PITTSFIELD -- First came the offer from a Zumba instructor to offer a free extended class. And then, the goodwill spread like a wildfire across campus leading to Berkshire Community College's Wellness Fair on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at BCC's Paterson Field House.

Students, BCC departments, and private businesses rallied around the fair, with proceeds going to the nonprofit organization Empower Spinal Cord Injury, which organizes a summer program geared for people with spinal cord injuries.

Community members are invited to a series of 30-minute fitness classes taught by certified trainers that will include Zumba, spinning, yoga, a total body burn workout, meditation and other fitness classes. Each class is $4.

"It's really about health and wellness and helping a bigger cause," said BCC student Sara Gifford, a Zumba instructor who promptly offered her services for the event.

There will also be educational booths from BCC's health departments and a raffle, which will include tickets to Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort and a framed photo of Fenway Park.

The effort was spearheaded by students in BCC's Physical Therapist Assistant program, which includes Gifford, who championed the cause not for school credit, but because she understood that there are people with needs who don't always get the help.

Brittany Delgrande, a student in the program, told others in the program about the newly founded nonprofit Empower Spinal Cord Injury, which will be holding kayaking, cycling, and other recreational and therapeutic activities for individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries this summer.

Gifford offered to provide Zumba classes and she also brought in family members who work as certified yoga instructors.

Then, others piled on. The students reached out to other BCC departments and private businesses until a full-blown Wellness Fair was a reality.

"It's a big difference between the rehabilitation needed [for spinal cord injuries] and what rehabilitation they can get [with health care]," Delgrande said.

Physical Therapist Assistant program adviser Michele Darroch said in years past she has had many clubs host fundraisers, but the funds usually go to funding the licensing fees for their classes. This group of PTA students had something else in mind.

"They're a pretty exceptional group in that they aren't doing anything for themselves," Darroch said.

Empower Spinal Cord Injury co-founder Jessica Goodine said the funding will go to cover the overhead cost of the two-week summer program. Details for the 2013 camp are still being finalized, but additional information will be made available by mid-February at Empowersci.org.

Goodine said the camp will likely take place in Rhode Island.

To reach John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com,
or 413-496-6240.
Twitter: @jsakata