Physiotherapist Hillary Acosta watches over paraplegic client Adam De Levie as he does arm curls at the newly opened MOVE Adapted Fitness and Rehabilitation Centre on Yates Street. Both are board members with the non-profit society that runs the gym

Non-profit society helps keep physically disabled moving

MOVE hosts open houses Nov. 15 and 16 to display custom gym equipment and services

Under the watchful eye of his physiotherapist, Hillary Acosta, Adam De Levie is demonstrating the equipment at a new specialized gym in downtown Victoria.

Confined to a wheelchair after being rendered paraplegic in a rugby accident in Vancouver back in 2008, De Levie hasn’t had much chance to nail down his workout routine in this space, yet bravely pumps iron for the camera.

He and Acosta are president and vice-president, respectively, of a non-profit formed in 2010 as Friends of PATH Spinal Cord Injury Society. The group’s new venture, MOVE Adapted Fitness and Rehabilitation Centre, is designed to provide people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, stroke or other mobility problems the opportunity to exercise regularly with the help of volunteers.

“Developing a routine when you have a disability can be tough,” De Levie said. “It’s like, ‘what am I going to do today?’ The idea here is to have an accepting place to go work out and have fun with like-minded people.”

Working with a physiotherapist is valuable, he said, but it can be expensive, especially for someone on a fixed disability pension.

Even Acosta, who also works next door at NeuroMotion Physiotherapy,  acknowledges that a person shouldn’t have to go to a physiotherapist just to exercise. But while other gyms and community centres do their best to accommodate physically disabled users, the biggest challenge is the lack of personal assistance, she said.

That’s where volunteers come in at MOVE. Kinesiologist Melissa Hadfield is manager of the facility and is in charge of training volunteers to assist gym users.

“We’ve had so much interest from volunteers, which is great since we’ll be reliant on them to work with people,” she said.

Many of the nearly 20 volunteers signed up so far are university students looking to expand their experience in the therapeutic field, she said.

The society appears to be off to a good start. The specialized equipment at MOVE was donated by another clinic that closed up and the lease of the space has been offered free for a year, Acosta said.

“Over time I’d like to see more equipment, as more fundraising is done,” she said. Another goal, she added, is to be able to provide subsidies for people who want to get more exercise but can’t afford the modest membership fee.

Following yesterday’s grand opening, MOVE is hosting open houses Nov. 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at #302-531 Yates St. Potential clients, family members and caregivers are invited to try out the equipment, meet some of the people involved and get a sense for the exercise environment.

For more information, visit moveadaptedfitness.ca or find them under the same name on Facebook.

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