Frustration leads  to opportunity

Antrim residents start Health in Motion program for wheelchair-bound

  • Health in Motion participants hiked the accessible trails at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield this past summer with the Crotched Mountain Accessible Recreation and Sports Program.

Wheelchair Health in Motion is a growing program that works to empower participants with knowledge and support from peers, who also use wheelchairs daily for mobility.

The idea for the program came about when three women, all of whom use wheelchairs in their daily lives, began talking. Laura Clark and Jenny Crowell, both of Antrim, were introduced through mutual friends sometime after Crowell’s injury from a diving accident in 2008. Both women are quadriplegic due to spinal cord injuries, and in the summer of 2011 the two felt like they were in a rut with their lives.

“It was frustrating that we couldn’t go to the gym like everyone else,” Clark said in an interview Monday. Clark sustained her life-changing injuries in a 2004 car accident.

Clark said that she and Crowell wanted to be active and to reach out to people in their community who are in similar situations. The third woman involved with getting Health in Motion started, Carol Conforti-Adams, is the director of the nonprofit organization Sunset Hill Educational Institute based in South Sutton . Conforti-Adams is also living with quadriplegia. As the director of an organization with the mission to help individuals with disabilities discover their inner strengths, Clark said Conforti-Adams suggested the two women start a program to empower local people with disabilities, and in doing that the two women would be improving their work skills and continuing to learn.

Health in Motion offers innovative chair exercise, peer support, health promotion and disease prevention information, all free of charge . They started out holding classes at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, but are now at a facility in Concord and starting today in Goffstown as well.

From Clark’s perspective as a peer leader, instructing and informing others is an empowering leadership role for her. “When I first started peer leading in the beginning, I couldn’t move as well as other participants, we’re all at different levels [of mobility],” she noted.

Clark said all the exercises are led by others in wheelchairs. “It’s comforting to be led by someone who knows what your situation is like.”

One participant from Manchester who said he has attended the sessions since day one, Denis Lemay, noted the program wouldn’t be the same if normal, able-bodied people were leading the exercises. “It’s more realistic,” Lemay said in an interview Monday.

Lemay said he can move more than some of the leaders, but still learns new exercises. At first, Lemay didn’t know if he would continue with Health in Motion, but that hasn’t been an issue. “I ended up going almost every week,” Lemay said. “It’s a good thing to get out and see other people in our situation. I’ve done target shooting and hiking with the Crotched Mountain group and I probably wouldn’t have known about those if it wasn’t for Health in Motion.”

Two other participants from Laconia, Dawn and Duncan Campbell, said the program helps them feel better and strengthen the right muscles. “I use a manual wheelchair and it’s not a normal muscle I use for the back and forth motion,” Dawn said in an interview Monday.

Dawn is a paraplegic and her husband, Duncan, a former chiropractor, has leg damage requiring him to use a wheelchair as well.

Duncan agreed having peer leaders makes a difference. “All three know what it’s like living with limited mobility; most doctors don’t understand,” Duncan said Monday. “Doing it in groups is encouraging. When you’re all disabled, you push each other more.”

Laughter also helps participants burn calories. “You’re laughing, you’re having fun and you’re uplifted,” Dawn said.

In addition to holding classes at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Concord on Thursdays, beginning today Health in Motion sessions will also be held in Goffstown at the YMCA Allard Center on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. For more information, email or call 938-2562.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or

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