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SuperStars: A Group Fitness Program For Those of Diverse Abilities and Special Needs

In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “God’s work must truly be our own.” One Montoursville woman and at least six volunteers that include her two daughters, take this directive seriously. Together for the past ten years, they have been bringing the concept of physical fitness, wellness, and increased self-esteem to individuals with diverse abilities and special needs in a program they call the “SuperStars.”

Diana Logan is a Group Fitness Instructor for the East Lycoming “Y” of the River Valley Regional YMCA. She recounted the story of how the “SuperStars” program came about.

“It was a little over ten years ago when the BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 invited

me to come in and do a music and movement class for their extended school year for those in special education, Logan told Webb Weekly. “I had so much fun with those students! On the way home, I thought, why isn’t there something in our area for these individuals? I knew there was a need as my daughter Amber also had a diverse ability, and I knew the struggles of making friends and staying active. I came back to the Y and asked if I could start a class at our Eastern Lycoming YMCA, where I was an instructor, and they loved the idea. They also suggested that there would be no cost to the parents as this would be a great outreach into the community.”

She was asked why she started the program, and she said, “I guess first and foremost I saw the need for making friends and for a fitness program that would be geared towards those with diverse abilities. Also, I had a goal of trying to increase their confidence and improving their quality of life.”

Logan said her role in the “SuperStars” program is to help them get excited about moving and engaging in Drums Alive, which is what is used to get them moving to music.

“When I started the class, we had about six individuals each week. It wasn’t until I got certified in drums alive and started to incorporate that in the workout that the class exploded!” Logan said. “Each individual has a stability ball in a huge bucket and a pair of drumsticks. We put on their favorite songs and drum to the music. We are now 45 plus individuals on Saturday mornings at the ELYCA. Both of my daughters, Amber, who has a diverse ability, and Erica, a special education teacher, got certified and now help me co-teach. Both Amber and Erica were instrumental in supporting me ten years ago when we started. We now also have six volunteers that come each Saturday to help encourage and be extra hands when needed.”

She continued, “We could not do this program without them. We are a team that works well together. The individuals love our volunteers and often want to give them a high five or a hug. They know that they truly care.”

In 2017 Diana and her daughters flew to Rhode Island to see the creator of Drums Alive, Carrie Ekkins came in from Germany, and they were able to train with her for three days. That, too, was an amazing experience. It was there that both Amber and Erica got certified in Drums Alive.

Logan said her goal for the program is to see it grow and expand. They have also offered Superstars at the Williamsport YMCA during the week and are seeing great things with those SuperStars too.

“We are excited to see where this goes. How often do you hear about group fitness classes for these individuals? I tell them all the time that they are paving the way for others, and they should be excited about that,’ Logan said. “Another goal is to reach out to the parents. Each Saturday, many of the parents sit and catch up with each other and, of course, share stories as to what is going on in their lives. Who better to know than someone else that is going through the same journey. As I know in my own life, having a daughter with a diverse ability, the many challenges that we face day to day many others are facing too. It helps to talk about it.”

She added, “I guess another aspect I like to express is that everyone just be themselves and have fun. That has surely been a blessing to watch as each individual in the class drums to the music and each in their own unique way come alive during this time together.”

“SuperStars” has already made a wider impact. In April 2018, they were invited by Rep. Garth Everett, who was very supportive of their efforts, to the Capitol in Harrisburg to drum in the Rotunda. More than 40 individuals went that day. Their goal was to create awareness, and they did just that.

Officials from the River Valley Regional YMCA are very pleased about the SuperStars program.

“The vision of the YMCA is to strengthen our community by addressing service area needs through our areas of impact, which are Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. Our SuperStars Program meets all three of these needs,” Mandy Minella, Marketing Coordinator for the RVR YMCA, said. ”Many of the program participants are children who we are teaching to be active and healthy. This program is offered for free to help not only the participants but their families as well. It gives them a place to be and something to do together.

Like everything else, COVID-19 had its impact on the SuperStars program. The group had to stop the classes in March. According to Logan, this was hard on the individuals, and they were missing class, so she and her daughter, Amber and started driving to their houses and doing dance parties in their yards and driveways. She said this was so much fun and also was an affirmation to her how much this class means to them and to her and Amber.

They started a summer “SuperStars” session at the Williamsport Y on July 11th at 11:10-11:45 a.m.

For more information, call the EL YMCA 570-546-8822.

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