Putting Health Back In Health Clubs

04/06/2015 05:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2015

On what began as an ordinary day in 1992, I sat working in my office at The Athletic Club of Bend when a young woman appeared in my doorway requesting to speak with me. It was clear she dealt with physical challenges and in what turned out to be an intriguing conversation, I learned she was a former world-class athlete at Boise State University. While training for the World Games in cycling, she was involved in a tragic accident that left her brain dead. After months in a coma she awoke with the neurological capacity of a five year old -- she would learn to talk and walk all over again. This conversation led to our starting a program called Team USAble Oregon.

My experience with a young boy by the name of Gabe West changed my life and my direction in the health and fitness industry. Gabe had Spina Bifida, confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. During his many visits to Children's Hospital in Portland I would receive a photograph from his mother, with Gabe always smiling and surrounded by stuffed animals. Twice a week I worked with Gabe in our pool, temperature controlled to allow him extra time in the water. (Children with paralysis often have poor circulation and ordinary pool temperatures do not allow for more than a few minutes in the water.) These sessions gave Gabe a sense of buoyancy and ability to move his hips that he did not normally experience.

I fondly recall his many hugs and kisses, his mother on the pool deck with tears streaming down her cheeks at the sight of her son's joy.

My life and perspective were forever altered. Now the President and CEO of The Claremont Club in Claremont, CA since 1997, I focus on a much higher purpose in my life. If a health club brought such joy to a young boy with Spina Bifida, why aren't we making this available across the nation and internationally to children and adults in need of therapy with such undeniably positive results?

Allow me to highlight a program started by The Claremont Club in 2008 to help a promising young baseball player and friend of my daughter named Hal Hargave. In the summer of 2007 Hal suffered a devastating work related accident that left him a quadriplegic. While going through treatment at Project Walk (a studio that specializes in innovative and nontraditional treatment of spinal cord injury clientele) just prior to Christmas, Hal said to a fellow client, "Have a great Christmas and I'll see you after the first!" The client replied, "Actually, I won't be coming back. I have to make the decision to feed my children and my wife or come to Project Walk."

Hal decided to take action. He put up a portion of the settlement from his accident along with matching contributions from his parents and grandparents and started a life changing 501(c)3 organization -- the Be Perfect Foundation. This foundation provides scholarships to qualified Project Walk clients to receive activity based therapy. In June of 2008, I converted a racquetball court and brought in specialized equipment to work with spinal cord injured clients. Thus began our journey of developing programs that would forever change their lives. These programs are inspiring and motivating our wonderful staff, members, and the communities in which we live and work.

Please take a moment to watch the following video filmed at The Claremont Club in 2008. Featuring Hal Hargrave and the Be Perfect Foundation, I believe this video will inspire and motivate all of you to accomplish great things.