Last month, the Brian Neal Fitness & Health Foundation announced the beginning of its 2012 curriculum. The Foundation, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization seeks out financially challenged local persons who are living with HIV/AIDS or other life-altering conditions, providing free gym memberships at Island City Health and Fitness in Wilton Manors, as well as an hour-long group workout once a week, along with biweekly lifestyle education classes. The curriculum covers important aspects of daily living, from diet and exercise, to making positive life choices.
“There are a number of terrific service organizations that assist our community,” acknowledges founder Brian Neal. “I established the Fitness & Health Foundation to fill a rare but critical void in the community to help people live a healthy lifestyle through exercise combined with nutritional and life coaching.”
After a successful career as owner of an Atlanta fitness facility, Neal moved to Fort Lauderdale six years ago and opened his own personal training gym.
“I realized my motivation for training people solely for profit was misplaced. Instead, I wanted to train people who did not access our programs for various reasons.” The Foundation was quickly conceived and after discussions with business and nutrition advisors, along with future members of the non-profit’s board of trustees, it was launched in April 2011.
“Broward County has one of the highest rates of new HIV cases in the country. Here was an opportunity to help people less fortunate and HIV positive,” Neal recalls. “Medications are expensive. With government cutbacks on funding, there is an extreme need to support those people within our community, by offering tangible services in the fitness, nutrition, and life coaching areas of life.”
Garry Smyth is COO of the Fifth Street Counseling Center and a Foundation board member. “The Foundation promotes a healthy lifestyle to people who otherwise may not have the opportunity or access to it,” says Smyth.
Initially, it was the Foundation’s intention to enroll 20 grant recipients for the Winter 2012 curriculum. That was before the organization received an avalanche of requests from applicants. Although Neal and the trustees were gratified by the overwhelming response of need from within the community, a crisis quickly developed in which the numbers of applicants—a literal embarrassment of riches—overwhelmed the available grant resources.
The decision was made that 41 grants—more than twice the original target—would be extended, with an additional 100 participants being enrolled in the online Health and Wellness Management Program and the Foundation’s Weekly Walk on Wilton (Drive) each Saturday at noon.
Reece Darham, managing director of Island City Health and Fitness, applauds the mission of the Foundation and the strides it is making to improve the health and well being of the community. “I can’t stress enough what an excellent opportunity this is to introduce people into a healthy lifestyle,” Darham emphasizes. “Brian and the Foundation are doing excellent work, and the whole community is the beneficiary.”
The Foundation has likewise done extensive community outreach to raise awareness of its mission and to put a face on the important work in which the not-for-profit engages. In December 2011, Neal and supporters of the Foundation organized “Dancing with the South Florida Stars,” billed as a “night of music, merriment, and tripping-the light- fantastic” to support the organization’s fitness, nutrition, and life coaching programs. The event was held on Monday, December 12, at The Manor Nightclub and Restaurant complex in Wilton Manors.
Using a format familiar to fans of the hit television program “Dancing with the Stars,” ten partnered teams trained for over a month in the dance and aerobics studio at Wilton Manors’ Island City Health and Fitness to ensure they were at peak performance.
The teams, which were culled from a “Who’s Who” of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s “gay-lerati,” included entertainers as well as business and community leaders. The couples were, in numbered order: Jesse Durko and Andrea Lytle, John Zieba and Nicholette, Bobby Blair and Deja Devonair, Michael Driscoll and Cashetta, Bruce Bogan and Electra, Sean David and Dimitri, Reece Darham and Velvet Lenore, Billy Bowser and Misty Eyez, Dean Trantalis and Michelle Verdi-Knapp, and Vince Clancy and Liene Dilorenzo.
Afterwards, Trantalis, a former Fort Lauderdale city commissioner and the Foundation’s attorney, echoed the sentiments of other present. “The people! The energy! The fun! And of course the Brian Neal Foundation cause. The generosity of our community is overwhelming. And we all had a great time being a part of it.”
The next “Dancing with the South Florida Stars” fundraising event is scheduled for Monday, May 21 at 7 p.m., to coincide with the season finale of ABC’s hit television series “Dancing with the Stars.” Moving forward into 2012, founder Brian Neal has announced that Felix DeBruin, who helmed the not-for-profit Pet Project as that organization’s executive director for six years, has been brought aboard to serve as executive director for the Foundation effective this week.
“With Felix’s experience and in-depth understanding of the grant application process, we are extremely confident that more deserving persons will be able to benefit from the Foundation’s curriculum this year and for many years to come,” Neal offered. H For information about the Brian Neal Fitness & Health Foundation, and about making tax-deductible donations, visit: www.BrianNealFitness.org
Brian Neal Fitness & Health Foundation Services Available
• Saturday, 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Group Workout
• Saturday, 10:15-11:15 a.m. Group Workout
• Island City Health & Fitness gym membership
• Online Health & Wellness Program
• Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. Biweekly Nutrition Class,
Pride Center at Equality Park
• Wednesday, 5:00 p.m. Biweekly Life Coaching Class,
Pride Center at Equality Park
• Saturday, 12:00-1:00 p.m. Weekly Walk on Wilton (Drive)