Mark Oliver, founder and CEO of Specially Fit, working out with one of his groups.

By Gwen Rollings

“It just made sense,” according to Campo Family YMCA Executive Director, Jarrod Williams, referring to the Y’s collaboration with local nonprofit Specially Fit. Williams continued, “We know the need is out in the community, and we’re always looking for ways to build a stronger community.”

The need in the community Williams mentioned is providing individuals who have developmental disabilities the opportunity to grow their health, fitness and independence. In fact, that need is urgent all over Florida.

Two national advocacy groups compiled rankings which found that Florida dropped from 18th to 34th in the nation over the past dozen years in helping people with intellectual and developmental difficulties.

Founder and CEO of Specially Fit Mark Oliver and the Campo Y believe that all Floridians should have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential. Oliver has been on a mission since 2018 to change lives through his 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation by involving individuals with special needs or children living in foster homes in exercise and sports.

Oliver believes anyone can participate in some exercise despite perceived limitations or the fact that 60 percent of people with disabilities are overweight or obese.

Oliver, speaking about the Specially Fit Foundation, said, “It’s my everything. It’s my baby. There are people with autism, there’s people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy…basically everything. We have people in our group who are stronger than I am. We have some people in our group who need help.”

His motto is: “Changing the community one rep at a time.”

Specially Fit relies on private support through grants as well as corporate and individual donations to include volunteering of time to continue providing its services to individuals in the Tampa area. The Campo Family Y expressed thanks for some generous community donors who provided free Y memberships and programming.

Kelli Biandudi, communications manager at Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, said, “The partnership is new and the training sessions are not open to the public. We’re hoping it will grow from here within all the Tampa Metropolitan Area Ys with more donor support.”

Williams said, “We have the facilities, we wanted to provide access. We knew we had some potential donors interested in providing memberships for these individuals, and it worked out pretty quickly, so it just made sense.”

For more information on how to support this program, call Williams at the Campo Y at 684-1371 or email Jarrod.Williams@TampaYMCA.Org.