Sunday, May 19, 2024

Local therapist raising funds for adaptive gym

Highland Village resident Julie Brown admits she retired earlier than usual. But it wasn’t so that she could sit around and do nothing.

A board-certified clinical specialist in pediatric physical therapy who retired in June, Brown is channeling her newfound “time off” into her nonprofit, the Enabling Movement Foundation. Brown founded the 501(c)(3) in 2019 with the pie-in-the-sky goal of opening a local adaptive gym to help the disabled move, exercise, and improve their quality of life. She’s already secured the perfect spot for it, too.

In the meantime, she and the rest of the EMF team don’t see why they can’t start helping people now.

“We’ve got quite a huge mountain to climb, but we’ve made incredible strides from where we were even a year ago,” Brown said. “I retired early to follow this dream, and we want to start serving the disabled as quickly as possible.”

On April 13, the Enabling Movement Foundation will host its inaugural adaptive outdoor cycling event, Cruising Cyclers. This event is open to individuals of any age or physical impairment and offers a chance to feel the wind blow through your hair at fast speeds as you explore Flower Mound-area trails. EMF currently has two adaptive tandem trikes with a front seat for a non-disabled captain to assist. The disabled rider will have their seat and the freedom to participate and move to the best of their abilities.

The plan is to host Cruising Cyclers free of charge on the second and fourth Saturday of every month.

“I want our disabled friends to enjoy riding bicycles just like we do — at the same speeds we do and having the wind blow through their hair,” Brown said. “If they can pedal, great. If they can’t, they can still enjoy participating. That’s our goal — to get them to move. But we also want as many able-bodied people as possible to bring their bikes and join us.”

Brown said she believes Cruising Cyclers will be an instant success. Furthermore, the hope is that by consistently offering something like this every month, they can collect enough data about the disabled community they’re serving to satisfy the list of requirements for potential grants, eventually leading to the bigger goal of having an adaptive gym in Flower Mound.

The organization raised $17,000 through its charity golf tournament last year. On October 24, it will host another tournament at Indian Creek Golf Course in Carrollton. Proceeds will go toward the adaptive gym and more tandem trikes.

Movement is paramount to health and well-being. However, Brown said there are very few options available for disabled people in comparison to able-bodied exercise options. The proposed facility on Waketon Road next to Win Kids is slated to be approximately 8,000 square feet, with half of that space dedicated to the gym and the rest earmarked for lease. The gym will look and feel exactly like a regular gym, except it will rely on adaptive technology such as partial weight-bearing lifts via overhead tracking so users can move freely through their daily workouts.

Brown said she’s dreamed of opening an adaptive gym and overseeing other programs geared toward disabled people for as long as she can remember. Besides being a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother of five (with a sixth on the way), she’s been a pediatric physical therapist since 1999 and has committed herself to searching for new evidence supporting the advancement of children with disabilities. Her passion is to help children with disabilities realize their full potential and ultimately have the best quality of life possible. In starting her nonprofit, she created a four-person board with Joan Cain, Ruth Solow, and her husband of 38 years, Kerry. Combining their efforts, they’ve managed to inspire plenty of volunteers to aid them in their efforts.

“Every person will likely have a different impairment, but this gives them a chance to do more than what they might find at a regular gym or traditional adaptive gym,” Brown said. “We want to cater to any age and disability, and no one will be turned away. I’m just putting my complete faith in God. Every time I turn around, he’s providing when we need it the most. It’s crazy how things have worked out so far.”

To learn more about the Enabling Movement Foundation, including its Cruising Cyclers events, charity golf tournaments, and the future adaptive gym, please visit enablingmovement.com.

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