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Brandon Rayburn is standing and holding a wheelchair above his head

Project Walk – The Claremont Club Claremont, Los Angeles

The story of how a near-fatal traffic accident is transforming a health club into a world-class facility for people living with a spinal chord injury. It is written by Ray Algar, founder of Gymtopia.

Mike Alpert’s early career was as a Californian stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers, but it was a move to Oregon that profoundly changed his life. He had been drawn to Oregon for the winter skiing, but soon after arriving decided with a close friend to create The Athletic Club of Bend, a new multi-use athletic, aquatic, tennis and social club. One programme they started was for children with severe physically disabilities called ‘US Able Oregon’ and Mike began twice-weekly warm water pool sessions with a 5-year-old boy living with severe spina bifida. Alpert was always struck by the joy these sessions brought to a boy who would never walk again and asked himself why the club was not doing more programmes like this. “I became somewhat obsessed with wanting to do more of these kinds of things. That 5-year-old boy changed my life and gave me meaning” Alpert says.

Alpert eventually returned to California where since 1997 he has been the president and CEO of The Claremont Club. Founded in 1973, the health club, fitness and wellness centre nestles in seven and a half hectares (19 acres) in the city of Claremont, around 52 kilometres east of downtown Los Angeles where it serves more than 10,000 members. The inclusive operating philosophy that Alpert embedded in his earlier Oregon club is evident here, which is why this year it was the recipient of IHRSA’s Outstanding Community Service Award. Each year, IHRSA selects one club making a difference in, and beyond, their community.


Coffee morning December 2015 at the Functional Zone

Fitness for the physically impaired Cork, Ireland

The functional zone @ LeisureWorld is a gym or area of a gym in our facility in Cork, Ireland with adapted equipment that allows individuals with a physical impairment to train optimally or engage in a sustainable exercise programme.

Users are people who have:

1. Experienced a single neurological event e.g. stroke, acquired brain injury, spinal cord injury etc resulting in physical impairment.

2. Living with a progressive chronic condition such as Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis etc.


Members of  the  Rathfarnham énergie staff team with Ella

Ella’s Wish To Walk Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The team at Rathfarnham énergie Fitness club in Nutgrove Retail Park, Dublin backed Ella’s Wish to Walk all the way and raised €2,000 ($2,215) by hosting a fun family fundraiser on Monday, June 6th 2016. A ticketed Swimming Gala & Pool Party was attended by over 200 locals organised by club manager Eoin Kaar and Ella’s mum Nicola. Three-year-old Ella Doyle was born with cerebral palsy. Ella walks with a walking frame but as time progresses she will need a wheelchair. She now has a life changing opportunity to have pioneering surgery known as selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) in the USA, which will help her to walk independently. Her family need to raise €150,000, which will fund the surgery and an intensive 2-year physiotherapy program. They have so far raised €30,000.


A group of men and women taking part in the Dancing Parkinson’s YYC programme taught by Decidedly Jazz Danceworks using a Dance Education model from the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Gymtopia.org

Dancing Parkinson’s YYC programme Calgary, Canada

Launched in 2013 as a pilot project, Dancing Parkinson’s YYC provides dance classes to people with Parkinson disease, their spouses, friends and care partners. It is based on the simple belief that ‘dancing is good for us’. With live musical accompaniment and a focus on rhythm and musicality, body awareness, muscle development, coordination and socializing, Dancing Parkinson’s YYC brings together the style of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks with a Dance Education model used at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  The program is dedicated to enhancing people’s quality of life through the arts.