It’s never a case of our feeling lethargic or saying, ‘We’re too tired to go today.’ Having the space in our day to go to the gym is just something that’s always there and we do it often!”

This sense of staying healthy and active is something that’s important to Whipple and something that she hopes other people take seriously. “There are a lot of people that don’t feel like they have the time to develop an interest in going to the gym,” she said. “Age is a factor that diminishes your agility, your flexibility, your balance. So when you’re participating in activities and having the help of the personal trainers, exercise really makes a difference in people’s lives. It keeps you healthy mentally as well as physically. I think it’s important, that’s the bottom line!”

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Mark Voeltz

August 30, 2018 by jeanne

Remembering the Fallen
Mark Voeltz is on a mission to honor lost police officers, one name at a time.

By Jeremy Brown

 

When Mark Voeltz isn’t working as the owner of Mark’s Towing in Thornwood, he’s patrolling the streets of Fishkill as a member of the Duchess County town’s police department. It’s a difficult and demanding job, and one that Voeltz feels isn’t often given the respect and reverence it deserves. “People don’t realize what we do and the sacrifice we make when we go out every day,” he said. “They don’t know the amount of cops that are killed every year. On average in the United States, one cop gets killed every 53 hours.”

As Voeltz took note of the rising number of police officers killed in the line of duty, he knew that he had to act. “I thought, let me do something for these cops who are getting killed,” he said. “After they’re killed and the funeral is over, no one gives them recognition anymore. They’re making the ultimate sacrifice, so let me give some recognition to these guys.”

In 2016, Voeltz purchased a 2006 Crown Victoria formerly used by the Connecticut State Police and, with the help of volunteers, friends and family, had it decorated with the names of all the fallen police officers since 2015, along with an image of St. Michael, the Policeman’s Prayer, and images of the World Trade Center. Voeltz dubbed the project “Wheels of Honor,” and today the car makes regular appearances at law enforcement funerals, but also at parades, memorial services, and fundraising events. For Voeltz, Wheels of Honor is a way to keep the names and the memories of fallen officers in people’s minds long after the last honor guard shot has been fired. “When it’s all over, two days later, the family is on their own and the recognition is over,” he said. “So I think that, with this car, and having their names on the car, they’ll always be remembered.”

Unfortunately, the original Wheels of Honor car, although it has served Voeltz honorably and well, is growing a bit tired. Purchased used in 2006, the car already had 160,000 miles on it and that number has grown considerably in just two years. As such, with the help of Club Fit, a Casino Night fundraiser is planned at Club Fit Briarcliff on October 12th. Tickets can be purchased for a minimum donation of $25 and 100% of the ticket proceeds will go to the Wheels of Honor foundation to purchase a new car. This event is guaranteed to be filled with a night of fun, hours of “play” gambling, food samplings, music, and prizes! 350 tickets will be available for sale starting on September 1st at either the Reception Desk or Service Desk.

Having the fundraiser at Club Fit is fitting for Voeltz, as he is a long-time member of the club. In fact, he can be found there hitting the weights six days a week. “I’ve been going there for years, and it’s a great club. I usually do a lot of weights, although recently someone pushed me to try out some of the classes as well. But most of the time I’m just training with weights.” A former high school wrestler and football player, Voeltz knows the value of staying in shape. “It’s really important to stay healthy,” he noted. “Especially in my line of work. You can’t afford to be out of shape when you’re a police officer.” And, when it comes to staying healthy, Voeltz says that Club Fit fits all his needs. “It has everything you could want,” he said, “It’s clean, the staff are all professionals It’s just a great place.”

Wizard of Water – Larry Koffer

August 1, 2018 by jeanne

Meet the Wizard of Water

By Jeremy Brown

Larry Koffer has been swimming all his life, but his biggest challenge is yet to come.

For Club Fit swimming instructor Larry Koffer, being in the water is just a way of life. “I love swimming,” he says, “and I’ve been doing it all my life, one way or another.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Koffer began swimming in the Bronx River and was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. “I wasn’t the fastest guy on the team,” he said. “I remember when we’d swim, my coach would use a sundial to time me!” Koffer, however, is just being modest. In fact, he was the Bronx Park Department 100-meter swim champion in 1964.

From swimming in the river to swimming in the pool, Koffer knew that he had found a second home in the water. From then on, he was always trying to find a way to get wet, diving in whenever and wherever he could. When he sold his construction business, the opportunity suddenly presented itself to make swimming a full-time pursuit. “Looking at retirement, I thought, what am I going to do?’” he said. “So I became a Red Cross instructor.”

Koffer’s Red Cross training eventually paved the way for him to become a swimming instructor at Club Fit. At the club, he says that he gets a particular thrill from passing on his love of swimming to people.

“I love teaching people how to swim,” he says. “It’s magical to me. Swimming is an out-of-this-world experience. It’s the perfect exercise and it’s very meditative.”

He says that he really enjoys being able to work with people who aren’t used to being in or around the water and seeing that “moment” when it all clicks for them. “I teach a lot of adults,” he says, “and they haven’t learned how to swim, and they’ve got some anxiety about it. And to get them loosened up and approach swimming as fun, when they get it, it’s like bells go off. Suddenly it all fits.”

Koffer’s enthusiasm and passion for swimming has earned him the nickname “The Wizard of Water.” Although, in the interest of full disclosure, he admits that he is responsible for the moniker.

“On some memo, I signed off as ‘the Wizard of Water,’ and it stuck!” he says, laughing.

After a lifetime of swimming, Koffer is about to undertake his most exciting challenge on the water, a one-mile swim across the Hudson River, from Newburgh to Beacon, on July 28. The swim is a charity event to raise money for the care and maintenance of the River Pool in Beacon. Even more than the challenge of swimming across the Hudson, Koffer is excited about the feeling of unity that comes when a group of swimmers all get together. “I love being on the beach with hundreds of water babies, swimmers who are all loving the water, some are skilled, some are Olympians or near Olympians, national champions,” he said. “But they’re all loving the water, and it’s just like this camaraderie. Some want to swim for a record, some just want to be in the water.”

After crossing the Hudson, Koffer might try for a two-mile swim, he said. But, whatever comes next, he is just grateful for every day in the water. “When I was in junior high school, my best friend’s family had a house on Lake Mahopac, so I came up here 50 years ago,” he said. “And now, to be back here as an adult, living here, swimming in the lake, having wonderful friends…this is perfect.”

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Maria Sanchez

May 29, 2018 by jeanne

Club Fit Member Spotlight: Club Fit’s Tennis Community Comes Together for One of Their Own

By Lisa Olney

A lot more than winning records, aggressive net play, and plantar fasciitis are cultivated on the tennis court. So are lifelong friendships with people so special that it can be hard to remember a time when they weren’t in your life. Just ask Club Fit member Maria Sanchez from Yorktown, who met some of her best friends on the Club Fit Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff tennis courts almost 25 years ago. Like family, Maria and her tennis friends have shared the celebrations of each other’s milestones along with the despair of life’s tragedies, such as the loss of one of Maria’s four vibrant, accomplished children, Maribel Sanchez Souther to breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 41.

Maribel was a five-year cross country and track star at Yorktown High School, beginning as an eighth grader. She won multiple Section 1 cross country championships and finished fourth at the indoor National Championships at two miles. Maribel attended Dartmouth from 1992-1996, winning several Ivy League titles in Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track, leading the 1996 cross country team to a fifth-place NCAA finish. The first Dartmouth female runner to be an All-American in Cross Country, Maribel ended her collegiate career as a four-time All American. After college, she ran professionally, coached the Hanover High School track team, and returned to Dartmouth as its head cross country coach and assistant track coach. Maribel’s time as a collegian at Dartmouth is credited as the catalyst in rebuilding the women’s track program.

In March of 2014, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center launched its annual Team Tennis to Smash Cancer fundraising event at Dartmouth’s Boss Tennis Center. Maribel presented her mom with the ultimate of family visits – play in the all-day tennis fundraiser and visit the grandkids – a definite win-win for this 4.0 USTA player. Maria was partnered with an oncologist from the Cancer Center. Little did she know, that just a month later, her new tennis friend would be the oncologist who delivered an unexpected diagnosis to Maribel: Stage 4 breast cancer. Just two and a half short years later, Maribel lost her battle against cancer on December 31, 2016.

The Hanover and Dartmouth community lost an inspiring, joyous, hardworking leader that day, evidenced by her alma mater renaming their invitational, season opening cross country meet to the Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational. Maria’s closest tennis friends rallied around their dear friend in any way they could. When Maria shared that she was continuing her annual trek to Hanover for the 2017 tennis fundraiser in honor of Maribel just a few months after her passing, Dee Young, Margo Smith, Ginger Canfield, Andrea Oncioiu and Maria Borg packed their tennis bags and joined her in Hanover, forming the team, Maria’s Crew.

Still wondrous that her friends would drive all the way up to Hanover for her, Maria remembers thinking, “It’s too much for them, how can they do it? I was very surprised — not even our family could come up.”

This year, Maria’s crew couldn’t make it to Hanover for the fundraiser so they took the fundraiser to Club Fit, organizing a round robin on Sunday, April 29, from 3pm to 6pm at Club Fit Jefferson Valley that drew 25 women and raised $2,400 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Dee, Margo, and Ginger organized the event and Kelly Thomann created the format for an easy, fun, and non-competitive round-robin format, ensuring a great format for all skill levels. Maria’s son, Silvio Jr., and granddaughter, Camille, were on hand as well to cheer on this outpouring of love and support from the Club Fit tennis community.

When a last-minute venue change was required, Michael Bratt, Club Fit Jefferson Valley’s Tennis Program Director, accommodated the event and donated three courts for three hours, becoming the event’s knight in shining tennis armor. Michael provided a level of support – before, during, and after the event – beyond the call of duty, exemplifying Club Fit’s mission of supporting their members. “Mike is warm and gracious and always willing to lend a helping hand,” Margo says. “I can’t give Mike enough praise,” adds Dee. “He was so helpful and supportive.” Maria couldn’t agree more with the level of commitment Mike shows to the Jefferson Valley tennis family. “I don’t have words to describe Mike or to thank him for all the things he did. I hope he stays here forever,” says Maria. “We need somebody like that. He’s doing great things for the Club and made sure we were taken care of. He was a lifesaver.”

From graduations to grandmother showers, no other recreational sport creates such opportunities for the development of deep-rooted, lifelong friendships. Years of playing as partners, on season courts, or in the competitive USTA and club leagues, builds strong bonds and a family dynamic. “We all try to have each other’s backs,” explains Margo “and given Maria’s circumstances, there is nothing we’d rather do than be there for her in any way we can.”

Perhaps Margaret Mead said it best when she penned “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Maria Sanchez’ tennis family at Club Fit and beyond embodies this philosophy, and it is clear that their show of solidarity will remain with Maria forever. “I feel that I owe my life to them,” Maria explains. “Even if I can’t help my friends, I can and will help someone else.”

To Keep You Inspired… Jason Needle

June 28, 2016 by karen

photo collage, Jason and friends.
A photo collage of Jason Needle with his friends and peers at Club Fit, along with our newly redesigned name tags, inspired by and honoring Jason.

You may have noticed that we changed the design of the name tags that we proudly wear at work.  And it’s all for a very good reason — Jason Needle — our colleague and friend. Jason passed away on December 4, 2015.The new name tags will serve to remember Jason, and to encourage us to be supportive of others.  We have implemented Jason’s “I Can. I Will.” tag line on the new name tags as a reminder of who Jason was; a brave person who inspired others to live with a strong sense of community and commitment to live life to the fullest.

Jason Needle once described himself as an Iraq war veteran, a two-time cancer survivor, and a proud member of the Club Fit family. Beating cancer and defending our country are two things everyone can identify as substantial accomplishments. Although it may pale in comparison, Jay’s association with Club Fit would prove to be of paramount importance in his life story. Jay grew up coming to Club Fit and fell in love with the atmosphere. He enjoyed it so much that he went to college to pursue a degree in exercise sports science with the end goal of working at his favorite place.

Jay began working as a personal trainer in the fitness department in 2005. When he wasn’t working, he could still be found in the building working out, lifting weights, or playing basketball. Jay was outgoing, enthusiastic, friendly, and genuinely interested in other people. Because of this, it wasn’t long before everyone knew who Jay was – both staff and members alike. He was also one of the trainers who spearheaded the Parisi Speed School program when it was introduced. This is the area where Jay really shined. He had a passion for training young athletes; watching kids improve and achieve goals and, more importantly, gain confidence was everything to Jay. “Being able to help a child grow confident through fitness and performance is a beautiful thing to me,” he told the Briarcliff Daily Voice. He knew they looked up to him and never lost sight of that.

Jay was the picture of health and fitness when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in November 2010. He spent over 200 days in the hospital the first year of his treatment and achieved remission only to have the leukemia return less than a year later. He was then diagnosed with a rare gene mutation that made it difficult for treatments to be successful. During his five-year battle, he traveled all over New York City and Boston, spoke to countless doctors, went through over twenty different chemotherapy treatments, most of which were experimental trials, radiation and two bone marrow transplants.

Throughout his fight, Club Fit remained an important support system for him. A Facebook page was created entitled “Jason’s Army” which he posted on frequently to stay in touch with everyone. He used his Parisi clients as motivation for himself: “The excitement they show when they reach a new goal or do something they thought couldn’t be done is what drives me day in and day out. If these kids can do it, then so can I!”

And so Jay’s tagline was born. Jay coined the motto “I Can. I Will.” and believed with all of his heart that he would beat the odds against his disease. Again, Jay’s energy and sense of purpose was infectious. His positive and energetic posts more often than not served as motivation for its readers to work to make the world a caring, supportive place. His “I Can. I Will.” attitude exploded and the support was phenomenal as the page grew to over 1,100 followers.

Jay was able to use this following to help other people fighting against cancer as well. By hosting an annual 5k run/walk in 2013, 2014, and 2015, Jason’s Army raised over $40,000 for local charities that support cancer patients. For someone who was going through so much, all he wanted to do was give back and recognize others. He was so thankful for the support of staff, members, and clients from Club Fit that he wanted to help those who didn’t have the same support.

Jay died on December 4, 2015. As the legendary ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” He continued by saying, “So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” The best way to honor Jason’s life and to keep his memory alive is to adopt his “I Can. I Will.” attitude and employ it in your own life.

Stroke Awareness and Recovery

July 28, 2015 by Joy Cain

— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Joy Cain

Club Fit’s Syd Berman shares her experience to promote stroke awareness.

Syd Berman promotes stroke awareness.
Syd having fun with friends from the Club Fit “Dance ‘N’ Funk” crew.

The morning of June 6, 2012 was like any other beautiful spring morning at Club Fit. Swim classes were going on in the program pool, treadmills and stair climbers were being used in the fitness area, and up in Studio I, Syd Berman was leading her Dance ‘n’ Funk class, just as she had done hundreds of times before. But about 15 minutes into this particular class, things went awry. And Syd Berman’s life was changed forever.

“I didn’t feel anything,” Syd responds when asked if she felt pain. “I was just teaching a dance, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I’m an instructor, and it’s almost like I’m stumbling.’ Then I said something over the microphone and two of my students recognized what was going on and stopped the class.”

What was going on was that Syd was having a stroke. The alert students who saw Syd’s unusual stance and heard her slurred speech reacted immediately. They notified the front desk, and 911 was called. Syd was whisked off by ambulance to Hudson Valley Hospital. A day later, she was transferred down to Columbia Presbyterian, where she remained in the ICU for a few days. When doctors determined that she wasn’t in imminent danger of having another stroke, Syd was transferred to Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains for what turned into a six-week stay.

For those in the Club Fit family, the overwhelming sentiment surrounding the entire episode was one of shock and incredulity. This wasn’t some weekend warrior, some wannabe jock who suffered the stroke — this was SYD! Syd… who had begun working here when the facility was known as the Jefferson Valley Racquet Club. Syd… who, since 1993, had been the Club’s dance coordinator and was later put in charge of all the group exercise programs. Syd… who ate all the right foods and slept the right number of hours and who, at the age of 59, was in better physical shape than most women half her age. The stroke had happened to Syd! And the underlying thought was this: If a stroke can happen to someone like Syd, what chance do the rest of us have?

“I had none of the precursors,” Syd says. “I’m just happy I was here when it happened because our emergency response was excellent.” What Syd had was an ischemic stroke, which means that a blood clot interfered with the flow of blood to her brain. Doctors told her that the clot probably formed after she made a sudden movement with her head. “When I do the warm up, I get very high energy, so I might have just twisted too hard or something,” she says. “My doctor told me that was it. I said, ‘Well why hasn’t Beyonce stroked out ?’ and he said it’s just the luck of the draw. My GP told me that sh*t happens — so I said, ‘Thanks a lot — that really helps me out.’ But you know what? I’m still here and I feel very lucky because everyone has a story. Everybody has a tragedy in their life and I’m lucky I survived, because stroke is the No 4 killer in the country.”

Syd is speaking from the bridge area overlooking the pool at Jefferson Valley, waiting for a chair yoga class to begin. She has gained weight in the three years since her stroke, which is to be expected given that she is so much less mobile than she used to be. She needs a cane to get around, and her left arm is virtually useless. But her speech is back to normal and the smile on her face is real. She’s wearing a black Club Fit shirt with the words Live, Laugh, Love on it, and around her neck is a rhinestone turtle, a gift someone sent to her when she was rehabbing at Burke. The turtle is her reminder that recovery from stroke is a slow process — but the idea is to keep moving forward.

When she arrived at Burke, Syd had absolutely no movement in her left arm or her left toes, and her left leg felt like it was in a bucket of cement. The left side of her face drooped slightly. She was riding on an emotional roller coaster, going from a place of initially joking about her predicament in the hospital (“little did I realize the joke was on me,”) to a place of feeling no emotions at all. It wasn’t until some instructors from Club Fit sent 100 red roses to her room at Burke that Syd finally broke down and cried.

She knew that she would do whatever she could to restore her health.“Any testing they had at Burke, I volunteered for it,” she says. “Electrical stimuli (I felt like Frankenstein), a low carb diet that was supposed to help the brain — I was game to try anything I could.“ She went to physical therapy three times a week and eventually made such amazing progress that, in 2014, she was asked to return to Burke to share her story at a clinical conference.

Which brings us to today.

“I’m good. It’s a struggle everyday to live with a disability — boy, do I have appreciation now for people that have disabilities! — but I get along. I still have a good arm, a good leg, and my husband (Howie) is so good at taking care of me!

“I can do pretty much everything myself — except I can’t cook on the stove because that’s dangerous. I’m left-handed, so I try to write, but I can’t write too well — I sort of scribble with my right hand.

“I feel very lucky. I get to take care of my grandkids, I see my friends, I get out and about. I joined a singing group — we’recalled the Sweet Seasons — and we have such a good time! Everything I read says that the more you do for your brain, even without a stroke, the better it is for you.”With that in mind, Syd tries to keep mentally busy. One of her goals is to learn Spanish. Also, Syd recently took the written test to recertify herself as a group instructor; perhaps one day she’ll be able to lead a fitness class for those with special needs.

Still, she fatigues easily. An occupational therapist regularly visits Syd at home, and, among other things, makes Syd get down on her hands and knees to try and do push ups. That, along with trying to lift her left arm by itself, are two of her most challenging physical tasks. Although doctors have told her that her disabilities are permanent, Syd refuses to accept that. “I’m not gonna stop working,” she says. “I’m never gonna give up hope.”

Life has a way of teaching us everything we need to know. Prior to the stroke, Syd says that she was super critical of her looks. “I was very self conscious and didn’t think I was good enough. Now, of course, I look at pictures and say, wow, I was pretty good,” she says. The lesson here? “Appreciate your body — no matter how big it is, how thin it is. Embrace yourself — don’t let society tell you that you have to be perfect. Embrace yourself and just make the best out of it.

“A lot of people just don’t want to go out when they’re like this [with physical challenges] — but you know what? I’m here and I’m gonna live my life the best I can.”

She’s also doing what she can to make a difference. Syd’s proud of the fact that Club Fit partnered with her to raise funds for the National Stroke Association (NSA). Among other things, the NSA seeks to educate people about strokes, help stroke victims receive extended therapy, and advise hospitals on how to become better equipped to deal with stroke victims. In May, this Club Fit fundraiser was held in conjunction with the So You Think You Can Choreograph contest and raised over $4,000 for the NSA. Last year’s fundraiser raised over $3,500.

Syd is also proud of the fact that so many of the women she taught in Dance ‘N’ Funk contributed in some way to the fundraiser, and that they are still there for her — and for each other. Says Syd: “The dance girls are unbelievable. It makes me so happy to see them bonding and being friends.”

More than 30 years have passed since Syd Berman and Club Fit first crossed paths, a path that has seen its share of twists and turns. And as Syd looks back over what’s transpired these last three years, some more of life’s lessons are revealed.

“Family is more important than anything — and keeping your spirits up, no matter what happens, is important.,” Syd says. “I’ve discovered that I have so many wonderful friends at the club, it’s like my second home. And I also discovered that I am strong. I used to wonder what would I do if something happened [to me],

The stuff kid’s dreams are made of?

August 7, 2012 by Liz

For some kids, getting involved in athletics is not always first nature. Maybe sometimes it is a matter of self confidence. If they are not naturally the biggest, strongest, fastest or even the most coordinated, they are not going to be the first ones to ask you to sign them up for football. Moreover, (and I feel this is more the case, in today’s society) there are so many things that take away the desire and motivation to be active. There are movies, video games and all sorts of technological advances that kids are drawn to- even we are! (I can’t remember the last time I left my house without my iphone and didn’t freak out or feel lost).

The Olympics make now a great time to get the kids excited about sports. With all of the amazing accomplishments of these proud hardworking athletes, we can teach our children the value of teamwork, discipline, talent and perseverance no matter which sport is vaulting ground for inspiration. Seeing the USA Women’s Soccer team win may inspire your daughter to be a soccer star, seeing the USA Men’s Basketball team blow away the competition may inspire your son to want to learn to dunk a ball one day.

I’m not saying that technology is to blame or that one of these reasons applies to all kids. I am merely saying that if your kid is one who has trouble getting into the active lifestyle, encouragement by world class athletes is a great way to inspire them and get them excited. We all need motivation and it behooves us to remember what dreams are made of and where they come from!

If your kids are interested in trying some new sports, the club is a good place to start!

To find out more about our sport specific camps and programs at Briarcliff, contact jwalsh@clubfit.com! To find out more about available programs at Jefferson Valley contact jritz@clubfit.com!