New RIC Facility Combines Fitness Center, Vocational Rehabilitation and Sports in Single Accessible Location
CHICAGO – A new facility gives clients a single place to get career advice and meet with an exercise physiologist who can provide a tailor-made workout routine– the kind of guidance that can provide a life-changing boost for anyone. Run by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), this facility provides the services expressly for people with disabilities.
Opened in March at 541 North Fairbanks Court, the space “brings together several programs and services that help people engage in successful, healthy lives, and RIC is now providing them all in one convenient location,” said Peggy Kirk, Chief Operating Officer at RIC. The location combines offices for RIC’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which marked its 50th anniversary this year, and a 9,000-square-foot Fitness Center complete with aerobics studio, locker rooms and workout equipment specifically designed for people with disabilities. The space also houses the RIC Sports Program, which offers more than 20 competitive sports teams, as well as a U.S. Paralympic Sport Club.
Clients say they appreciate the high energy of the neighborhood, the upbeat design of the fitness center, and the professionalism of staff trained specifically to work with people who have disabilities. Providing job-hunting assistance right down the hall from the Fitness Center is “pure genius,” said client Steve Maples, who has been spending several hours a week at the facility this summer. The 42-year-old former attorney and chemical engineer had a stroke in 2007 at age 37. Through the assistance of RIC’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Maples has become a Chicago Public Schools teacher. He also joined the RIC Adaptive Golf Program, one of the programs offered through RIC Sports. “RIC helped me get the training and certification I needed,” he said. “It also helped me get myself in physical condition. Working out gives you the confidence to know you can get through a full day of work.”
Jim Harms, a former database analyst who had a stroke in 2003, echoed the thought. “First, I come to the Vocational Rehabilitation lab for a couple of hours, then I change clothes and go walk on the treadmill,” he said. “I’ve met some great friends at the Fitness Center. You meet people here who are looking for mutual inspiration.”
Harms, who found office work with the help of the Vocational Rehabilitation staff this summer, said the new location was easy to get to using public transportation. “There’s a CTA stop in front of the building, and PACE Paratransit Service will drop you off at the door,” he said.
The new facility provides a welcoming community not just for those who become regulars, but for first-time visitors as well, said Richard Ojielo, who is blind. “Anybody who comes here has something to deal with, so you don’t feel intimidated,” he said. “You can feel free and relaxed. It feels like this is home.”
The Fitness Center annual fee is $35. For more information about the benefits of membership or a list of the latest classes, go to www.RIC.org/fitness or call Carolyn Mueller, manager, at (312) 238-5001.
For information about the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, visit www.RIC.org/work or call Pam Capraro, director, at (312) 238-6819.
For information about RIC Sports programs including a complete calendar of upcoming events, visit www.RIC.org/sports or call Derek Daniels, manager, at (312) 238-5008.