The headline in the paper read:
“Opportunity House Playground Design First in Berks: Volunteers Help To Build a Facility To Accommodate Children With Disabilities.”
I was involved in this project through a youth service group called Berks Youth in Action. I helped to raise money for the playground and assisted in building the structure. It was the end result of hard work and it was amazing to see a project through from start to finish. The road traveled to get to this day started years ago, although I didn’t know it at the time.
I have been involved in sports since the third grade. Being active and staying fit has always been important to me. About six years ago, I started doing Corps Fitness, a cross fit, military style, form of exercise. The class is run by Chris Kaag, a disabled United States Marine. Chris was an able bodied person until his twenties when he developed a degenerative nerve disorder that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
What makes this class unique is the fact that it is led by someone in a wheelchair. The workouts are extremely hard, physically and mentally. My body is constantly being put to the test. Being the competitive person that I am, I look forward to the challenge that every class brings. What got me through most of the workouts was sheer motivation from Chris.
The Marine Corps banner hangs in the gym at Corps Fitness with the words “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” Staring at that banner during class has made me incorporate those three simple words into everything that I do. For three years in high school, I was involved in Berks Youth in Action. I was a senior leader and one of the project managers. The group’s philosophy was kids helping kids. I was one of the project leaders who raised funds to build an adaptive playground in the city for handicapped children. The playground project was done in collaboration with my friend Chris Kaag and his IM ABLE Foundation.
We were asked to raise $35,000, which was a lofty goal and by far the biggest project we had undertaken. Through car washes and other fundraising, we were able to raise a portion of the necessary monies. The bulk of the donations, however, came from local corporations. As a senior leader I set up meetings with executives, presented the project, and hoped they would offer some financial support. This was a difficult task for me due to a small fear of public speaking. I knew I had to do everything possible to help out Chris Kaag, who has inspired me by what he has had to overcome in his life.
Fortunately, I was able to overcome my trepidations and our goals were reached.
I’ll never forget the day we built the playground. Disabled children would now have the chance to have some of the same fun as able bodied youngsters, and I am proud that I contributed to the final result. I think of how the simple mantra of “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome,” inspired me to go to the next level. It helped me get through physically demanding workouts and conquer a fear of public speaking.
Its funny how my love of fitness and one of my fears collided to have a lasting impact on me, Chris Kaag, and all those boys and girls who are now able to Get Up and Move, no excuses!