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Exercise class provides options for disabled

As he makes his long-awaited entrance into the room, everyone yells “Hi, Rick!”

It’s snowing outside, and students in the Special Needs Exercise class for developmentally disabled adults are content to be under the roof of the Truckee Community Center – and now that instructor Rick Harness has stepped into the room, they’re ecstatic.

One of Harness’ students, Kathleen Daily, asks him how his drive was. Last week Harness couldn’t make it in time from his Reno home because of a chemical spill on the highway.



As the class stretches to prepare for their exercises, Harness asks if they met their goal for the week to eat more fruits and vegetables. Nutrition is a large part of what he teaches his students – 80 percent of somebody’s results come from nutrition, Harness said in an interview after class.

About one month ago, Harness, the president of Bootcamp Fitness and Nutrition and a Reno resident, began teaching Special Needs Exercise through the Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District.




The impetus of the class was Marilyn Moon of Choices Transitional Services, a non-profit organization for developmentally disabled. She approached the parks and rec board several times about starting a class and drafted a proposal. Now they meet every Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m a real pro-exercise person,” Moon said. “A lot of the people I work with have a problem when they’re adults – their metabolism practically stops.”

In addition to nutrition education, Harness has his students perform strength-training exercises for all their major muscle groups.

When Harness tells them its time to do push-ups, they groan, roll over on the mat, and give him 10.

“I hate push-ups!” Daily says, even though she’s smiling as she pumps her arms.

Then Harness has them do a back exercise he calls “Supermans.” He asks his students where they want to fly. The class decides on somewhere warm, like Hawaii.

For now, Special Needs Exercise is on a three-month trial basis and is free to participants. Dan O’Gorman, the recreation superintendent for parks and rec, said he hopes to continue the class beyond the trial period by either charging a nominal fee or securing some funding.

“We’ve always said we wanted to provide a quality recreational experience for everyone in the community,” O’Gorman said. “[Developmentally disabled adults] was a segment of the community that we couldn’t meet their needs.”

Harness ends the class with cardiovascular exercise, usually in the form of relay races. Sometimes they exercise their hand and motor skills.

Whatever the difficulty of the activity, the class seems to have fun, and Harness is equally amused.

“It’s a long drive from Reno, but it’s worth it to come to Truckee,” Harness said. “They always put a smile on my face.”

Special Needs Exercise meets every Tuesday at the Truckee Community Center from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The class is free. Call Dan O’Gorman at 582-7720 for more information on this and other special needs classes. For more information on Choices Transitional Services, call 550-8034.


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