PITTSFIELD -- A successful turnout for Berkshire Community College's Wellness Day last year has organizers ready to replicate the success on Saturday.
The goal of Wellness Day is to encourage healthier living, organizers said, but each healthy step carries an added benefit: The money raised helps those suffering from a life-altering spinal cord injury.
"Once you understand the whole picture [about spinal cord injuries], how that changes someone's life, you're more willing to help them out," said Michele Darroch, director of the Physical Therapist Assistant Club at BCC.
Rain or snow, community members are invited to burn calories at BCC's Paterson Field House on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a series of 30-minute fitness classes taught by certified trainers that will include Zumba, pilates, yoga, aikido and self-defense. Each 30-minute class costs $4.
There will be a bonanza of health information with 15 educational booths. There will also be a raffle, which includes private fitness sessions at the Paterson Field House and Berkshire South Regional Community Center. There will also be gift certificates to Guido's Fresh Marketplace, Beacon Cinema and Bosque Ski Area.
Representatives from the college's nursing, respiratory therapist, massage and culinary departments will also be present to provide health and wellness advice.
Last year, Wellness Day -- organized by the Physical Therapist Assistant Club -- raised about $1,000 that was provided to Empower SCI, a nonprofit that runs a two-week-long camp at Stony Brook University in New York for people with spinal cord injuries. The camp brings together those with spinal cord injury with occupational and physical therapists to help them live more independent lives while enjoying the outdoors.
Granville resident Chris Bouwer benefited from a scholarship that subsidized the $2,500 tuition cost. The 27-year-old talked to the Eagle by phone saying he suffered a spinal cord injury while swimming in Long Island, paralyzing him from the chest down, and is now reliant on a wheelchair.
Bouwer was able to learn from peer mentors and therapists about managing his everyday activities. He's able to largely take care of himself, and he credits the course for learning how to dress himself in five minutes instead of 45 minutes.
"It truly is empowering to see them become more than what they thought they could be," Bouwer said.
The camp changes lives, he said, and he said he's one of the beneficiaries.
"It's really an escape," Bouwers said. "You go from being home and the same routine everyday. You get thrown into a program and it completely changes how you plan to get ready for the day."