Nonprofit aims to enable athletes with special needs

Laurie Rosania talks about organization that helps build strength and social connections for those with special needs

Enable Sports and Fitness founder and coach Laurie Rosania works with her son Daniel at their regular Wednesday class. Rosania’s organization provides programs for children and adults with special needs that are aimed at strengthening their bodies and their social connections through physical fitness.

Stephen Finn

The Sun

Laurie Rosania is the founder and executive director of Enable Sports and Fitness, a nonprofit based in Cinnaminson. It provides programs for children and adults with special needs that are aimed at strengthening not only their bodies but their social connections through physical fitness and fun.

To Rosania the word “enable” encapsulates much of what she and her fellow trainers are trying to accomplish with their group.

“I wanted to have the name of our organization be empowering to the participants,” said Rosania. “I wanted something that would be uplifting and encouraging for the athletes.”

Rosania briefly considered naming her organization after her son Daniel, who was born with Down syndrome. Daniel was the inspiration behind Enable and is a regular at the classes.

“He’s always happiest when he has a ball in his hand. He plays tennis, basketball, he swims and he plays lacrosse with his brothers. He’s never been the kind of kid to sit around in class and be sedentary, so as he started getting older I was considering what he was going to do once he finished going to school,” said Rosania.

Two years ago, she started looking around her area for gyms or programs she could plug Daniel into that would provide the sort of athletic stimulation that made him so happy. She was frustrated with the lack of options available to people with special needs. Gyms tend to be a loud environment with flashing lights and a lot of things going on at once, which can be overwhelming to a special needs individual.

“I talked with my husband and we said, ‘well it’s not out there so why don’t we try and create something?’ and that’s where it came from,” said Rosania.

Enable began in 2016 with a mission to provide physical fitness activities that will help participants increase their endurance for activities and work on functional strength training needed for daily life. Many of their athletes have low muscle tone or just don’t have many opportunities to participate.

“We really wanted to give them what they need to better function in their real-world environment,” said Rosania.

She and a fellow trainer are Level 1 Autism Fitness Certified, and the rest of the staff is made up of local volunteers. They have also partnered with Jefferson University, which sends students studying occupational therapy to learn beginning therapy program skills.

Enable Fit is the organization’s main class that runs each week on Sunday and Wednesday for 40 minutes each session. It is a physical fitness and functional strength training class that is adapted to support the needs of each athlete. Once a month, they also hold a specialty class called Fun Friday Fit that offers a different focus each month. They have previously explored yoga, boxing, dance, wrestling, running and karate.

A community of support has formed among the parents who attend the classes with their children. Marcy Lightcap appreciates how Enable has provided an environment for kids like her son Joey, where they can have experiences other children might take for granted.

“It’s a place where they have an opportunity to do things that every kid does. Before Joey started coming here, I never saw him working out, now he comes here twice a week,” said Lightcap.

Joey’s sign for the gym is to make a muscle motion, it has become something he looks forward to. According to his mother, beyond her son building physical strength, he has also made friends in the program and is developing his social skills.

Enable Sports and Fitness is housed within the Outlaw Training and Fitness facility at 1821 Cinnaminson Ave. To learn more, you can visit enablesportsandfitness.com. As a nonprofit organization, it is actively fundraising and seeking sponsorships. You can support it by visiting the website and clicking on the donate tab.