Written by Kerri Bender
It began as a simple idea, really just a musing, about offering free Pilates training to assist in the rehabilitation of injured United States veterans. I remember sitting in the hospital room with my ailing father, Bob, himself a veteran, when I had the idea. Truly, I had nothing to lose by asking, so sitting there in that hospital room I wrote an email to David Rosencrans at Gratz Industries to explain my idea: together, in cooperation with Island Dolphin Care, we can offer injured U.S veterans the benefits of Pilates.
At Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida, veterans and children with special needs from all around the world come to rehabilitate by swimming with the dolphins in therapeutic sessions. The founders of IDC have a son, Joe, a Pilates client of mine who was on the surgical table as an infant for a heart defect when he had a stroke. It affected his left side in both development and strength. There were also issues regarding his short term memory after the stroke. Joe’s parents worked tirelessly to rehabilitate Joe, and Deena, his mother, a social worker by trade, saw the amazing progress Joe made with dolphin therapy. That convinced her to create Island Dolphin Care. Then, seeing the awesome progress that Joe made with his work in the Pilates method over the past two years, they became believers. So, when asked to offer Pilates at IDC, they were immediately supportive and excited. Gratz Industries also replied quickly and optimistically to my request by immediately shipping a Pilates conversion table to Island Dolphin Care.
Over the past year, I’ve taught many injured veterans as well as teens challenged by diseases like cerebral palsy, to include an extraordinary young man with traumatic brain damage. Working in proximity to the Dolphins, I see their faces light up when one of our beautiful dolphins jump playfully out of the water. Doing this work, I'm amazed and encouraged by the smallest unexplainable coincidences. For example, my wonderful father’s name was Bob, and the last two veterans who have contacted me for lessons have been named Bob. One is even a happy, older gentleman who wears Old Spice cologne...just like my dad. I joked recently with my partner that the program is growing in leaps and Bobs!
I'm happy to report significant decreases in pain suffered by the veterans who have become regular Pilates practitioners, training with me now at Pilates in Paradise. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t dedicate this rewarding work to two of the biggest influences in my life; my father, Bob Gilmore, and my mentor, Romana Kyrzanowska. Thanks also to Gratz Industries and Island Dolphin Care for collaborating with me to make this happen. And, most importantly, many thanks to our participating Veterans, without whom we would not have the freedom to practice, live, and love as we please. As our inspiration, Romana, has said many times, “Love All Around." Please help spread love all around through support of this or any of the many other programs out there to provide care and support to our Veterans
Island Dolphin Care is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization specializing in Dolphin Human therapy programs. For over 20 years they have been providing programs to individuals with special needs and more recently to hundreds of veterans wounded in combat each year. Your donations to this program will provide the funding necessary to offer supportive instruction to those in need.
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