Kayla Phelps, who sampled yoga, pilates, Zumba and aikido at the fair, stretches during her yoga class.
Kayla Phelps, who sampled yoga, pilates, Zumba and aikido at the fair, stretches during her yoga class. (Gillian Jones / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

PITTSFIELD -- Barely five minutes had passed Saturday when 10-year-old Mason Mihlek proclaimed he was tired of being in a wheelchair.

The child, who attended Berkshire Community College's Wellness Fair with his family, plopped into a wheelchair that was made available at a booth on spinal cord injuries.

He didn't need long to realize he enjoys the freedom of walking.

"I think it is difficult because after awhile. Your arms get tired," Mason said.

Those with spinal chord injuries would love to lift themselves out of the chair and walk on with their life like Mason. But the life-altering injury can be life changing, turning everyday tasks into hours-long chores.

The Wellness Fair on Saturday raised $1,013 that will help fund scholarships that will send those with spinal cord injuries to a two-week camp run by the nonprofit Empower SCI. The camp hosted at Stony Brook University in New York provides one-to-one physical therapy, teaches strength and conditioning and engages those with spinal cord injuries in physical exercise. This camp this year is tentatively scheduled for July 13-26.

Nearly 150 participants -- a significant group coming from the BCC community -- attended the fair aimed at promoting health and wellness while raising money for a good cause.

Donations can still be made to Empower SCI or the PTA Club at BCC.

"We did well, we are quite happy with the event," said Michele Darroch who oversees the PTA club that organized the event.

The disability can be costly, said Brittany DelGrande, who ran the booth for Empower Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).

"Their everyday life becomes more expensive," said DelGrande about the need to raise funds.

DelGrande volunteered at the Empower SCI-run camp at Stony Brook University last year and saw firsthand how those with spinal cord injuries were empowered and challenged to embrace activities like kayaking .

Spinal cord injuries are suffered largely by young adults in their 20s and 30s, in part because of their failure to wear seat belts. Members of the Physical Therapist Assistant [PTA] Club who work with those with spinal cord injuries at Berkshire County Arc recalled people who are paralyzed from the neck down.

"In the world we live in, it's created for a world to walk and live independent lives," Delgrande said.

BCC student Kayla Phelps, 20, came out to the event. There was a booth on healthy cooking run by the culinary department and educational health booths run by many of the college's health departments.

Through 30-minute crash course sessions, she got to sample yoga, pilates, Zumba, and aikido.

Keith Dewey gets a back and shoulder massage from Judy Gawron, the program advisor for the Massage Program at the college.
Keith Dewey gets a back and shoulder massage from Judy Gawron, the program advisor for the Massage Program at the college. (Gillian Jones / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
The $4 fee for the classes were donated to Empower SCI.

"I woke up about five minutes before the class started and decided I wanted to do something active," Phelps said.

By noon, she had exercised, helped raise money for a good cause, and she was well on her way to enjoying the rest of day.

"I am a busy college student and I don't have time to go to the gym five days a week," Phelps said. "This is much faster."

To reach John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com.
or (413)-496-6240.
On Twitter: @JSakata