Allies partnerships forge bonds and create new avenues of community support

At Allies, new partnerships help prop open windows of opportunity, allowing us to provide exciting and engaging experiences for our community. A recent partnership with All Abilities Fitness Center also lets in some fresh air and gets day program participants involved with physical fitness at their own pace.

Earlier this year, Allies entered into a partnership with the All Abilities Fitness Center. Based out of Reading, PA, the center endeavors to provide inclusive fitness to people with various intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In addition to physical fitness, the classes promote bonding among attendees.

“Inclusive fitness provides a supported way for those with disabilities to gain access to both physical movement and socialization,” Tara Simmons, COTA/L, MA, the founder and owner of All Abilities Fitness Center, said. “It is a way to bond with each other, to motivate, and to provide a sense of pride.”

All Abilities and Allies came together in May to provide inclusive fitness classes to participants throughout the state. Currently, Simmons and All Abilities Fitness travel to Wall and Salem Day programs every other week to provide classes. In addition, the crew travels to two group homes in Salem County weekly to offer individualized exercise programs for residents.

Partnerships of this type help Allies to better serve the community by providing space for individuals to grow and be engaged with each other.

“These types of programs are important for Allies’ programs and our community because they are personal to the needs of the individuals we serve,” James Daskalakis, the director of vocational services for the Shore Region, said. “The activities challenge everyone according to the type of support they require in the safe space of peer-to-peer interaction while increasing social development and interpersonal skills.”

A major benefit of the partnership is simply that it gets members of the Allies community engaged and moving their bodies.

“The positive effects of exercise are numerous, with both physical and mental health benefits,” Simmons said. “Research shows that those with disabilities are at more of a risk for secondary health issues and increased isolation. There is a lack of opportunity for this population to participate.”

That lack of opportunity for participation for many people with IDD, as Simmons mentions, makes partnerships, like the one with All Abilities, winners for all parties.

“The individuals at the day programs are excited and motivated, and we look forward to seeing each other,” Simmons said. “One of my favorite things to watch is the progress of those who would not normally participate. If we can get them to hop in, even for a few minutes, that is the best part of observing that confidence-building!”

Beyond the good of the visits themselves, the partnership with All Abilities has been productive and pleasant on all sides.

“In the last 6 months Allies relationship with Abilities has been wonderful,” Daskalakis said. “Tara is very communicative with her appointment dates and times along with what activities Tara would like to provide.”

He added, “Tara and her team quickly learned the specific support needs of every participant.”

“This partnership has been excellent, the entire team has been supportive, inviting, flexible, and encouraging,” Simmons said.