By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Harbor Fitness, a company that operates health clubs in Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, is opening its doors to a group of autistic children for a special workout on April 23.
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Harbor Fitness is holding a special fitness class for 12 children from The HeartShare School, a school for special needs kids in Bath Beach. The school is sponsored by HeartShare Human Services of New York, the non-profit social services agency based in downtown Brooklyn.
On the morning of April 23, trainers at Harbor Fitness in Bay Ridge at 9215 Fourth Ave. will provide students an opportunity to learn about the importance of fitness and to experience a workout first-hand.
The class is part of a month-long fundraising effort that Harbor Fitness holds each year for HeartShare schools. The events will culminate in the Seventh Annual Race for Autism in Bay Ridge on Sunday, April 27. The race starts and finishes at the Bay Ridge club and is followed by an outdoor Zumba class and party.
“Physical fitness is so important for all young people, especially for children with special needs. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, improve posture and balance, as well as promotes healthy self-esteem and builds confidence.” said Jodi Heywood, group fitness manager for Harbor Fitness.
Bill Guarinello, president and CEO of HeartShare Human Services, said the fitness class will be an important step in the development of the students.
“As the latest research indicates, one in 68 children living in the United States is diagnosed with autism. For children diagnosed with autism, learning physical fitness in a manner which is individualized to their abilities provides them with vital health skills and a sense of awareness that their communities share in the commitment to enhancing their well being,” Guarinello said. “HeartShare is sincerely thankful to Harbor Fitness for its ongoing and generous support, and for opening the door of its group fitness room to the children of the HeartShare School as a further demonstration of its true corporate social responsibility."
As part of its efforts to raise funds for HeartShare’s schools for special needs children, Harbor Fitness also conducts raffles in all four of its locations. In addition to Bay Ridge, Harbor Fitness has locations in Park Slope, Mill Basin and Marine Park.
The Bay Ridge, Park Slope and Mill Basin health clubs provide free child care. All four locations offer a variety of group fitness classes, including Zumba, spin, kickboxing and yoga.