Be Sunday Strong: The Fitness Movement For Special Needs Athletes – WQCS

So, back in 2017, Vero Beach native and CrossFit coach Laura Radocaj attended a Special Olympics event to support her sister who was competing.

LR: My name is Laura Radocaj and I am the founder of Sunday Strong.

Radocaj was alarmed to see that most of the athletes were overweight and not getting regular physical activity. So, in January of 2018, she started a weekly special needs CrossFit Class called Sunday Strong at Vero Strength + Conditioning completely FREE OF CHARGE to the athletes.

LR: Sunday Strong is on a mission to increase physical activity in adults with intellectual disabilities. It’s really exciting. This population does not get the required amount of physical activity, so we are able to create these classes that are really tailored to their needs.

P: Yay baby! Being really strong!

That’s Patricia. She has bright red hair and Down Syndrome.

P: Feeling strong! OK! (Laughter).

By making this a class of their peers, it becomes trendy within the group to be physically active, go to the gym, and eat healthy food.

LR: It just started as a one-off class. We decided to bring the class to other gyms in the community. So right now, we have four classes here in Indian River County and my goal is to have a class every day of the week. 

From the beginning, Sunday Strong was always their group motivational cheer. Leading it today is a small-framed young athlete named…

A: Adrienne! On my count.. 1,2,3 SUNDAY STRONG! (applause and cheers).

When Radocaj started a non-profit to carry the project forward, she knew that mantra had to be the name.  Today, she and several other coaches and volunteers are working with 15 special needs athletes doing sit ups using small floor wedges.

TOC: What’s going on here?

LR: OK we are working on our core, so we are doing ab matt sit-ups, and now we are going to do hollow body holds.

They lie on their backs with feet up in a tabletop position, and hold.

LR: (So I’ts just like that. So everybody hold – let’s get our feet like that.

Athlete: Allright.

LR: Now you’re gonna squeeze up. You’re gonna feel your belly squeeze up and put your arms straight out. Good job, Scott. Let’s see it, Patrick!

LR: There’s so much positive energy and they love it, they enjoy it and we know it because they keep coming back class after class.

We ask another athlete, named…

B: Billy

…what he thinks of Sunday Strong:

B: AWESOME. I do it every week. This place inspires me.

Patrick feels the same way:

P: Yeah, I really like it.

The entire effort is run by volunteers.

LR: Everybody is volunteering their time. The gyms are volunteering their coaches to coach the classes. The volunteers that come here to cheer on and support and assist the coaches, they are all volunteers.

Here’s volunteer Chuck Sullivan.

CS: They are very good athletes. They are very fast. They have really great endurance. And very good skills.

The entire Funk family volunteers together. Here’s Bridget Funk. Athlete Chelsea has just walked up to hug her. Bridget says she likes…

BF: …making connections and feeling the love. They always want to give you love and hugs.   

And Chelsea says she feels:

C: Happy! I got a great friend.

Zack Funk says:

ZF: It’s nice to do it as a family. It kind of makes it a little bit bigger than yourself.

Currently, classes are held at Vero Strength + Conditioning, Vero Fitness, Christi’s Fitness, and Studio 14.

LR: And we have about three other gyms we are in early discussions with to host a Sunday Strong class. And I am hoping that this is a program that is in every gym nationwide eventually. That’s my big picture. Dream. Goal!

Learn more at http://sundaystrong.org/

Find them on Facebook and Instagram @besundaystrong

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