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YMCA’s EX4ALL Program a Rousing Success in Central Mass

Friday, March 22, 2013


The YMCA of Central Massachusetts' EX4ALL Program, an exercise program created initially at the Greendale YMCA for YMCA participants with disabilities, has achieved much since it started in 2011.

This is true especially in light of Y Personal Trainer John Nelson being honored with the Prestigious 2013 Face of Family Support Award for his work with individuals with disabilities through this program at the Greendale YMCA. This annual award is sponsored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health & Human Services Department of Development Services Central Region (DDS), who honor those who have embraced and further the principles of Family Support in their advocacy, their work or in their lives.

Personal Trainers at the Y have been supporting one another in their efforts to offer training to those who present unique needs. As this demand has increased the YMCA of Central Mass trainers have come together to determine the best way to meet the need resulting in the EX4ALL Program for the disabled.

"Exercise for All is an exercise program designed to meet individuals with special needs where they individually are at in their pursuit of health and well-being. Statistically people with mental health diagnoses and physical or intellectual disabilities are at higher risk for chronic disease as well as being overweight or obese. Exercise for All is one grassroots effort to support healthy living in these individuals," says Christina Puleo, Branch Director YMCA Greendale Family Branch.

EX4ALL started as a pilot program at the Greendale Family Branch of the YMCA in Worcester in 2011.

"Our Personal Trainers were passionate about helping these individuals. Unfortunately due to Human Resource law they were unable to volunteer their time to support individuals in a personal training capacity. The personal trainers at the Greendale Family Branch came to me to find ways to support this program financially so it could make an impact in our community. Our YMCA through an innovation grant funded the program for the first six months. Since then we have partnered with Seven Hills and they have been able to secure funding from Wal-Mart so we have been able to continue," states Puleo.

The program is now one of the most viable and needed offered at the Greendale Y. Because living with a disability can often add financial stress on individuals and families this program is aimed at providing physical activity and support to those with disabilities. The YMCA also offers financial assistance based on the member’s financial needs.

Since the program's inception they have had 25 individuals participate, along with 3 small groups.

"We have done very little recruiting due to the fact that the need is so great. We have had people with a diversity of needs approach us to help and Exercise for All is the best fit," says Puleo.

Danielle Trubia, Health & Wellness Director at the Greendale Family Branch of the YMCA speaks specifically of how participants with Autism have been affected by the program, she states,

“The Ex4All Youth with Autism exercise group has finished the seventh out of the ten scheduled sessions. It appears to be a great success and although originally targeted to accommodate six youths it flexed at one point to include ten in the program. Other parents of special need children have expressed interest in having their children involved in an exercise program of this type.”

The next target branch for the EX4ALL Program is the Boroughs Branch in Westborough. The expansion of the program has been made possible, as with all the important programs the YMCA offers, thanks to the generous charitable contributions of their mission partners and friends.

"The Exercise For All program is just one program that the Y offers to strengthen the foundations of community," says Sharon Henderson, Director of Marketing and Communications for the YMCA of Central Mass.

"All YMCA programs and services are centered around three areas of focus; Youth Development-- with the EX4ALL program our youths with disabilities are assisted in their fitness potential; Healthy Living-- the EX4ALL program falls into this initiative since we also help those with physical and mental disabilities to be healthy; and Social Responsibility-- based on the YMCA of CM being a not for profit and charitable organization, it is our responsibility to give back especially for those in physical and mental needs as well as financially for those who need financial assistance through our Y Access Program."

For more information on the EX4ALL program, visit the YMCA of Central Massachusetts website.



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