The 9th annual Think Fit For Kids event, which supports pediatric brain cancer research, took place once again at Club Fit in Briarcliff on March 3rd. As always, the event brought the community together for a fun-filled day of fitness, while raising funds to support novel pediatric brain cancer research. Since the 2018 event, A Kid’s Brain Tumor Cure Foundation has merged with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the largest pediatric brain tumor foundation in the country, in order to serve more families and find more promising treatments for children battling brain tumors. This merger would not have been possible without the success of Think Fit For Kids, which has raised close to $2 million over the last nine years. Think Fit For Kids funds are currently funding two clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and an on-going research project at the Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as the first ever privately funded pediatric brain cancer research project at the National Cancer Institute. The non-profit is excited for this opportunity as it finally gives pediatric brain tumor research the recognition it deserves from the government. “None of this would be possible without the community support of the annual Think Fit For Kids event. The community’s generosity has given hope to kids battling brain tumors who have run out of treatment options,” noted Kim Gilman, a Chappaqua resident and co-founder of the Think Fit For Kids event. To find out additional information or to donate, please visit thinkfitforkids.org.
On a recent weekday afternoon, lime and cantaloupe infused waters awaited members at the entrance of Club Fit in Briarcliff, and the fruit’s colorful cheer was echoed by the motivational sayings lining the walls. “Do something your future self will thank you for,” urged one.
But while Club Fit Briarcliff certainly offers many opportunities for the individual, what sets it apart from many gyms and fitness facilities is a focus on serving the entire family. Now celebrating its 45th year, the club, and its sister location in Jefferson Valley, offers a family-friendly experience with a special focus on giving back to the community, while offering a wide range of standard and modern fitness offerings.
From areas for children that are divided by age to special times for basketball for ages 40 and up, Club Fit supplies things to do for all ages. And with a focus on offering fun, age-appropriate childcare, parents can take advantage of all the club has to offer.
“One thing we’ve really expanded in the last 15 years is our childcare,” Ellen Koelsch, an owner of the club with her brother, Bill Beck, said recently. “We have enough space to dedicate to kids under five and kids five to 12. As a working mom myself, I know you can’t just leave the 6-year-old home alone.” The space for older kids has a small basketball court, air hockey, plus video games, with a catch–they’re played standing. “They’re getting used to a fitness environment early,” Koelsch said.
Childcare manager and party coordinator Melissa Lawrence, a longtime Club Fit employee, agreed. “I’ve been here 22 years and it’s great to see these kids grow up and see them return as adults–it’s pretty cool.”
After school, some kids come to Club Fit by bus. They can unwind, then take a swim or tennis lesson and “you can get out of work, do 20 minutes of cardio and grab your kid,” Koelsch said.
At Club Fit, the fitness center is flooded with natural light; and off to the side is something a little unusual–a space reserved for women only.
The club also has nine tennis courts, physical therapy on-site, and a huge pool area with spaces for lap swimming, lessons, swim team practice and a large hot tub. Parents with little ones can utilize the zero-entry area. There’s a spin area with more than 60 seats and racquetball as well.
There are also many spaces for group exercise classes–and Club Fit keeps up with the trends, offering the types of classes often found in small boutique gyms. Currently, members can take CFX classes, which are “our version of a functional fitness class, using your own body weight,” Koelsch said. “We’re kind of blending going to a studio for small-group attention with a full-service experience with childcare. We know family is important and time is valuable, so we make that kind of class available to the community. Exercise is important–people know that, they know it has to be a part of their lives, but what’s hard is to keep it interesting.” Besides CFX, the club offers TRX classes as well as more standard classes such as Zumba, which tend to be larger. The goal is to offer smaller studio-like classes within the club. “So your ‘neighborhood’ can stay the same, but you’re always on the cutting edge of fitness,” Koelsch said.
Club representative Wendy Courtney is another of many long-term employees. “When I started with the club, Ellen was little,” Courtney said. “The club was born and raised for the community and that’s how we developed – everything here was born for this community.” The club is constantly sending surveys to members and uses the responses to direct growth and change and improvement, Courtney and Koelsch said.
“It’s great to hear the good news but we learn from the bad news. Our members are our eyes and our ears,” Courtney said. “Our membership knows we want to hear from them.”
Personal trainer Beth Kear said at Club Fit, “the owners are very involved and supportive of the staff. Anywhere you go, you’ll see it – everything, from the minute you walk in the door has that family feel–friendly, welcoming, non-intimidating. Member integration is a big priority.”
That’s why newcomers to the club are given not just a session with a trainer, but are walked through every aspect of using a club–from how to use a membership card to how to use the machines. “You should feel comfortable from when you walk in the door,” Koelsch said.
Because some people who need to start exercising are very unaccustomed to the health club environment, Club Fit has a special program called Help RX. It’s a short-term, discounted program with “a lot more hand-holding,” Koelsch said. That way, prospective members who have been told by their doctors that they need to start exercising can try the club out.
Club Fit also offers a senior discount and half off membership fees to active duty police, firefighters, EMTs and military. And if there are area power failures–well, Beck said, they’ll open their doors to those who need hot showers, as they have before.
“We’ve been in our community a very long time,” Koelsch said. “And we love giving back.”
Jumpy castles, hoop games, Zumba for kids, face painting–the annual Think Fit For Kids (TFFK) Family and Fitness event, generously hosted at Club Fit in Briarcliff, is a community fundraiser that has been going strong for eight years.
As we went to press with this issue, the 2018 TFFK team of volunteers, is ensuring that the event on Sunday, March 4, 2018 meets its goal of raising $250,000 to support state of the art pediatric brain cancer research. Getting ready for TFFK involves the support of corporate sponsors, with more than 75 local merchants all donating the food, DJ music, entertainment and photography.
Since 2011 when Chappaqua’s Kim Gilman and Amy Weinstein approached Club Fit’s owner, Ellen Koelsch to sponsor the TFFK event, $1.5 million has been raised for A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure Foundation, which currently funds two extremely promising projects at Massachusetts General Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering. Most excitingly, a Phase 1 clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of combining immunotherapy agents in children with brain tumors has now expanded into a large-scale clinical trial at 58 centers in 13 countries. This study brings new hope to children across the globe who have run out of treatment options and may provide a completely new avenue for battling deadly brain tumors in children.
Cancerous brain tumors have now surpassed leukemia as the leading cause of cancer death in children. There are 28,000 children battling brain tumors in the U.S., including some in our community, and an additional 4,300 will be diagnosed this year.
Through Horace Greeley High School’s club, SHARE (Students Have A Responsibility Everywhere), enthusiastic student volunteers help before, during and after the TFFK event. In addition to manning a booth at Community Day to publicize the event, SHARE hosts a Ben & Jerry’s fundraiser in Mt. Kisco. “It’s great to see many Greeley students come to get ice cream and help out this cause and raise community awareness around the dire need for funding pediatric brain cancer research. Plus, we always have fun scooping ice cream!” says Alice Heyeh, a SHARE Community Partners Executive, HGHS ’18.
It’s not too late to donate to the cause. Visit www.thinkfitforkids.org for additional information.
The 7th annual Think Fit For Kids Family Fitness and Fun Festival brought 350+ people, three Pediatric Brain Cancer Foundations and two Best-In-Class Medical Institutions together in March at Club Fit in Briarcliff to raise over $150,000 to benefit targeted pediatric brain cancer research. Two national clinical trial protocols for children who have run out of treatment options are currently under review by AKBTC’s Scientific Advisory Board.
Final funding decisions will be made based on total funds raised by the 2017 Think Fit For Kids event.
“Thank you to all our loyal supporters, our many local sponsors and our generous corporate sponsors that all helped us accomplish this incredible milestone!” said Kim Gilman, executive director, Think Fit for Kids. To make a donation or learn about upcoming events and/or become a volunteer or sponsor, visit thinkfitforkids.org. “Stay tuned for summer and fall events to benefit pediatric brain cancer research at AKBTC,” said Gilman. — Grace Bennett
Briarcliff Manor— Brain tumors don’t take a winter break, and neither will Think Fit for Kids. On Sunday, March 5th, from 2 – 4 p.m., Think Fit For Kids will return to Club Fit for the 7th Annual event to raise funds and awareness about the #1 cause of cancer-related death in children. Changing the outcome for pediatric brain cancer patients by funding research for more effective treatments is the priority of this family fun afternoon. And this year, all event expenses are covered by a generous benefactor so that 100% of participant raised funds will go directly to research.
If you have participated in this event in the past, you know first-hand what an incredible day of fun and hope this event provides for the entire community. A perfect way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon for family members of ALL AGES, Think Fit For Kids is open to the public. (Please see the invitation below for schedule details.)
Pediatric brain cancer is the #1 cause of cancer-related death in children, but research to find more effective treatments continues to receive little funding through government agencies.
Since its inception in 2011, Think Fit For Kids has raised OVER $1.3 MILLION and has funded two state-of-the-art research projects including a promising epigenetic study at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as a Phase 1 Immunotherapy Clinical Trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Because of the generous support of donors, corporations, local merchants, and an entire community that comes together for a common goal: to eradicate brain tumors in children, Think Fit For Kids 2017 stands to raise $250,000 to fund another clinical trial later this spring. According to event chairperson, Kim Gilman,
“Falling short of this fundraising goal is simply unacceptable as pediatric brain cancer research funding has fallen behind so many other disease types on the National Institutes of Health’s radar. Without support from groups like A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure, the outcome for children battling brain cancer is bleak.”
With Club Fit’s generous donation of the venue, as well as numerous local merchants providing food and entertainment, the afternoon is slated for fun-fit activities and delicious snacks, along with a stocked silent auction and musical entertainment. Bring family, friends, and colleagues to celebrate the success of the first 6 years and help ensure that the 7th Annual event raises the bar on fun and FUNdraising! Please visit thinkfitforkids.org and register/donate today. Because all children should have the opportunity to fight for their dreams not for their lives.