Inspiring Story: Fitness Buddies

"This is a great interactive program where you get a hands on experience in helping adults living with developmental disabilities strive for their greatest physical potential. Just by talking, observing, and working out with my buddy it has encouraged me to strive for my greatest potential and make my wildest dreams come true."

Program Volunteer


Fitness Buddies

In a time when fitness and going to the gym weren't as popular or accessible to everyone, Joanie Groome, Program Coordinator of Recreation Support Services, and other communities members led the charge to increase the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities. For the past 20 years, the buddy work-out program has run at City Health Club under the Ithaca Youth Bureau's Recreation Support Services coordination, pairing community volunteers and adults with developmental disabilities.

The program is designed to produce results. Since the obesity rate among individuals with disabilities is even higher, the need is undeniable. Buddies typically meet 1-2 times per week at City Health Club. Gym etiquette as well as how to work out are some of the lessons learned. Participants also learn how to keep track of their work-outs in a chart. Buddies are given the chance to connect personally and at the same time are held to high but achievable workout standards.

While the participants are gaining fitness, social and cognitive skills, the volunteers also benefit a tremendous amount from their experience. One volunteer from Ithaca College said, "We really got to know each other and developed a level of appreciation for one another's lives." Another volunteer said, "Through this program you help others make friends and volunteer. My buddy and I never stopped laughing. :)"

Results have come in all kinds of forms from official recognition to measurable changes in fitness and daily living. The program has received both state and county awards. However, the biggest success is seeing participants go through the program and then continue to work out on their own, even at other locations. Independence is another key goal of the program, alongside improving physical fitness and increasing social skills. While the program is achieving its goals and maintaining great community partnerships, there are always more relationships to build and work-outs to complete.

For more information contact:
Joanie Groome, Recreation Support Services Coordinator
Phone: (607) 273-8364 ext 165

Learn more about Recreation Support Services

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