Making an Impact on Physical Fitness

Ryan Bade enjoyed sports and other physical activities before a 2005 Jet Ski accident changed his life forever. The 28-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury and underwent extensive physical therapy after the accident.

Seven years later, he continues to recover and does so partly through Sanford’s Physical Therapy Department’s Accessible Wellness Program, which was started with a grant from the Sanford Health Foundation’s Unrestricted Fund. Dr. Julie Johnson, Department of Pediatrics Associate Professor at Sanford School of Medicine and Medical Director for Rehabilitation Services at Children’s Care Hospital and School, recommended the program to Bade, and he was one of the first members to enroll.

“Before, I was so physically active, but then I was injured and I thought this is no way to live,” he said. “This makes me feel normal – whatever normal is.”

For 23 years, Kevin Horner, PT, MLT, saw people like Bade who had a physical disability and benefitted from physical therapy. Once progress plateaued or insurance was exhausted, they didn’t have an appropriate facility that met their needs. Fitness center facilities in the region are not designed, equipped for or staffed with qualified trainers to give the proper instruction to these specific patients.

“These patients need ongoing physical exercise or activity to help maintain joint range of motion, strength and function,” he said.

The Accessible Wellness Program started in March 2012 and is located in the Van Demark Building. The exercise equipment is accessible to someone in a wheelchair, but also accommodates the able-bodied person. Certified Inclusion Fitness Trainers are available at various times throughout the week.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities (CARF) recently accredited Sanford’s Inpatient Rehab facility for three years and recognized the Accessible Wellness Program as an exemplary practice. “It shows how unique our program is,” Horner said.

Five spinal cord injury patients participated in the pilot program from September to December 2009. Horner measured their range of motion, strength and lung function, and administered a quality of life questionnaire before and after the pilot program. All participants showed improvements in varying degrees of objective measurements as well as in their quality of life survey over the eight-week period.

Horner said he originally hoped to enroll 50 members within the first year of the program, but has 46 after nine months with limited marketing or advertising. He already wants to expand the facility.

“It has been so successful,” he said. “We can have 10 to 15 people participating at a time in a room that is 1,000 square feet.

Gifts to the Unrestricted Fund allow programs like Accessible Wellness to fulfill an important need for the community. To make a gift, visit

Posted Date: April 2013

Making an Impact on Physical Fitness

Ryan Bade enjoyed sports and other physical activities before a 2005 Jet Ski accident changed his life forever.