Lighting the Way to Fitness Dreams

By Ryan Lucas, USABA Contributor

For many Americans, weight loss goals are like distant flickers of light, appearing and vanishing as fast as shooting stars.

Through the Anthem/United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) National Fitness Challenge, participants can see up close at all times what, for countless others, would be rare glimmers of hope.
Charles and Jan Karrick are proof that weight loss dreams are attainable, not some fleeting cosmic phenomena. The Fort Wayne, Ind., husband and wife have, over a year and a half of an ordered approach to exercise, shed more than a combined 130 pounds.

“It’s something that we would’ve never even considered really until recently,” Jan Karrick said. “We’ve really enjoyed getting out and walking and getting our Fitbits so we can see what we’re doing, see how we’re progressing day to day.

“It’s probably a little more of a physical challenge for me than it is for Chuck, but we’re really enjoying it. It’s nice being able to be physically active.”

The Karricks joined the National Fitness Challenge, which seeks to provide youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired with the means to increase their physical activity and enhance their lives, for the program’s 2017 iteration. Although the Karricks are not visually impaired, they are members of the Fort Wayne organization Turnstone, one of USABA’s partner agencies.

“We’re there under the veteran’s program at Turnstone,” Charles Karrick, who served in the U.S. Navy, as did his wife, said. “Lexi (Olinske, a fitness specialist) at Turnstone invited us to come on this journey with the Fitbits and USABA. Twice a week, we’re going to different parks with Turnstone to walk and train.”

The Anthem/USABA Challenge gives each participant a Fitbit Flex 2, integrating technology and social media in an individual’s fitness regimen. As they walk around the track several days per week and do other exercises at the Turnstone facility, compiling steps on their Fitbits, the Karricks achieve their goals at a sensible, personalized pace.

“The program’s helped me, especially during the wintertime, keep my weight off,” Charles Karrick said. “All I’d do in the winter in the past was just sit in a chair and relax—I retired three years ago—and all I was doing was gaining weight. I started a weight loss program, and this winter we decided to join Turnstone to walk and work out.

“It’s been really enjoyable. I never thought I’d say I like working out, but I enjoy it.”

“I’ve had to have numerous joints replaced, and it was to the point where I just couldn’t walk last summer,” Jan Karrick said. “I had my knee replaced last September, and it’s just been uphill ever since.
“This program just helps me take a realistic approach to fitness.”

The Karricks have also now completed several 5Ks in their area, and they are slated to do one more each month through September. In addition, they will take on a 10K this summer while they vacation in Maine.

These accomplishments and goals are driving the Karricks to do as much as possible—within reason and physical limitations.

“I’ve struggled my entire life with being overweight and have done Weight Watchers off and on for years,” Jan Karrick, who has had replacements in her shoulders, hip and knee, said. “We joined this program together and have lost this weight together, and it’s been so beneficial for me because of the joint replacements I’ve had.

“A lot of that is because I carried so much extra weight for so many years. The arthritis just decided that it liked my body.”

“Yeah, I just finished mowing a lawn, and I’ve got probably 22,000 steps in for today,” Charles Karrick added. “Last month through our weight loss program, we had a challenge with everyone in our group to do a minimum of 10,000 steps a day for the whole month of May, and I had something like over 400,000 steps for that.”

Their participation in Turnstone’s group endeavors stirs the Karricks to encourage their workout peers and appreciate everyone’s efforts.

“I think because of our weight loss goals and where we’re at right now, we try to be supportive role models for anybody to get up and do something active,” Jan Karrick, who before retirement worked in corporate design after serving three years of active duty, said. “I think we probably get more from seeing the accomplishments and struggles of others at Turnstone than we could ever give to them.”

“I don’t like going to the other workout places because there’s so much competition and me-me-me,” Charles Karrick, who worked as a locomotive engineer, also doing four years of active duty and 19 years in the U.S. Naval Reserve, said. “This is just a laid-back area where you go in and do your own thing.”

As they look ahead, the Karricks plan on maintaining their energy and will to succeed. The National Fitness Challenge is always accessible, provides manageable goals and lights their way to fitness sustainability, not flashing and burning out in the darkness of faded weight loss dreams.

“I didn’t even like doing PT when I was in the reserves,” Charles Karrick said. “But this program’s really helped me; being 64 years old, I think I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been besides boot camp.
“It’s so easy to say, ‘I don’t want to do it today.’ This program keeps us motivated.”


Teenage NFC Participant Influences Her Family to Step Toward Better Fitness

By: USABA Contributor

Growing up blind, some physical and developmental milestones for Paige Conley were delayed: Walking, for example. Paige didn’t walk until she was nearly 4 years old, her mother said.

“Paige was on her own time schedule,” Dawn Conley said. “(Even now), she does things when she’s ready.”

It was the same situation with Club VIBES. When Paige’s family first moved to the Knoxville, Tennessee area from Georgia, Paige, a third-grader at the time, didn’t show much interest in meeting new people or putting herself out there.

But Paige’s vision teacher told the family about Club VIBES -- a nonprofit organization that provides free mentoring services for visually impaired or blind youth, and their parents and guardians -- and Dawn was intrigued. Still, she didn’t push the issue with Paige.

But then a light seemed to switch on, seemingly overnight. In January, Paige was interested.

“I assumed when she was ready, she’d say so,” Dawn said. “And she did.”

Perhaps that’s one of the many things universal about kids everywhere. They do things on their own timeframe -- when they are truly ready.

And for someone who didn’t walk until she was nearly 4 years old, Paige has been hitting the pavement especially lately, as part of the National Fitness Challenge with Club VIBES. The 13-year-old loves wearing a Fitbit and logging her steps.

“It vibrates!” said Paige of the wearable technology.

To rewind for a moment, Paige was given the Fitbit as part of the National Fitness Challenge, which was established in 2011, and has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people who are blind and visually impaired across the U.S.

The overall goal of the Challenge remains the same every year: to raise the physical activity level of each participant, with the goal of engaging in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 10,000 steps a day.

And that’s exactly what the Challenge has done for Paige -- it’s raised her activity level. But it’s also so much more than just that: the Challenge has given way to a lifestyle change for the entire Conley family.

“Do you have a Fitbit too?” we asked Paige’s mom.

“Well, yes,” Dawn said. “I have to keep up with Paige! It’s changed our entire family dynamic.”

Sometimes, Paige and Dawn go on walks with Club VIBES. Other times, the Conleys will stroll as a family. Paige has an 18-year-old brother in high school. Although he works full-time on top of his classwork, his Saturday mornings are free, Dawn said.

“So he walks with us,” she said. “We haul Dad along too, when he’s home.”

Paige is the youngest member currently involved with Club VIBES. But another girl, a freshman in high school, is similar in age to Paige, so it’s nice to have a friend to walk with, as well.

Here’s how the Fitness Challenge works, in relation to the club: Anthem Foundation awarded the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes grant funding, as it has for the fifth year in a row -- and USABA partnered with 13 agencies across the nation -- Club VIBES included -- to recruit participants and provide resources, along with physical activity opportunities, so that participants could reach their daily goals.

The technology plays a key role in motivating and tracking success. The funding from Anthem Foundation provided a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable device to each participant. The Fitbit acts as an accessible way for people to monitor their progress. It also introduces a level of interaction with other participants, as the 13 groups are competing with their fellow team members on active minutes and number of steps each month.

About 25 people are participating in the Challenge with Club VIBES.

As for Paige, she spoke enthusiastically about her Fitbit, saying she liked how it vibrated, signaling she had reached her daily step-goal. And when she realizes she might come up short on a particular day? She hops on the family treadmill.

“But I don’t like the hill feature!” she said with a laugh.

Paige’s voice got excited as she talked about a cruise she and her family were about to embark on, all the way to Mexico. She’s been on a cruise before, so she had an idea of what to expect.

When asked about walking and wearing the Fitbit while on vacation, Paige didn’t miss a beat or hesitate at all.

In fact, her voice was bursting with excitement.

“I’m going to walk on the track, if the boat has one,” Paige said. “And I’ll go to all the different shops.”

The cruise won’t stop her from getting her steps in, Paige said.

Sue Buckley, the president of the board for Club VIBES and a co-founder, along with her husband, called Paige “very dedicated” to the Challenge, and that dedication certainly shows.

Dawn agreed with that assessment of her daughter, adding that this has been a very motivating experience for Paige.

“(It all started because) Paige is a people-pleaser,” Dawn said. “She wants to make other people happy. I’ve been trying to get her healthier -- trying to find ways to get her more active, like in the pool in the summer. But in the winter, there’s not as much to do. We started walking on our own, occasionally.”

And then Buckley brought up the idea of the Challenge. This marks Club VIBES’ first year as a participating organization.

“This challenges our young people, but it also teaches them about the technology, as well as skills like responsibility and organization,” Buckley said. “Those are skills we’re working on anyway -- living skills.”

Buckley asked if Paige would like to join the Challenge, and it was as simple as that.

“Paige agreed,” Dawn said. “That’s Paige.”

So we asked Buckley: Why the interest in Paige’s involvement?

“She’s the youngest in our Challenge, which is admirable. She’s been blind her whole life,” Buckley said. “I wanted to challenge her to be responsible for the Fitbit and setting her goals. She doesn’t understand (all the health aspects involved). The Challenge motivated the whole family. The walking was first and nutrition and diet came next.”

Buckley, who has a background in physical education, said that not only is Paige getting her steps in, but she’s overcoming some issues with her gait. She’s struggled when it comes to walking with her heels together, but now, she’s losing weight and strengthening her legs in the process, Buckley said.

Speaking with the Conleys in mid-April, Dawn said Paige had indeed shed some pounds: 10 pounds, at last check, and 4 inches off her waist.

“And she’s 13, so her body’s changing right now on top of everything else,” Dawn said.

As for the nutrition, which Buckley referred to, Dawn said she had been cooking healthier lately anyway, seeing as Paige’s dad has diabetes.

Paige said she’s feeling great and eating healthier, even adding that the family tried low-carb pizza for dinner last week.

Paige seemed confident she will continue all the walking, well after the Challenge has ended. Her mom agreed, saying it’s been transformational in all kinds of ways -- and it’s strengthened their mother-daughter bond, as well.

“Paige is getting older, so being able to spend time together one on one, outside of homework, or our school routine, or everyday stuff -- and getting out to walk with her and talk with her has been really good,” Dawn said. “I really get a chance to listen to her. She’s growing up so fast.”

 


NFC Participant: Just Keep Moving

By: Ryan Lucas, USABA Contributor

Some athletic trainers just blow smoke from the fizzling embers of clients’ motivation. But Avery Neal believes a simple, customized approach stokes the fire of a person’s fitness enthusiasm.

“Anything you can do to move is great,” Neal, a 24-year-old aspiring athletic trainer and Indianapolis resident who was born legally blind, said. “If you’re just sitting around all day, not really getting up and moving, you can’t really be fit.

“Even if you’re at home, there are all these dance and workout DVDs and home programs out there to help. Get up and dance; just do something. Whatever you like to do, that’s all it takes.”

Neal understands fitness better than many people. The former Marian University scholarship athlete in track and field—he graduated in 2016 with a degree in exercise science, having qualified twice for the NCAA championships in the long jump, also competing in the 100-meter dash and the 200—works part time as an athletic trainer for Planet Fitness in addition to his full-time work as a UPS package handler.

Although he’s an atypical participant in the Anthem/USABA National Fitness Challenge—a program that allows the United States Association of Blind Athletes to partner with agencies across the nation, empowering youth and adults with visual impairments to improve their fitness levels—Neal prides himself on spreading his lifelong love of exercise to others.

“America’s like one of the fattest countries in the world,” he said with a laugh. “Statistically, we’re becoming a bunch of fat people. That’s a real thing, no matter how good—or even if—you can see.

“Plus, I just like to help people. So many people want to be physically fit and don’t have the means to do it, and sometimes you just need somebody to help you get there. I like doing that, and I like the result, watching people get in shape.”

Neal almost lost the opportunity to pursue that dream: to help mold people’s bodies and attitudes through the benefits of fitness. With the intensity and volatility of a massive storm, a major health issue—he had a stroke—rolled in on him, damaging his world.

“Last August, I went to the hospital for a headache,” he said in early May in a separate interview with USABA. “I went to an urgent care first. I worked for UPS for one day—it was my orientation day; I was sitting there, and my head hurt so much. I felt like I was going to pass out, so I went home and called my mom. She had my sister take me to the urgent care.

“They told me I had meningitis and gave me a shot for pain. We went to the hospital afterwards anyway. They gave me a CAT scan at the hospital and found that I had a brain injury and told me I needed surgery immediately.”

While the long recovery process kept him down, Neal vowed to surge back to full strength—and beyond.

“I was in the hospital for a month and a half,” he told USABA earlier this month. “So I was restless. I didn’t want to be laying around all the time. I decided to really dig in and push myself. I got back into goalball (a sport designed specifically for athletes with visual impairments), too.

“I’m not supposed to be doing any of this. I’m not supposed to be alive. The doctors still don’t know what caused the stroke. They keep telling me, ‘You’re too young to have had this happen.’”

Neal’s familiarity with everyday physical challenges guided him in his return to well-being. While competing as a student-athlete with a visual impairment among fully-sighted peers, for example, he always strove to meet the demands in stride.

“Sometimes I needed to watch the exercises a little longer to get them down,” Neal said of his experiences as a college athlete. “Sometimes it would take people once or twice. It would take me a few extra times to get it, just because I really needed to see what I needed to do; I didn’t want to mess myself up.

“I just put in the work like everybody else. It wasn’t like I had to be super adamant with everything compared to everyone else. Other than the fact that it maybe took me that one extra step to get it down, I didn’t have to work too much harder than everybody else.”

In his efforts as a fitness trainer, Neal is finding that he must push himself more than his colleagues.

“I probably have to take a lot more time than other trainers—not with the client but at home, figuring out what to do with them and getting all that stuff squared away,” he said. “I have to pay a little more attention to it because I’m visually impaired.”

Still, Neal is excited about the prospect of turning his athletic training work into a full-time career. In turn, he can tout the advantages of programs like the National Fitness Challenge—which provides Fitbit Flex 2s to participants, who can track each other in competitive groups—to strike inspiration’s flint in others and help them build it up to a blaze.

“People like competition,” Neal, who may run a 5K in July with other National Fitness Challenge participants from Indianapolis, said. “If you and your friends are in a group together, and you all have Fitbits, you can say, ‘I have more steps than you.’ You can challenge yourself and others.”


NFC Participant Highlight: Former Relay Runner Finds Motivation to Get Moving Again

By: USABA Contributor

When Emma Robinson started dialysis, ahead of a hopeful kidney transplant, her doctor recommended she lose about 20 pounds.

Robinson was up to the task, to say the least. In an effort to ditch the weight and lead a healthier lifestyle overall, Robinson strapped on a Fitbit and started counting her steps. She was given the device by the Memphis chapter of the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes (TNABA-Memphis), in conjunction with the National Fitness Challenge.

Established in 2011, the National Fitness Challenge has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people who are blind and visually impaired across the U.S. The overall goal remains the same every year: to raise the physical activity level of each participant, with the goal of engaging in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 10,000 steps a day.

And that’s exactly what the Fitness Challenge has done for Robinson, who is visually impaired -- it’s raised her activity level. But the Fitbit has transformed the experience into more than just another gym routine: this is fun, Robinson said.

Here’s how the Fitness Challenge and the partnerships work: Anthem Foundation awarded the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) grant funding for the National Fitness Challenge, as it has for the fifth year in a row -- and USABA partnered with 13 agencies across the nation to recruit participants and provide resources, along with physical activity opportunities, so that participants can reach their daily goals.

Technology plays a key role in motivating and tracking success. The funding from Anthem Foundation provided a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable device to each participant. The technology provides an accessible way for people to set goals and monitor their progress. It also introduces a level of interaction with other participants, as the 13 agencies are competing with their participants on active minutes and number of steps each month.

Robinson is a very motivated participant, to say the least. The 52-year-old is in the thick of the Fitness Challenge. She’s been an active member of TNABA-Memphis ever since the chapter formed about four years ago, she said.

Robinson learned about the organization through a school for the blind she was attending at the time.

Just the acts of joining TNABA-Memphis and staying active with the group have been life-changing for her.

“A lot of us, we didn’t do a whole lot before,” Robinson said. “(But now as a group), we do bowling, goalball, archery, beep baseball (and we have a) game night once a month.”

When she was given the opportunity to participate in the Fitness Challenge, she didn’t hesitate.

“And I’ve lost more than 15 pounds ever since I got the Fitbit,” Robinson said.

The possibility of receiving a new kidney is the spark behind much of Robinson’s motivation. She admitted it's her driving force.

“I’ll walk 30, 45 or 60 minutes a day,” she said. “Everyone knows I’m trying to get this kidney. The challenge keeps me healthy, walking and doing something.”

When asked if she had been leading the healthier lifestyle as a direct result of the Fitness Challenge, Robinson said absolutely. She described the experience as life-altering.

She typically walks with friends to get her steps in. One friend will walk five miles with her on the weekends, “and that really motivates me,” Robinson said.

The Fitbit is synced with Robinson’s iPhone, which tells her when she’s reached her daily goal. It’ll also tell her if another Fitbit user has “challenged” her.

“It says (something like, so-and-so) is 20 steps ahead!” Robinson said.

And that makes her want to keep pounding the pavement.

Robinson’s competitive spirit goes back to her youth. When she was in junior high and high school, she ran on the track team. Without missing a beat, she recalled her best events: she ran the third leg of the 4 x 400 relay and in the 100-yard dash.

Robinson lost her eyesight in 1989 due to a condition that deteriorated her optic nerve.

Although the adjustment didn’t happen overnight, Robinson said she’s OK with it now. And she really enjoys this return to a healthier lifestyle.

Robinson and her friends do a “weekend warrior”-type challenge amongst themselves where they compete to see who can log the most steps over the weekends. At the time of our conversation, she was preparing to walk in a late April 5K with TNABA. Her calendar sounded pretty booked, as she even had a group walk scheduled for the next day.

Robinson said the group would get at least two miles in, at minimum.

“(My friends and I) can all be together, and it makes each one of us more healthy,” she said.

Robinson started dialysis for her possible kidney transplant in March 2015. But even if she doesn’t get the kidney, she said she’s planning to stick with the walking.

“It makes me get up, get around and exercise,” Robinson said. “I like everything about (the Fitbit). It tracks my calories, how much water I drink, my weight and my sleeping. Everybody should have one.”

The National Fitness Challenge is just the beginning for Robinson.

It might not be the third leg of a 4 x 400 relay, “but this is really the best thing, compared to just going to the gym.”

It’s estimated that the 11 million Americans who are blind and visually impaired do not participate in any physical activity. The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, in partnership with state organizations such as TNABA-Memphis, aims to change that through this partnership with Anthem Foundation.
 


NFC Participant Feature: Adams is Rising

By: Ryan Lucas, USABA Contributor

Like gravitational pull, the urge to give up brings a person down.

Pipi Adams now defies the nagging tug of that force, using fitness ownership and self-will to keep rising, relying on outside energy—WE Fit Wellness staff and the Anthem/USABA National Fitness Challenge, in particular—to boost her upward trajectory.

The lesson came with a little sweat and a bit of lung pain. On March 18, at the Lucky Laces 5K/10K in Denver, she removed the added weight of rank and standings and just kept ascending—all the way to the finish line.

“That race, I learned that it was my race,” Adams, a 36-year-old Denver resident with a visual impairment, said. “Whether we were walking or jogging, we were talking, and I kept saying I wanted to see how everyone else was doing, if they’d finished yet. I had this idea in my head that I was going to come in last, and I was really worried about that.

“She (guide runner Jennifer Johnson) was like, ‘This is YOUR race. You’re not here to race against these people. You’re here for YOU.’ That was something I really took to heart.”

In the past, including with the first two iterations of the National Fitness Challenge—a program that allows USABA to partner with agencies across the nation, empowering youth and adults with visual impairments to improve their fitness levels—Adams said she might have stopped, finding contentment without finishing the race. But with that reinforcement from her guide runner, she kept moving.

“She really encouraged me to keep going,” Adams said of Johnson. “I was almost overheated because I didn’t know what to wear; I was in pants and a long-sleeved shirt because it was cold that morning. But she said, ‘Even if you walk it, we’re going to finish it,’ and that was really encouraging.

“When I did finish, I felt amazing. I was like, ‘I just did my first 10K!’

Adams added a 5K finish on April 23 at the Cherry Creek Sneak in Denver. While a cold dampened her drive to complete the 10K, she continued the approach of individual-centered progress she had set in March.

Rather than dwell on her position among the other competitors with visual impairments that day, she focused within, pushing herself with the thought that she belonged to a team. That motivational tactic helped Adams cut 30 seconds of her per-mile pace.

“It wasn’t a comparison; it was more like, ‘I hope the others are enjoying their race and doing well,’ that kind of thing,” she said of wondering about the other WE Fit Wellness runners. “It was more camaraderie.”

That solidarity also stems from the Fitbit Flex 2, which the National Fitness Challenge provides to every participant and its many interactive functions. Adams synchs her Fitbit with other WE Fit Wellness members’ to gauge her progress. Jessica Beecham—the program director at WE Fit Wellness, a Denver nonprofit organization that seeks to provide wellness solutions for all members—is Adams’ biggest source of encouragement.

“I do really well with that,” Adams said. “Having the access helps keep you motivated. Jessica’s my friend on there, so I can see how she’s been doing for the week.

“It just helps to keep me motivated because she runs, I don’t know, four million miles a week.”

Adams, who owns her own nanny business and serves as secretary of the National Federation of the Blind’s Mile High chapter, receives inspiration from another important source. Her 8-year-old daughter, Savannah, is a guide-runner-in-training, having completed the Lucky Laces and Cherry Creek Sneak with her mother.

“You might say my fitness is for me first, but a lot of it is because I want to be around in the future for her,” Adams said. “I want to be in my daughter’s life for a very long time. Before I really started working out, I knew that if I didn’t change my ways, I wouldn’t be here in the future.”

By the year’s end, Adams would like to have Savannah at her side as her sole guide runner—although her daughter may need some training, too.

“She really enjoys it until about the last mile, and then she complains,” Adams said, laughing. “She also goes out there in shoes not appropriate for running, so it’s funny.

“She’s been really good, though, until about the last mile. She’s enjoyed herself and enjoyed being there with me; she’s just gotten tired.”

In-race fatigue aside, Adams strives to teach Savannah the magnitude of fitness as a lifelong benefit.

“Obesity runs in my family, and I want it to be her lifestyle as a child, to be active and healthy,” Adams said. “I don’t want her to struggle the way I did because I didn’t have that as a child. I always ate processed, crappy food, and exercise was never a priority. I really want to instill that in her at a young age, the idea that taking care of your body is really important because it’s really hard at 36 to do it now.”

To accentuate that point, Adams is also preparing to take on another major life challenge. This summer, in addition to the work for her business and the once-a-week class she teaches at the Colorado Center for the Blind, she will return to school, pursuing a holistic nutrition degree and chef certification at the National Therapy Institute in Denver.

As she seeks to achieve other goals for 2017—completing a full 5K without walking, working out in 45-minute increments six days per week—Adams hopes to help kindle the blazing light of inspiration in others.

“The first step is to just move—get out there and move,” she said. “When you’re just beginning, you don’t have to go out there and run a 5K; you can go walk five minutes as a start. You can work at your level and just move, just get going.”

And no matter what, Adams will continue to believe in the driving power of self-ownership in fitness.

“There are people out there who are much better than I am, so it’s a work in progress,” Adams, who also does yoga and is taking a taekwondo class, said. “But I just keep reminding myself that this is MY yoga practice or MY yoga class, this is MY taekwondo practice.”


Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired partners with United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) on National Fitness Challenge: Kick-off Event

By: Kristine Seljenes, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired - Austin, TX

On March 1st, 2017 in Austin, Texas, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) joined forces with the Girls School of Austin for the third annual 1K Dynamic Duo Dash event. This 1K paired students that are blind or visually impaired with a guide from The Girls’ School of Austin to complete the run/walk. This all-inclusive race was for athletes of all fitness levels and included over 200 participants.

The event took place on the TSBVI campus, starting at the main gym and encompassing the entire campus. Teachers and volunteers coordinated the event as family members cheered on runners, joggers, and walkers from the sidelines. TSBVI Superintendent Bill Daugherty, TSBVI Principal Miles Fain, and GSA Principal Lisa Schmitt were in attendance to start the race heats. Sponsors provided funds for each participating student to receive a Dynamic Duo Dash t-shirt and a race medal.

The event was also the kick-off event for the official national partnership with United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and Amerigroup Foundation on the 2017 National Fitness Challenge. In this partnership, 25 TSBVI students were given Fitbit Flex 2 wearables to be able to track their daily steps. This partnership is designed to encourage and increase physical activity levels of participants and the 1K event was the perfect setting for the kickoff event. This is TSBVI’s 2nd year to participate in the USABA National Fitness Challenge.

Students wearing the Fitbits were excited to be able to track their steps in the Duo Dash and amazed at the steps they were able to accrue collectively (over 33,000 steps in just that race alone!). Local members of the Amerigroup Foundation volunteered at the event, handing out waters mid-race and at the finish line for thirsty participants. Everyone involved enjoyed a day of high fitness levels, gorgeous weather, and beautiful partnerships designed to have a lasting impact on everyone involved. The 3rd annual guided run was a huge success.


Anthem Foundation and USABA Partner to Inspire Fitness

March 9, 2017

Anthem Foundation has once again graciously awarded the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) grant funding for the National Fitness Challenge. This will be the fifth iteration of the USABA-Anthem National Fitness Challenge.

“The Anthem Foundation continues to empower and inspire youth and adults across the nation who are blind and visually impaired by supporting the National Fitness Challenge,” said USABA’s Executive Director, Mark Lucas. “We are honored and excited to once again partner with the Anthem Foundation to cultivate a healthier community.”

Established in 2011, the National Fitness Challenge has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people who are blind and visually impaired across the U.S. The overall goal remains the same every year, to raise the physical activity levels of each participant to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 10,000 steps per day.

Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the numerous barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, more than half of those who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine.

As it has in previous years’ National Fitness Challenge programs, technology will play a key role in motivating and tracking success. Grant funding from Anthem Foundation will provide a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable to each participant. The wearable technology provides an accessible way for National Fitness Challenge participants to set goals and monitor their progress. It also introduces a level of social interaction with other participants as the 13 agencies will be competing with their fellow participants on active minutes and number of steps each month. Top participants at each agency will be awarded prizes to further encourage healthy habits.

USABA will partner with 13 agencies across the nation to recruit participants and provide resources and sports and physical activity opportunities to reach their daily goals. To support participants in each city, partnering agencies will offer programming in activities like walking, tandem cycling, rowing, yoga and goalball, a Paralympic team sport for blind and visually impaired athletes. Some agencies will also be leading participants through a couch to 5k program for participation in a local 5k race during the challenge. During the 9-month program, USABA will also work with agencies to coordinate a USABA Paralympic Day in which members of the local communities will be invited to participate in sport programming specifically for people who are blind and visually impaired. Throughout the program, Anthem employees from local offices will have opportunities to engage with partnering agencies and participants by volunteering at various events and or planned programs.

As the year progresses, check usaba.org and social media (#NFChallenge2017) for agency highlights and individual success stories!

USABA is partnering with the following agencies on the 2017 National Fitness Challenge:

• Atlanta – Georgia Blind Sports Association
• Austin – Texas School for the Blind
• Cincinnati – Cincinnati Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired
• Cleveland –Cleveland Sight Center
• Denver – WE Fit Wellness
• Fort Wayne – Turnstone Center
• Indianapolis – USABA Indianapolis
• Knoxville – Club Vibes
• Los Angeles – Junior Blind of America
• Memphis – Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes-Memphis
• Sacramento – Sacramento Society for the Blind
• San Francisco – Lighthouse for the Blind
• St. Louis – National Federation for the Blind-Missouri