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Fitness and wellness for all abilities: Golisano Training Center opens at Nazareth

Max Schulte/WXXI News

The two gold medals wrapped around the neck of Amanda Vito are bouncing and clinking as she walks around the massive track at the new, 108,000-square-foot Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College.

Vito looks up at the big electronic scoreboard, and then turns her attention to a far corner of the track.

"Wow!" she said with a smile. "That's where the pole vault is."   

Amanda is a multi-sport athlete who competes in track, bowling, soccer, basketball, bocce, and swimming. But track and field is her passion.

"I love to run," she said. "I just like the way it feels on my feet and my hair and my body and stuff." 

A grand opening is planned for the training center on Monday morning.

Nazareth College believes the center is the first of its kind in the U.S.  It's an inclusive facility, where people with and without disabilities can work out and play sports in the same space.  

A balcony filled with gym equipment overlooks the indoor track. Around the corner is a turf field where a large group of students enjoys a three-legged race.

Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News
Amanda Vito, a Special Olympic athlete from Penfield, checks out the Golisano Traning Center at Nazareth College. Vito's soccer club, the CDS Monarchs, will be one of the first teams training at the new facility.

Nazareth students studying audiology, physical, occupational, and speech therapy and other disciplines will collaborate in the treatment of Special Olympics athletes.

"It could be blood pressure readings, it could be analyzing movements such as ergonomics when an athlete is performing, and helping them to perform optimally," explained physical therapy student Arissa Kyler-Moesle.

She might work alongside a speech language therapy student like Abbey Zych to help people who have physical or intellectual challenges.

Zych says a speech therapist helps people with social skills, too.

"So we might work on asking for equipment or sharing equipment and different social activities," said Zych, "like playing games and turn-taking and even language vocabulary; you could talk about different machines and different sports."

These services are important, and they're not always easy to access. According to Special Olympics International, people with disabilities are twice as likely as the general population to find the skills of health care providers inadequate to meet their needs.

Zych says working with diverse populations expands her perspective.

"I've learned so much by working with them," she said, "so I'm sure everyone else can see how capable and how willing they are to be a part of what we want to be a part of."" target="_blank">

Local philanthropist Tom Golisano donated $7.5 million for the $23.8 million training center that bears his name.

"It's amazing!" Vito said. "I mean, it's so great that Golisano started this and it's gonna be great for the athletes and everybody else." 

Vito's soccer team, the CDS Monarchs, will be one of the first teams to train at the new facility.

Nazareth College hopes the center becomes a model of innovation for inclusive communities around the U.S. and the world.

Click on the LISTEN Link above to hear an audio version of this story.

This story comes from WXXI's Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.