Fitness instructor awarded for helping children with special needs

Fitness instructor awarded for helping children with special needs

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - From the outside looking in, American Family Fitness in Midlothian is your typical boot camp.

There are kids doing push-ups to build strong muscles, jumping Jacks for endurance and some intense work to strengthen the core.

It’s a fun class here, but it’s unlike any other - The boot camp is designed to accommodate children living with special needs.

Throughout the entire workout, speech, occupational and physical therapists are all on site.

Kelly Ferguson is behind all of it. She’s a speech pathologist who decided to pair her love for kids and working out to create a more inclusive community.

Kelly plans to reinvest her Acts of Kindness money in the people that matter most.
Kelly plans to reinvest her Acts of Kindness money in the people that matter most. (Source: NBC12)

The boot camp is the only one in the area, and it’s making a difference.

“We spend a lot of time in therapy with our kids, and we want them to practice what they’ve learned out in the world. But there aren’t many opportunities for them to do an inclusive activity," she said. “The first week they were all so nervous and hesitant and they weren’t sure they could do some of the things, like the push-ups and the jumps. Now, instead of being scared, they watch and they try them right away. You can tell that they feel a sense of pride."

Take Janai Santiago, for example. She’s been coming to the boot camp for five weeks now, and her mom Jacqueline says she’s having the time of her life.

“She loves it and is so excited to come to class every Thursday, and she wishes she could come to class more days of the week. This has been amazing,” said Santiago.

These kids are being empowered. With every word that comes out of their mouth, and every step they take, they’re showing the world they can flex just like anyone else.

Kristine Williams is also an instructor at the American Family Fitness and she has a front-row seat to the positive work being done by Kelly Ferguson.

“Kelly is very motivating, very inspiring; everyone that meets her loves her,” said Williams. “She is one of those people where you that she’s genuine in everything that she says and she does, and whatever she does she puts her whole heart into it.”

With the help of NBC12, Williams surprised Ferguson with $300 for her Acts of Kindness.

"I was completely speechless, shocked and I didn’t know what to think,” Ferguson said of the award.

She wants to grow the program to continue to meet the needs of these remarkable kids in our community.

And with the $300 she already has plans to reinvest in the people that matter most.

"We have some kids that have some different physical needs and we don’t have the things necessary that will need order to help them get through, so I’m hoping that I can find some fun toys to help them get even stronger.”

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