The Pacific Community Center’s gymnasium comes alive Monday evenings with the sound of music and the shouts of a group playing a game of basketball. The players range from 20 to 54 in age, but all are equally involved in the game. After watching the game for a while, however, spectators cannot help but notice that nobody is keeping score.
The participants are a part of Get Fit, a program that educates mentally disabled people about the importance of leading a heathy lifestyle. And it’s a program that’s provided lifetime Glendale resident Jaime Rohrig with a way to give back to his community.
Rohrig graduated from Cal State Fullerton wanting to pursue a career in firefighting. Rohrig, 24, is now enrolled in the Glendale Fire Department’s Fire Cadet Program, in which he rides along on emergency calls and trains for emergencies at Glendale stations.
Though the Cadet Program fills most of his schedule, Rohrig began volunteering Monday evenings for Get Fit to more directly apply his undergraduate degree in kinesiology, the science of physical movement.
Rohrig applies his knowledge of physical fitness by teaching participants everything from healthy eating habits to physical fitness training.
However, the focus of the program is on more than just lectures. The program’s instructors believe that the participants are more engaged and willing to exercise when playing games than doing aerobic exercises.
Instructors play with the participants, occasionally informing them of the advantages to having a higher heart rate and reminding them that getting in shape is supposed to be hard.
“[The participants] kind of revert back to when they were kids,” Rohrig explained. “Their diet has changed as their metabolism slows down, and they need to learn to eat a little bit healthier and exercise and take care of their bodies as they age. A lot of them still eat like they did when they were 11 or 12.”
Having worked with the program since April, Rohrig has visibly changed it.
“Jaime has added many things to the program which we incorporate all the time,” said Nune Sogomonyan, the program’s community service specialist. “He has added new and great stretches, different workout practices, and better use of techniques in our sports, like basketball.”
Though the program advocates fitness, the participants benefit in other aspects as well, especially in their interactions with other people in the program.
“I wouldn’t say that they are melting pounds off,” Rohrig said. “But I do notice they’re being much more social. We’re teaching them about social interaction.”
Dedicated to the program and its participants, Rohrig quickly earned their friendship and respect.
“[Rohrig] immediately fell into our program and will always be a great asset to us,” Sogomonyan said.
“He motivates the participants, and they love him, listen to him and respect him.”
Saul Garcia, a Get Fit instructor who shuttles participants from their home locations to the community center, agreed with Sogomonyan.
“He likes to get people to participate.” Garcia said. “He is very motivating.”