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Program has potential to change lives for people with disabilities

Robert Rennicke, who suffers from physical and cognitive disabilities, became ill with pneumonia in 2010. Due to his lack of exercise, his lungs were diminished and the pneumonia developed into much more serious issues. His parents, John and Becky Rennicke, have since been advocating for all people with disabilities that prevent them from getting the exercise needed to improve their health. (Contributed photo)

The Alexandria Area Community Foundation awarded Fitness For All a grant to begin the process of developing a new program for the community and surrounding areas that has the potential to change the lives of all persons with disabilities.

Fitness For All is a concept born out of a need for persons with cognitive and/or physical disabilities to have access to fitness opportunities.

Robert Rennicke, age 25, has physical and cognitive disabilities. In 2010, he became ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized. Due to his lack of exercise, his lungs were diminished, and as a result, the pneumonia developed into sepsis, heart failure, platelet destruction (TTP) and eventually kidney failure.

As parents, John and Becky Rennicke began to advocate for their son and all persons with disabilities that prevent them from getting the exercise they need to improve their health and ability to fight disease.

Research has shown that any level of fitness can improve the physical and emotional status of all persons, which directly impacts the overall health and well-being of the individual, both short term and long term.

Fitness For All will work with community health, fitness, education and social organizations to develop this program, using existing facilities and resources.

"We want to take the expertise and facilities we already have and adapt it to meet the needs of any person with a disability," said John Helgeson, physical therapist for Douglas County Hospital in?Alexandria.

The program will serve people of all ages with disabilities that have mobility, physical limitations, and/or cognitive disabilities, which prevent them from accessing available fitness facilities independently.

It will also provide both land-based and aquatic exercise programs, along with wellness opportunities for the physical and emotional health status of participants.

Fitness For All will work directly with Gillette Children's Hospital Gillette's Lifetime Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Courage Center in Minneapolis, and Dr. Rimmer at the National Center for Physical Activity and Disabilities to obtain training, expertise, and guidance in developing this program.