Phillies host workout for special-needs group

Ballclub, NovaCare Rehabilitation team up for fitness event

Phillies host workout for special-needs group

It's not just Phillies players who are getting preseason workouts.

Back at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the Phillies front office and NovaCare Rehabilitation trainers recently hosted a Major League workout for elementary students with autism and an adult aphasia group. This unique Phillies Phitness "WorkOUTshop" was held in partnership with AccessSports Experiences, which provides sporting experiences to those with special needs.

There were approximately 50 participants, including volunteers, with their day beginning in the Diamond Club for an introduction to what it means to be fit and why it is important, followed by a warmup to get the blood pumping. Bobby DiLullo of NovaCare and Troy Sattin, who oversees the Phillies Phitness program, made sure the group was prepped and ready for the workout.

"To be fit means living a healthy lifestyle through working out, being active and maintaining a nutritious diet," Sattin said. "We are trying to create habits that make being healthy easier. It does not matter if you have disabilities; it is all about what can be done now to live a long, healthy life."

Photos: Phillies Phitness WorkOUTshop

Alyson Harris of AccessSports Experiences agrees wholeheartedly.

"In our group today there is a range of participants, from little kids to adults, showing that sports allow for an equal playing field for individuals to come and be connected," she said. "Whether it's children with autism or adults who have had strokes or traumatic brain injuries, all of a sudden the differences are no longer there because everyone is cheering for the same team and for each other."

From relay races to hitting in the batting cages, there was plenty of cheering to be had by all participants. And that is important, as some members of the group have regained speech and mobility through events like this.

"One of our aphasia clients actually learned to regain her speaking voice by cheering at a game," Harris said. "It's something everyone can identify with, the experience of rooting for a team, or even each other, can transform someone's life."

Activities at the Phillies Phitness WorkOUTshop were all health related, covering everything from exercise to nutrition.

The younger group started in the media room, where they learned about nutrition and healthy options through a "healthy food race," with the children running to pick out healthy food items to put on their plate.

Meanwhile, the older group participated in relay races, during which the batting cage netting was lifted to reveal an indoor field. Smiles were everywhere, as participants cheered on teammates running back and forth with Major League uniforms to dress up a member of the team. The most important goal of the race was not to win, but to encourage one another. At the end of the activity, the group exchanged compliments and high-fives.

The groups then switched places and took part in the other activity. All participants learned the importance of being active, through both exercise and everyday activities, as well as the importance of making smart food choices.

"When you're young, you can pretty much do anything you want, but as you get older and you don't have some balance in your diet, things like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol have a greater risk of occurring. It makes the ability to be active and productive more difficult," DiLullo said. "We want to stress that if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, you live longer. It's something you can start at any age, and you can have fun while staying healthy."

To finish the day, everyone headed to the Diamond Club for a nutritious lunch. As the group enjoyed the meal, the best mascot in baseball charged into the room for a big surprise. The children cheered and the adults clapped as the Phillie Phanatic greeted each person individually. It was no doubt a great day for all to get fit with the Phillies.

For more information on the Phillies Phitness program presented by NovaCare Rehabilitation and how local schools can take part in this free program, please visit phillies.com/community.