Community Partner Spotlight – Fierce Fitness with trainer Eric DeCarlis

Community Partner Spotlight – Fierce Fitness with trainer Eric DeCarlis

Fierce fitness Fitness mill Excellus logos

The Kelberman Center is honored to be the recipient of an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Community Health Award grant for our Off the Couch & Out of the Box wellness series, which is designed to get participants “off the couch” and thinking “outside the box” related to physical activity and nutrition.

From a very young age, people with autism are at higher risk for a number of health issues related to nutrition and obesity. This likely stems from a combination of factors including sensory issues, limited diets, and side effects of medication, among others. Compounding this situation is the fact that many people with autism face communication and social skills challenges that may prevent them from joining community groups and programs.

This is where a community partnership between the Kelberman Center and local trainer Eric DeCarlis comes in. In early 2018, we worked with Eric to create a weekly fitness program aimed at helping participants release energy and actually get excited about running and playing. Trained Kelberman Managers and Mentors support participants throughout the sessions, ensuring a welcoming environment as well as prompting and modeling appropriate behaviors. This gives participants the opportunity to learn new skills and try new activities they otherwise couldn’t.

Eric’s background in personal training started more than a decade ago, but his love of working with people with developmental disabilities stems from his eight years’ experience as a direct care provider for UCP, where he held positions in residences as well as therapeutic recreation. According to Eric, he builds the exercise program from the ground up – making very small progressions until everyone is comfortable. The benefits for participants include better overall fitness, improved cognition, increased balance and coordination, heathier bone density and muscle tone, improved self-esteem, and more!

Eric’s favorite part of collaborating on this program is simple: “Attitude, relationships and milestones. These kids show up with a smile and a take on the world attitude EVERY single time. I believe we can learn a lot from this optimism and take on life. The relationships I have built over the years are absolutely beautiful. Many of these kids have gone from clients to family – I’ve been to many plays, graduations, athletic events and fundraisers over the years. Then there’s the milestones… to watch a child’s face when they have reached a goal or even a physical move they never were able to do before is extraordinary – and how they wear their pride is heartwarming!”

While Eric originally opened the doors of Fierce Foundations fitness in 2017, he recently moved to a larger location, partnering with leaders at the Fitness Mill who are also historically generous in giving back to the local community. Eric is excited to continue the partnership with the Kelberman Center, and says “I look forward to growing and providing health and wellness on an even larger scale in the future. I would not be able to do this without the immense support from the community and those I work so closely with.”