Tuesday, January 23, 2018
It’s the season of giving. Since childhood, we’re taught that true gifts in life cannot be bought. Throughout life, it’s often little acts of generosity that are the most memorable presents we receive. One member experienced the joy of giving early this season. She donated training sessions. Member Meredith Baran, the recipient, has gained long-term benefits …

Gifts from the Heart

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Meredith suffered irreparable damage in a 1995 automobile accident, just prior to graduating from high school and proceeding with a college scholarship. After 10 months in a coma, doctors advised her parents to “move on.” However, her parents remained steadfast. Their long days consisted of work, hospital visits, and sleep. During the weekends, they paid an ambulance service to transport their daughter to the comfort of home. They kept hope in their hearts and Meredith did not fail to fulfill it.

Fourteen years later, Meredith is now 32 years old and very much alive. She has damage to her brain stem, rendering her unable to verbally communicate and her entire left side unable to function properly. “Luckily we have a membership [to the Center],” claims mom Karen. This gives her access to equipment and professional assistance that accommodates her special needs. “People don’t realize what a hardship being in a wheelchair can be. The Center provides an outlet for the activity her body requires and the social interaction she craves,” Karen states.

“Meredith loves being the focus of attention. At the Center, she is exactly that,” shares her home caretaker Ellen Parvaz. “She gets a lot of smiles, encouragement, and positive feedback throughout the entire three hours she’s there,” adds Ellen, who is also Meredith’s unofficial fitness coach. “We met personal trainer Jim through the donated sessions. He’s been fantastic.”

Jim, Meredith, and Ellen. Three musketeers on the Exercise Floor.
Jim, Meredith, and Ellen. Three musketeers on the Exercise Floor.

In addition to the continuous assistance Meredith receives from others on the Exercise Floor, Jim provided necessary one-on-one help for her. He enjoys the challenging aspect of working with members who have special needs. “Meredith is a really hard worker. She is tenacious and has a great attitude,” Jim remarks. Personal training is ideal for someone like Meredith who thrives on motivation and continuously needs new strategies to become more functional.

“I’ll often observe Meredith on the Exercise Floor to determine the best method of exercise for her. This allows me to tweak her workout so she can accomplish the most from each routine,” says Jim. He monitors her movements to establish exercises that can specifically recruit or “wake up” muscles that are weak.

Since Meredith’s case is unique, Ellen and Jim decided to spread out the training sessions over time to deliver the best outcome. “Meredith’s progress is slow. Rather than overwhelm her with too much information, we progress a little at a time,” indicates Jim. This gives her the opportunity to learn what she’s been taught and work on it at her own speed. It also allows Jim more time to observe and consider new approaches and techniques.

The donor requested the sessions be given to someone in just such a situation. She was happy to anonymously contribute to another member’s well-being. It has truly been a gift that keeps giving. Not only was Meredith afforded instruction from a specialized trainer, she connected with a new support person who continues to deliver guidance and motivation. The customized exercise programs established over their brief working relationship are specific to Meredith’s current capabilities and adjustable as she improves.

Jim helped Meredith prepare for a Group Fitness Body Mechanics class. Ellen appreciates Jim’s continued advice and support, beyond Meredith’s private training sessions. “All the trainers provide guidance. We keep her routine fresh by changing it frequently. She’s accomplished so much in the past several months since her experience with personal training,” indicates Ellen. The training sessions have been the catalyst for her progression, giving her the guidance and motivation needed. It’s also had a wonderful impact on Jim. “Working with Meredith is a lot of fun. She keeps it light, and is an inspiration to all,” he attests.

Vested in Meredith’s well-being, Jim oversees her workouts beyond their training sessions.
Vested in Meredith’s well-being, Jim oversees her workouts beyond their training sessions.

According to Jim and Ellen, Meredith has definitely improved through her time at the Center, specifically from personal training. She has more strength in her leg, is sitting up taller, and holding up her head better. Other members and staff also notice how far Meredith has progressed. “Countless times members approach Meredith to inform her that she is their inspiration. They tell her she is their motivation, the one who gets them to the Center on those lazy days we all have. Her determination pushes others to go farther,” Ellen insists. Watching Meredith do something like lift her leg is amazing. It doesn’t go unnoticed by anyone.

As a child who was always active in sports, dance, jobs, and with friends, the Center provides Meredith a chance to gain back some of that involvement. “Here, she feels like everyone else, and is treated that way,” says Ellen. The Center opens doors to new possibilities in a world severely restricted by limitations.  Ellen concludes, “It’s fantastic to see Meredith ‘want to do’ and take initiative to go farther. She enjoys it. Being at the Center is definitely a highlight of her days.”

Meredith and her loved ones remain touched by another’s generosity. This holiday season, remember that gifts come in all forms, the most meaningful of which are given from the heart.

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