Families are Getting Fit Together

Thanks to the Metrowest YMCA and Special Olympics Massachusetts

Keeping fit and healthy is on most people’s to do list. For many families finding the time can be difficult. Incorporating your workout with the entire family can solve that problem. The Metrowest YMCA in Framingham is offering such an option.

YMCA trainer Caroline with Debra (left), Andrew (center) and Kenneth (right) Roberts circuit training.

Working with Special Olympics Massachusetts the Y has created a Fit Families Challenge for groups of four, whether it’s a family unit or an individual with three members of their support group, connected to Special Olympics. The six week program started with a one hour assessment where each family discusses what they wanted to achieve. From there a personalized workout program was established for the group. The program continues with twice a weekly thirty minute session with a personal trainer focusing on new exercises and reviewing what was learned. Families are also given a complimentary eight week membership to the Metrowest Y to work out any time and use what they’ve learned. A significant aspect about this facility is they have youth section where families can work out together. According to Thomas Black, Senior Program Director for the Metrowest YMCA, “We want families to come in, learn skills that they can then continue on their own. Trainers are focusing on partner exercises to keep it fun and innovative for everyone involved.”

Fitness is not the only component to a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition must also play a role. As part of the program, families are asked to keep a log of what they eat. When meeting with their trainer they discuss eating habits of the family and get tips on how to make healthy food choices. This is a whole body

Ryan Roberts (far left) with YMCA Trainer Carolyn (left) and Kenneth Roberts (right) learning how to use the equipment.

approach where Director Black says, “Our hope is that people are honest with the journals and use it as an open discussion with their trainer to identify barriers we can help them overcome and set up a plan to continue with these habits long after this program is over. We have found that working with parents and children together helps support the learned behaviors, whether it’s fitness or nutrition, for everyone in the family.”

Indeed the model seems to be working. Currently there are two families involved in the program and they are offering rave reviews. One family of four who has two children with autism has found the program offers a structure for their family that works well. “Last time we had a family membership my son was not really ready. We didn’t get a lot out of it. We thought it would work better to have him workout with us. The trainer showed us exercise moves that were great for the kids. They have a lot of equipment. My son is not a very structured guy so it was important to have someone to show us how to use the equipment properly and safely. Because there is a youth section I can go on the treadmill while my kids are working on the machines and we are all together.” Their primary reason for joining was they wanted to get their family moving more. “Our goals is to use the Y for the six weeks and if we like it to renew our membership and continue going.”

The Roberts family, who is also involved, has also seen some significant effects on their health and fitness. Their son Andrew noted, “I got involved because I am kind of out of shape and wanted to exercise more. My parents feel the same way.”

Fit Families2

Andrew Roberts lifting dumbbells demonstrating what he has learned.

The idea of meeting with the trainer twice a week has been important but they also stay an extra thirty minutes each time to “practice what they learned and have a cool down from the workout.” Through these sessions, the group has learned a lot about new techniques they either didn’t know about or hadn’t tried before. “We’re learning what types of exercises help what muscles and that in a good workout you exercise all your muscles. We also learned how to do circuits to get a full body workout,” according to Andrew.

The family of four, mom Debra, dad Kenneth, Andrew 13 and Ryan 11 have made some significant strides with the nutrition aspect of the program. When they started they received a packet of nutritional information. As a family they log what they eat every day. Unlike most people Andrew feels he needs to add weight rather than lose it. Since his brother and he are both picky eaters keeping track of their food has helped them think about how to be healthier in respect to their food intake. In keeping the log Andrew

The family as a whole has set a number of fitness and nutrition goals for themselves. According to Andrew, “at the end of six weeks my goal is to grow more muscle so I can do more than I used to lifting wise. My dad wants to eat healthier. My mom wants to get more fit in general. My brother wants to grow more muscle like me.” Nutrition wise they’re hoping to continue with the healthy eating habits established over the last weeks. Personally Andrew plans to, “drink less sugary drinks and more water. Keeping track of what we eat is a really good idea. I might keep doing that once the program is over.”

The first Fit Families Challenge six week program is coming to a close this week. “They’ll be leaving with an individual and team program that we hope will give them the tools they need to continue their workout and nutrition goals on their own,” stated YMCA Senior Program Director Black. The next Fit Families session will be starting on a rolling basis the week of April 3rd. If you’re interested in participating email Michelle Krol at mkrol@metrowestymca.org.

Love sports in addition Special Olympics! Check out thirteen year-old Andrew Roberts’ sports blog. He covers March Madness matchups, Bruins and Celtics action, and everything in between! See what he has to say at https://andrewr1008.wordpress.com/.

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Eric Spindt

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

“Watch me!” Two little words uttered by Eric Spindt years ago have taken on a new meaning in the form of 6, going on 7, completed marathons. That’s right, Eric has run 157.2 miles of grueling race course, each step filled with sweat and tears, blisters and bruises and most importantly, perseverance Spinde2and triumph. Eric always had the drive in him, all it took was one of his friends joking he couldn’t run a marathon. His response? “Watch me.”

Eric was first introduced to Special Olympics when his sister was adopted from Korea at 13 months and his family found out she had an intellectual disability. “Special Olympics has been an important part of my life since my sister began participating as an athlete in 1998. The organization has enriched the lives of my entire family and I am so proud to give my time, money and training hours to support such a wonderful organization.”

As a board member and a brother, Eric has been to the world games in Ireland and China and experienced first hand, the importance of Special Olympics in the lives of many like his sister.

We are so proud of Eric and can’t wait to see his hard work and dedication culminate in the ultimate Boston Marathon triumph and for his support of Special Olympics Massachusetts!

Support Eric Spindt in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

My Daughter Amanda: A Global Messenger

My daughter, Amanda Church, has been involved with Special Olympics for the past 14 years.  During that time she has had the opportunity to compete at the state level in Aquatics and Basketball and has won numerous Gold Medals.  Additionally, Amanda had the privilege of representing our country in Aquatics on Team USA at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles in 2015 where she won a Silver and Bronze Medal.  Competing in SOMA athletics has challenged Amanda to improve her skills and compete at a higher level.  More importantly, it has demonstrated to her that she with drive and determination she can overcome her challenges and be successful.

More importantly, Special Olympics are a big part of Amanda’s life off the field of competition.  In addition to being an athlete Amanda is also a Global Messenger. This program has provided her many opportunities to advocate for SOMA and represent the organization in the community.  She has spoken at fundraising events for SOMA with Wal-Mart, Dunkin Donuts, and represented SOMA on local radio to raise awareness of the Jolly Jaunt.  Additionally, she has had the opportunity to speak at many SOMA events including co-hosting the 2014 SOMA Summer Games Opening Ceremonies and the SOMA President’s Reception at Summer Games in 2008 among others.

I believe very strongly that Amanda’s participation in the SOMA Global Messenger program increased her confidence and communication skills and helped prepare her for life.  Amanda currently lives independently at the LIFE program in Mashpee and works as a hostess at the 99 Restaurant in Falmouth, as well as, a receptionist in the LIFE office in Mashpee.  I know her experiences with SOMA helped give her the confidence to live independently and be successful in her jobs. The SOMA Global Messenger program provides athletes the training an opportunity to build their self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills while demonstrating to the community the positive impact SOMA can have on people with disabilities.

I was pleased to see that SOMA has recently re-established the Athlete’s Advisory Council.  As with the Global Messenger Program, this council allows athletes to provide feedback and ideas to continue to improve the overall experience for all athletes in SOMA.  Amanda is participating as an athlete representative and I hope many other athletes do the same.  Both of these programs allow participants the ability to increase their skills and grow outside of athletics.  I am hopeful that more athletes take advantage of this opportunity.


Jim Church
Local Program Coordinator – Easton MA


Meet Boston Marathon Runner Hank Hudepohl

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

It takes, on average, 4:19:27 for a male runner to cross a marathon finish line. Hank Hudepohl, however, has left that time in the dust, running the Baystate Marathon in just 3 hudepohlhours and 30 minutes. It would take the average man 49 minutes just to catch with him! But Hank is anything but average, he is extraordinary.

This year Hank is dedicating his Boston Marathon journey to his brothers, who have lived lives just as extraordinary as his because of organizations like Special Olympics. “I’ve been involved with Special Olympics and with causes that aim to improve the lives of special needs adults for many years. My brothers have been able to live their lives with dignity, with respect, and with accomplishment through the help of generous organizations like Special Olympics and through their own courage and determination. It is an inspiration to bear witness to their spirit.”

Join us in celebrating as Hank runs for a personal best in support of his amazing brothers and Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Support Hank Hudepohl’s Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner Kiely Turgeon

“Special Olympics brings sports to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play. But it’s much deeper than that. Their initiatives promote understanding, acceptance user_photo-584b1439dda39
and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts. They have helped my brother David, and other individuals, to recognize their individual strengths and to build a healthy self-esteem and sense of self-worth. As a sister, this is all I want for my brother. So I feel deeply connected to the mission of Special Olympics.”

This is why Kiely Turgeon has chosen to run the 2017 Boston Marathon for Special Olympics Massachusetts. For Kiely and her family sports has always been a part of their lives. Growing up, her younger brother David, who has autism, was not given the same opportunities she had of playing sports through the school community. That’s why Special Olympics has been so important to her and her family. “Special Olympics programs give hope for those who face adversity and challenges in situations most of us will never experience.” It is a cause that is near and dear to her heart.

Kiely, who now lives in New York City, was raised in Scituate, Massachusetts. Like many of our other runners she grew up watching the Boston Marathon and always wanted to be a part of it. “I have fond memories of watching from Comm Ave alongside my Kiely and brothercousins, uncles and aunts and then celebrating post-race at my Uncle and Aunt’s house, located near the finish line.” With two half-marathons under her belt Kiely feels now is her time to run.

Working full-time and going to graduate school part-time has posed some challenges to her training. “It has been challenging for me to squeeze in training while maintaining everything else.” Waking at 4:00am some mornings in the freezing cold to do training runs has sometimes pushed her to her limits. “Sometimes I am at the very edge of my physical ability where my legs feel like they’re about to fall off. But I feel a passion for the bigger picture. It’s the kind of work that I’m willing to go through because I love the underlying cause of promoting the Special Olympics mission.”

We are so honored that Kiely has chosen to support Special Olympics Massachusetts in her first marathon effort. We’re inspired by her dedication and wish her the best of luck when she takes to the roads from Hopkinton to Boston on April 17th.

Support Kiely Turgeon in her Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Meet Boston Marathon Runner George Tzortzis

Growing up George Tzortzis watched the Boston Marathon every year. That tradition has continued through his adult years watching with his sister (until she moved out of the country) and friends. This year his family and friends will be cheering for him on the route as he takes on his first marathon, running Boston for Special Olympics Massachusetts.

George has beeuser_photo587d7804dec9en running distance since high school but has only raced a handful of times in shorter distances runs. For him, “running gives me time to let loose, sometimes listen to new tunes, sometimes listen to my surroundings, but most of all time to relax.” Although he has never run a marathon before George is “super excited to be a part of a great team. The calls with tips and training plans are very helpful. Hopefully with the other runners past experiences, I will be able to ease into my first marathon as best as anyone possible could..” His training primarily involves “lots of running, split by stretching and days of rest.” What motivates him to keep up with his training is the thought of running 26.2 miles and wanting to be prepared to finish.

Why for Special Olympics? George first became involved when his neighbor asked him to join their Jolly Jaunt race team. The Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt is a fundraiser road race that takes place in December every year. When I joined “everyone was incredibly friendly from the start and exuded immense amounts of positive energy.” To him Special Olympics is about “the athletes getting together and breaking barriers and misconceptions.”

With the Special Olympics athletes as an example, breaking a personal barrier is what George wants to achieve by running his first marathon. His motto from actor James Dean, “Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today,” as well his inspiration from the athletes is what will keep George pushing toward that finish line on April 17. Best of luck to George Tzortzis as he works toward completing his first Boston Marathon!

Support George Tzortzis in his Boston Marathon fundraising efforts TODAY!

Nantasket Beach in March vs. Florida

… which would you choose

Florida is where most beach-goers flock in March. But Michelle Nye is not your typical beach-goer. This Florida resident, instead, packed her bags and headed to Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts for her ocean vacation.


Michelle Nye (far right) and her friends the Fitzpatrick family.

Why Massachusetts in March? Nye wanted to cross something off her bucket list that had been there for years. She joined hundreds of others who braved the single digit wind chills and 41-degree water temps to jump into the Atlantic Ocean at Special Olympics Massachusetts’ annual Nantasket Beach Polar Plunge on Saturday, March 4. Nye took the icy dip in stride, “it felt like I was stung by a million bees as I was running out and lost feeling in my fingers and toes. It took them a little while to get warm again but all is good now.”

A few moments of feeling frigid was well worth leaving the warm 68 degrees at her Gotha, Florida home. Nye who grew up in Shrewsbury, MA, has been wanting to join her best friends at the Plunge for years. Monica and Jack Fitzpatrick,

who still live in Shrewsbury, first became involved with the Plunge to support their neighbor who’s active with Special Olympics. Every year for the past six years Nye has vowed to join them. This year the timing finally worked out.


Plunging Pirates Plunge team (2016).

As part of the 13 member Plunging Pirates team, Nye, the Fitzpatrick’s and the other ten members raised almost $9,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts this year. Nye believes, “If you’re going to do something like this you might as well do it for a great cause. I was glad to be able to raise money for Special Olympics.” We know that support can come from the most unexpected places. We are so thankful to all the plungers and notably Michelle Nye our warm weather plunger who braved the brutal conditions to support Special Olympics Massachusetts.