The Specially Fit Foundation helps provide year-round workouts, training, nutrition coaching and mentorship for members with developmental disabilities. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly DeFalco.)

BayCare is teaming up with the Specially Fit Foundation, providing state-of-the-art fitness centers for the nonprofit organization to train its members for the 2021 Special Olympics.

The Specially Fit Foundation helps provide year-round workouts, training, nutrition coaching and mentorship for members with developmental disabilities.

“Our partnership with BayCare has been an answered prayer for our organization and our athletes,” said Mark Oliver, CEO and founder of Specially Fit Foundation. “The pandemic closed our previous facility, and BayCare was generous to allow us to train in its fitness center. This partnership has exceeded our expectations in all aspects.”

The nonprofit struggled to find a safe location to train its special needs athletes during COVID-19. Then BayCare stepped in, allowing the athletes to safely train inside the BayCare HealthHub, located in Bloomingdale.

From the start of the pandemic, BayCare Fitness Centers enhanced their standard safety processes and cleaning procedures to protect members and staff. Fitness center facilities take every precaution, including enforcing masks, doing regular temperature checks and practicing social distancing.

Specially Fit member Omaries Rivera is thrilled to have a facility to call her own during training. COVID-19 made it challenging for her and her teammates to find a safe place to exercise.

“I’m always excited to train for the Olympic games,” said Rivera, “but the pandemic made day-to-day training a bit harder. It’s a beautiful facility and it feels safe when we train there.”

Rivera said training for the Olympics at the BayCare Fitness center has given her and other athletes motivation to train harder, including Andrew Robinson, who was also training for the Special Olympics in Tampa that occurred from March 27-28. They were among 200 athletes that competed during these events.

Rivera won gold medals in shot put, the 400m run and the 4x100m relay, and Robinson
won a gold medal in the 400m walk in the local competition. They will both participate in the regional competition at the end of April.

“I’m motivated,” said Robinson. “I feel ready. Mark [Oliver] inspires me to win.”

Oliver said athletes feel prepared and inspired given the BayCare team has gone above and beyond to meet the needs of athletes.

“BayCare has provided gym access to our athletes outside of our weekly practice,” said Oliver. “The staff also created a good luck banner in preparation for the Special Olympics with a collage of photos of our athletes. These special touches are what sets this partnership apart.”

BayCare Director for Ambulatory Experience and Operations Melissa Zegarelli is looking forward to continuing to work with the Specially Fit Foundation and its athletes.

“BayCare’s mission is to help improve the lives of the community in which we serve, and our collaboration with this organization is a testament of what we strive to do every single day,” she said.

For more information on BayCare Fitness Centers, visit

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.