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Volunteer fitness instructors share their passion near and far

Local couple has been leading exercise classes for seniors and people with chronic medical conditions for 12 years
Volunteers Susan and Bill Joyce have been leading a twice weekly fitness class for the past 12 years through the South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre in Wasaga Beach.

It looks odd to see Bill Joyce doing exercises while speaking in front of a computer.

But, he's not talking to himself. He's leading the free Exercise Maintenance Program offered by the South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre (CHC) in coordination with the North Simcoe Muskoka (NSM) Self Management Program through the Zoom platform.

Lifelong advocates of fitness and wellness, Bill and Susan Joyce have been volunteering for 12 years to keep their fellow seniors in the best health possible.

"We've been involved with the centre since the opening," Susan said.

Most of the 38 participants registered are fighting chronic pain, heart disease and other health challenges. Bill, a certified personal trainer, and Susan also both also volunteer with the Cardiac Recovery Program offered at the YMCAs in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach through the Georgian Bay Family Health Team.

"Some of the participants are graduates of the cardiac program," said Bill. "Exercise is a big component to getting back to proper functioning.

"I just like to help people and try and get them fit," he said.

Susan added, "I love volunteering. I love the interaction with people. Helping them helps me."

While most other fitness classes have abandoned online classes, it works because, while all the participants live in the region, some sign in from winter homes in South Carolina and Florida.

Peter Hall of Nottawa signed in Tuesday morning from Myrtle Beach. He started in the program in May, 2022, six weeks after having quadruple bypass surgery.

"I've been with the program two days a week ever since. It's tremendous," he said over the Zoom link. "We appreciate the work they do." 

Carol Fazackerly, of Collingwood, signed in from Vero Beach. She faces daily health challenges.

"I've been doing it the best I can, twice a week. It's been a godsend for me," she said through the computer program.

Seven of the participants have been taking the class for the full 12 years, said Peter.

Lauren Jeffrey, community program coordinator for the CHC, said, “the program has evolved from where we had people in person to online to now where people who are vacation are still able to participate," she said.

"They can do it from the comfort of their own home and they are also creating a sense of community online, supporting each other and getting feedback," Jeffrey added.

The CHC could not run the programs it does without the help of volunteers, like Bill and Susan, Jeffrey said. In fact, more volunteers are needed to lead fitness, nutrition, mental health and social support programs.

The NSM Self-Management Program provides a variety of free programs across the larger region to help people living with chronic conditions and pain.

"With chronic conditions and chronic pain, movement is so important to maintaining health and improving health, coordination, heart health – everything,” said Christa Heigenhauser, program coordinator. 

Programs rely on volunteer instructors so Heigenhauser said she really appreciates the long-time effort made by Bill and Susan.

To register for the free fitness program, visit the website or call 705-422-1888 or email [email protected].

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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