Combined efforts from both Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College Adapted Kinesiology programs resulted in a “Back on Track” fundraiser held on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees either used wheelchairs, walkers or their own two feet to walk around the track in the Saddleback College Stadium. The Adapted Kinesiology program currently serves more than 350 disabled and elderly students with severe and chronic disabilities.
“They’re all my heroes. They are the ones who really know what life is about. They really do. It’s just down to earth, really good people,” said Marilyn Lantz, office assistant. “[The fundraiser] has been bigger than I ever thought. [There was] so much comradeship, encouragement and people doing unusual things.”
During the event, a student with two prosthetic legs walked around the track for the first time in roughly over 14 months. Another participant of the program who had a stroke two years ago, Fermin Camarena, completed more than 46 miles on a recumbent tricycle.
“I did 46 and a half miles. I was going to do more, but I have a triathlon next week,” Camarena said. “I think I have been at Saddleback for almost four years. Without [the aides] showing me to get up, I couldn’t get up and I couldn’t get off the ground.”
Due to recent cutbacks and the diminishing supply of money, the Adapted Kinesiology Program was $20,000 in debt before the fundraiser. With donations from companies and individual contributions, the program was able to raise more than $25,000.
“The support and the generosity of these people in a really tough time,…people can pull together and really do something that they have their hearts set on. It has been a huge success,” Lantz said.
Wal-Mart gave $2,000 in donations, and the Ability Center, Dayle McIntosh Center, Norwood Builders and the Adreani Family each contributed $500. Also, 50 individuals at the Laguna Woods Swim Group raised $2,500.
Brian Geier, adapted kinesiology instructor, granted the program $3,000. The wife of a student in memory of her brother, the Stoland Family, and Scott Yamashiro donated $500. Scott Anderson collected $1,000 in contributions through solicitation and Maggie Morse accumulated $740 as well.
“I actually Xeroxed the papers they gave me and then I took them to businesses, and to people I’ve done business with, and I told them about the program. Some of them I would take my laptop and show them our Web site, you know, to give them a better idea of what we’re doing,” Morse said. “Mostly I just told them what a wonderful program it was, and they could barely get me out of the room because I would keep talking about it.”
Businesses such as O’Connor Mortuary, Trader Joe’s, I Love Bagels, Starbucks, Vita Glide, Bicycle Club-Bell Gardens and Chronic Tacos donated items other than money and helped make gift baskets. Renee Roberts and Lynne Higgins also helped a great deal with the gift baskets.
“It was enough for me to donate as much time and whatever was necessary to pull these baskets together- 18 in all. Probably the value of everything together was a couple thousand dollars,” Higgins said. “This department was so in need, and it was just wonderful that we reached and surpassed our goal.”
“I just think it was a great opportunity to be able to help and to participate. I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t know a lot of people, but participating was fulfilling enough and it helped pull the program together,” Roberts said.
The Adapted Kinesiology Programs at Saddleback College and IVC include health and fitness, balance and coordination training, water exercising, sports and other recreational activities. With many success stories, the programs have helped students reach their goals and maintain good health, mobility and a high quality of life.
Larry Purcell, a member of the program, was first admitted into the program after having a stroke. “I had a stroke two years ago and…it took my balance away so I can’t walk. I can walk with a walker but I can’t walk unassisted. But coming here, to Applied Kinesiology, I had a brace down my leg and I couldn’t walk at all,” Purcell said.
“I took the brace off my leg and now I can walk with my walker, and someday I will walk alone. What a great program, with little publicity. Every physical therapist in Orange County should know about it because they can send their patients here,” Purcell said.
Through endurance and the generosity of the aides, Purcell was able to complete six laps around the track, three frontwards and three backwards, in his wheelchair.
“After I came to Saddleback, in the first two weeks I was in love with it. I was fascinated by the family. Everybody cared about one another. One thing about Saddleback, they don’t have to be here they want to be here. That’s the whole difference of winning and losing,” Camarena said.