Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2017
“Their struggles and their obstacles are huge – far more than a three mile walk. Still, when they cross that finish line, there is such a feeling of achievement and pride. It’s really powerful.”
Four years ago, TPC Healthcare Specialist Erica Michonski set out to organize a running/walking club that both clients and staff members could participate in to promote physical activity and goal setting success.
As part of the Wellness, Employment and Education (WEE) program at TPC, a group of employment, education and health specialists, Michonski understands the importance of helping clients achieve overall health and well-being in order to live productive lives. The program’s ultimate goal is to promote independence, personal autonomy, self-esteem, and to increase each individual’s quality of life through community integration, supported education and employment, and fitness activities.
TPC’s 5Klub participates in one race every month. Michonski works with race coordinators all over RI and MA to help lower and usually eliminate the cost of race registrations for clients. Some of their recent races included: the CVS Downtown 5k, In Step for Autism, and Nutrition Fuels Fitness. This month, the group will participate in the Veterans Home Run in Pawtucket.
“Last year, we participated in the PawSox 5K, where runners and walkers round the bases at the end of the race,” said Michonski. “One of our clients was the last to finish. The race coordinators asked if they could announce her name as she crossed the finish line. She was beyond proud of herself as the crowd cheered her on and has attended every race since.”
Moments like this are what Michonski and her co-workers at WEE work with clients to achieve, but on a number of levels. When combined with employment and educational training, a healthy mind and body will help result in a person’s independence. From gaining the confidence to exercise at the local gym or out in the community to acquiring hands on job experience, clients are achieving a “whole person” recovery.
“The 5Klub is a fun way for clients to get involved with their community and enjoy physical activity they might otherwise be intimidated by,” said Michonski. “Seeing members set forth a goal and then witnessing their heightened confidence and pride as they cross the finish line is really something special.”
As a certified personal trainer, Michonski heads a number of activities for TPC’s InSHAPE, a program that supports adults of all ages experiencing mental health and substance use issues through physical activity and nutrition.
While a majority of 5Klub members join after participating in the InSHAPE program, all TPC clients are welcome.
“Everyone is different,” said Michonski. “We have some clients that want to train for races and get better times. Others are simply looking to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
As for transportation to and from monthly races, a van is provided.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for people to take part in the club,” added Michonski. “We had three people show up to our first race four years ago – the Rainbow Race in Kingston. Now, we’re upwards of 12 people per race.”
The 5Klub is continuously looking for new members – clients or staff. A list of upcoming races can be found on the bulletin board outside of the WEE offices on the third floor at 530 North Main St.
“We’re always hoping to see new faces at each race,” said Michonski. “I highly encourage people to sign up for a race and see just what they really are capable of.”
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