PUEBLO WEST — As we mark Autism Awareness Month, one Pueblo father hopes to empower kids and their families with a one-of-a-kind exercise program.
Kevin Blunt created the "Autism Mana Crossfit Class" two years ago to provide autistic and special needs children with a chance to participate in an inclusive workout program.
"It touches close to home for me because I have a 9-year-old son on the Autism spectrum. For a lot of kids on the spectrum, they don't have a lot of opportunities to participate in exercise or athletic programs," said Blunt.
Blunt says his son Makai-La'akea was diagnosed with autism at 3-years-old. He is non-verbal which makes it tough for him to participate in group sporting activities.
"With a program like this, we're able to work with kids individually, give them an exercise program outlet, and it's non-judgmental and all-inclusive. If a kid is having a meltdown or a tough day, I'll sit down on the ground with him and I'll get him to encourage him to get me to the gym to work out. We all need a little bit more exercise," said Blunt.
He wanted to create a program that created a positive environment for special needs kids to work out without fear of judgement.
"I wanted to create something where they have an outlet. We structure it where there is a rotation around the gym. Kids will participate in a lot of the similar crossfit exercises like box jumps, rope swings, or plate lifts," said Blunt.
"Kevin and his kids really had it all laid out. We meet every Saturday morning and we start with stretching and movements. The beautiful thing about it is that it really gives these kids a chance to move their bodies in a space where there is no judgements," said Sarah Weaver, Crossfit Coach at Fit Fast Strong Crossfit.
Fit Fast Strong Crossfit partnered with Blunt to create the exercise program. Coaches scale or modify movements based on a kids' age, ability, and comfort level.
"One of the neatest things is seeing kids come in who really feel like they aren't able to do this. They feel overwhelmed or intimidated, but by the end of a session or a few sessions, they're moving in a way that they never have before. You can see them growing, feeling more confident in their abilities, and interact with each other in a way they may not be able to in other environments," said Weaver.
The program relies on sponsors which help with gear, snacks, and sanitizer for the workout equipment. Blunt says they need more sponsors to help keep the program running.
"We have been blessed by some local sponors and donors. The owner of Fit Fast Strong Crossfit was kind enough to open his gym for a second year in a row, Kevin Carbon with No Limits Behavioral Solutions, Nick Ohrdorf with Fast Life Ministries, and Katie Hawkin with Keller Williams Realty, and Carlos with Aguilar Family Hairstyling West, " said Blunt.
Classes are offered free of charge every Saturday (April 23-June 25) between 9:15 a.m.-and 10:15 a.m. at Fit Fast Strong Crossfit located at 91 Silicon Dr. Pueblo West, Colorado 81007. At least one parent must remain on site during the entire class hour.
For more information on enrollment, and sponsorship visit either their Facebook Page or email email@example.com