Everyday Heroes: Keeping every body, and mind, active
TIGARD, Ore. —
Brad Franklin always had a dream, a dream so strong that he talked about it way back on his first date with the woman who's now his wife.
And unlike most dreams, Franklin's had very little to do with him, and everything to do with helping other people live better, fuller lives.
Franklin first realized the difference he could make when he worked as a special education teacher at Tigard High School.
"I just kind of noticed, once my students graduated from high school, it was just tough to match that five days a week rigor and routine that school brought," says Franklin, "So you did tend to see sometimes that physical and social regression."
So after five years at Tigard High, Franklin took a chance and started Every Body Athletics, a non-profit exercise program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But it's more than just exercising. The athletes partner with teammates without disabilities, to exercise their minds, too.
Athletes get to participate in the program for free, because Franklin believes there are enough valuable programs out there that cost money, and he wants to make sure cost doesn't keep anybody away.
"We obviously do a lot of physical exercises, being an exercise class, but also a lot of social exercises, too," says Franklin. That includes athletes answering a question at each station, before beginning their individualized workout.
"Before you can do your exercise, there's a question that you have to answer with your partner," says Franklin. "And that's just kind of a great way to draw out conversation, draw out some words, and just kind of build that social emotional piece."
The questions are wide-ranging, like 'what''s your favorite movie?' or 'what are you having for dinner?'.
"I come up with the questions every week," Franklin says, laughing. "I'm getting low if anyone has any ideas."
It's one role of many for the new father.
Franklin runs four sessions on Mondays, and six on Wednesdays. He just started a Tuesday night session, too.
"Our people with disabilities come from all over the community," says Franklin, "A lot of people sign up individually, but we do have a couple of day programs that use us as their community outing on a weekly basis."
One of Franklin's athletes is Jonathan Weintz, who comes to Tigard from Milwaukie twice a week to work out. He wants to get his arm strong enough to join a softball team.
"I come here to do the throwing thing with my right arm," says Weintz, fresh off a tossing session. "Every day I get improvement from that, and I get a lot better."
And Weintz has a real fondness for Franklin.
"He teaches me to do thing, he's funny, he's more relaxed, he's just an exciting person," says Weintz. "I like Brad."
Delana Lincoln is one of Franklin's 60 volunteers, most of whom are upperclassmen in high school or college students.
"It's super unique because you don't know what you're coming into because you're always working with someone different," says Lincoln, a senior at Tigard High School. "But the relationships are so easy, they're not forced and they're so genuine."
She's pretty fond of Franklin, too.
"He's literally my favorite person on the planet," Lincoln smiles, "He's definitely a mentor to me. He just brings a lot of comedy and funny little quirky things into EBA that makes it his own and he's just an all-around good guy."
Franklin's wife, Sara, wrote the letter nominating him as an Everyday Hero. She says he talked about this dream from the start.
Here is the first sentence of her letter: "On my very first date with my now husband, he told me his dream was to create a nonprofit for adults with developmental disabilities that have aged out of state services."
Franklin says Sara knows he doesn't like attention, but she sent the letter anyway. He didn't even recall talking about his dream on that date, but he says he had other things on his mind.
"Honestly, I was just trying to think of a way to get a second date with her, and so, that’s why I brought that up," he says.
If you're thinking of looking into Every Body Athletics' free program, Brad hopes you'll give it a chance.
"If you wanna register as an athlete, if you wanna come volunteer as a teammate, lot of ways to get involved," he says. "We’d love to have you!"
Click on this link to learn more.