Building bridges, one squat at a time
Trainers join effort to build fitness center for people with disabilities
Whitefish Bay — Damian Buchman can't become a part of a support group for survivors of his type of bone cancer for one reason: there aren't any others. Even more astonishing: the 32 year-old Wauwatosa resident not only survives, but thrives with two artificial knees.
Buchman can walk, but can't run, jump, or pedal the average bike. And he noticed that at places like McKinley Marina, the bicycles and paddle boats available for able-bodied people were not available for those with disabilities.
Recognizing the unmet need for athletic and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities, Buchman started The Ability Center, a nonprofit aimed at providing a place for people with disabilities to go and be active.
From nothing to one of a kind
He's been raising money to open a unique facility where people with disabilities can have the same opportunities for fitness and fun that their able-bodied peers do. Plans call for everything from volleyball courts - where sitting and standing games can be played - to weight-lifting equipment and a rock wall.
By Buchman's count, it would be the first center of its kind in the country.
"We're aiming to be a fitness and recreational facility. This is a place where people can just come and play rather than having to compete," Buchman said, knowing most people with disabilities assume there aren't places they can go to be fit. Unfortunately, by and large, he's found they are right.
"Most people with disabilities know that they're not available and therefore they just don't even ask," he says. "I think there's a desire."
Personal trainers step up
The Ability Center also will focus on providing for disabled veterans, something that spurred personal trainer James Schneider of Ramp Up Fitness to help Buchman's cause. Schneider is a trainer serving Mount Mary College and works at Snap Fitness in Menomonee Falls. He's also an 11-year veteran of the Air Force Reserve, having served in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Schneider, working with Whitefish Bay-based trainer Marcela Perea, formed Milwaukee Boot Camps late last year. The initiative aims to combine physical fitness with charitable giving, offering boot camp fitness sessions throughout 2011 with all proceeds benefiting The Ability Center.
"I like that they cater to and accomodate people with disabilities - it's a sometimes forgotten demographic when it comes to fitness training," Schneider said.
Future years may see Milwaukee Boot Camps benefiting other local nonprofits, Schneider said.
Milwaukee Boot Camps officially launches Jan. 29 with a free event at Wisconsin Lutheran High School that will feature a silent auction, a presentation by Buchman and potentially other speakers who can attest to the power of physical fitness for people with disabilities. It will wrap up with free boot camps led by Schneider and Perea.
Punch cards entitling the holder to five boot camp sessions with either trainer, or a combination of both, will be available for a $49 donation to The Ability Center.
Schneider and Perea plan to hold additional boot camps to raise money for The Ability Center throughout the year, with the two engaging in a friendly competition to out-fundraise the other.
Buchman and Schneider said they hope people looking to get in shape will take this opportunity to learn more about achieving their own fitness goals while helping The Ability Center's cause.
Perea's Whitefish Bay-based MPower Total Fitness has been up and running for two years and she hopes being a part of this effort to raise awareness about those with disabilities will help people overcome their hesitations about working with a trainer or attending a boot camp.
"A lot of people are scared about trying something new," Perea said.
"There are so many people who don't know about what we do," she said. "It's a way for us to show that they can do it as well."
Buchman's hope is the new center, likely to be built in Wauwatosa, will bring together both able-bodied and disabled people looking to be active. The facility will be fully accessible to those with disabilities, but not so different that an able-bodied person couldn't also just as easily benefit from working out there.
"My big hope," Buchman said, "is it creates awareness and breaks down barriers between the two populations."
At a glance
WHAT: Milwaukee Boot Camps 2011 Charity Fitness Boot Camp
WHERE: Wisconsin Lutheran High School, 330 N. Glenview Ave.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 29
DONATE: There are three ways to give:
• Buy a $49 punch card entitling the holder to five boot camp sessions with Ramp Up Fitness and MPower Total Fitness by visiting PayPal site bit.ly/hQqNeh.
• Donate a service or item for the silent auction.
• Make a direct donation.
CONTACT: James Schneider of Ramp Up Fitness, (414) 704-3850 or RampUpFitness.com; Marcela Perea of MPower Total Fitness, (414) 313-1427 or MPowerTotalFitness.com; Damian Buchman of The Ability Center, (262) 385-5738
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