Physical or mental disabilities are no setback for athletes at CrossFit Candor in Tuscaloosa.
Crossfit Candor hosts Power Hour, a free weekly class for adaptive athletes with special needs. Jamie Cormier, chairman of Power Hour, said it’s a time when coaches volunteer by coming together and working with all levels of ability.
“Here in our gym, we claim anybody can come here and work out with us,” Cormier said. “A lot of people think we are this intense workout group, but we’re not. We have people old and young in our gym.”
Beginning with one athlete in 2014, Cormier’s inspiration for the program was attributed to 13-year-old Kylie, who suffers from cerebral palsy. It was Kylie’s idea, and Cormier said she gives her all of the credit.
“She came and watched her mom working out, and she said, ‘Hey, I wanna do that too,’ and at the time she was only 13,” Cormier said. “Vera, who is her mom, allowed me to work one on one with Kylie. She loved it so much, she went and told her friends, and her friends told her friends.”
Cormier said the project came to fruition just by word of mouth, and she has eight athletes in the program, which she said is good because she doesn’t want to take on more athletes than she has coaches.
Now, CrossFit Candor is hosting the Candor Power Hour Sleigh Run, a 5K run and one-mile fun run, on Dec. 8 as its first event to support the nonprofit organization. All money raised will go directly to Power Hour, which includes support for equipment and its athletes’ home or school needs.
Cormier expects 40 to 60 people in attendance at the event. Although there may be bad weather, she said she hopes that people will still send a donation.
Cormier said she doesn’t want to play “musical chairs” with the athletes, and she wants them to get the individual one-on-one training they require.
“We just work towards making them more independent,” Cormier said. “Some are chair-bound, some are walkers, and we just work towards making them more independent.”
She said Crossfit Candor has no background in training people with disabilities, so they have a physical therapist step in and guide them on the next step.
Cormier said throughout her time working with the athletes, she has seen a growth in confidence and ability.
Donna Smith’s son, 19-year-old Andrew Smith who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, has been a part of Power Hour for four years.
“They call him the ‘row master,’” Donna Smith said. “If they told him he could do something, he believes he could do it.”
Donna Smith said her son’s progress has been unbelievable. She said he has been in physical therapy since he was 13 months old, and coming to Crossfit Candor was a nice change of scenery.
Donna Smith said her son will be rowing in the one-mile race alone.
Two years ago, Cormier made Andrew Smith row about 400 meters. Donna Smith recalls him being tired and defeated, but everyone continued to cheer him on and encourage him to keep going. Since that day, Donna Smith prides herself on her son’s determination.
“Jamie [Cormier] was telling me he went to a very dark place where athletes go,” Donna Smith said. “Where you don’t want to give up or you don’t want to give, and the determination kicked in. You could see it all over his face.”
Donna Smith said Andrew Smith is so excited for the run. She said her daughter has her own thing, and Donna Smith has hers, so it’s nice to support him.
“This is his thing,” Donna Smith said. “This is where we can go and we can cheer him on from the sidelines. I think it’s an experience everyone should see. You see these kids, and it’s not just kids. It’s adults, too, just giving their all. You think, like, ‘My God, what excuse can I come up with?’”
Cormier said the only thing she is seeking is more consistent help.
People like Carrie Cameron and her 15-year-old son have been working out at the gym for almost a year now, and they found out about the Power Hour program and decided to get involved along with her husband, who works in education.
Cameron said her whole family will be participating in the run and staying after to participate in the games following.
“We thought, ‘Hey, this will be great.’” Cameron said. “And we actually love it. It’s a great cause. It opened my son’s eyes to see how blessed he is.”
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