April 4, 2014. Alphonse Marie Louis, the 17th Century French writer, poet and politician once said, “There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.” When looking back to its humble beginnings, this was certainly the case for Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center, part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
In the Beginning
“I remember when the dream of having a Wellness Center in Boone was just that, a dream,” said Jodi Cash, Director of the Wellness Center.
“Cash, a Watauga County native and fitness enthusiast, can clearly recall the excitement she felt 19 years ago when Richard Sparks, then President of Watauga Medical Center (WMC), first shared his vision for opening a Wellness Center. As a result of his vision, a needs assessment was conducted for a Wellness Center in Boone. The study revealed that, though the High Country is home to ample outdoor fitness activities, it severely lacked indoor wellness options for residents.
“I will never forget those early conversations I had with Richard,” said Cash with a reminiscent smile. “As a leader in the community in which I grew up, it was inspiring to watch him lobby for improvements in my hometown.”
Once the project was approved, she was hired to lead the initiative from its onset. Always known as the one who could overcome obstacles, the swim coach, who grew up rock climbing with her father, felt up to the challenge. She fondly remembers her first work space as a couch outside the Human Resources Office. Soon after, a temporary fitness room consisting of a treadmill, a stepper machine and a desk for Jodi was set up right beside the WMC cafeteria.
“I spent most of my time in the beginning surveying different community groups to determine wellness interests,” said Cash. “The excitement around the project proved to be contagious and far reaching.”
Thanks in large part to the lead gift from Paul H. Broyhill and a host of more than 200 other donors, a total surpassing $2.5 million was raised over the years in support of the two-part massive construction project. A ceremonial ground-breaking took place in 1996 and in 1998 Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center opened its doors to the community.
The second phase took place in 2005, when the lap pool, therapy pool and more than 22,000 square feet were added to the facility.
More Than a Gym
The 63,000 square-foot Wellness Center includes an indoor track, two pools, racquetball and basketball courts, a variety of fitness classes, a fully equipped cardio gym, locker rooms, a massage therapy studio and childcare services.
Beyond its extensive list of amenities the Wellness Center fitness staff is perhaps even more impressive. The highly trained and supportive staff all share backgrounds in either exercise science or health promotion.
Paul Moore, Assistant Director of the Wellness Center is a registered dietitian who has won multiple awards through the North Carolina Dietitian Association (NCDA). Most recently, Moore received the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year Award in 2012 and the Young Dietitian of the Year in 2013. Thanks to Moore, members can learn about, measure and improve their nutrition as it aligns with their desired fitness outcomes.
“The goal from the very beginning has always been to establish a place for the community to connect.” said Cash. “Over the years, we have worked hard to create an inclusive culture by means of not just welcoming new members, but getting them plugged in.”
An example of this can be found in CrossFit Boone. CrossFit, a premiere strength and conditioning program, was brought to Boone in 2012. The program, which welcomes more than 400 visits a month, has become a community within a community for members of the Wellness Center.
Debra Williams, a work from home artist and mom said, “I love the community of CrossFit Boone. The members have become [for me and my husband] our family in Boone.”
In addition to CrossFit Boone, the Wellness Center offers an array of other adult fitness classes. A few of the most popular include Zumba, Yoga, Spin, Water Fitness, Triple Threat and Prenatal exercise classes. The Wellness Center also provides a variety of youth programs, including BLAST, Youth Strength and Conditioning and Kid Strong.
Continuum of Care
As an invaluable component to the healthcare system, Sparks’ vision from the beginning was to have the Wellness Center also serve as a place for patients to have access to rehabilitation services. From the beginning, a section of the Wellness Center was allocated for physical therapy.
The current Rehabilitation Center, adjacent to the Wellness Center, was added in 2005 as part of the phase two expansion project. The location of the facility allows patients access to the Wellness Center’s strength and conditioning equipment and pools. The Rehabilitation Center staff offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary services including treatment for neurologic, orthopeadic, women’s health, Lymphedema prevention/ management and chronic health conditions.
In July 2013, ARHS opened Appalachian Regional Orthopeadic and Sports Medicine Center (AppOrtho). This step proved to be the capstone piece to the healthcare system’s ongoing effort to provide a comprehensive continuum of care for patients in the High Country. AppOrtho, the official sports medicine provider for Appalachian State University Athletics, consists of an expert team of two board certified orthopeadic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.
“We have come a long way in the past 16 years,” said Sparks. “Thanks to the addition of AppOrtho, patients, in most cases may now stay on the mountain for their surgery, rehab and transition back to wellness.”
THRIVE, is one of the programs that has originated as a result of the continuum of care available through the healthcare system. THRIVE is a medically supervised program at the Wellness Center that transitions patients from more acute phases of chronic disease management to wellness. The program, which requires a physician referral, consists of a Cardiopulmonary Track as well as an Oncology Track. Since its inception in 2011, THRIVE has helped 110 patients improve their quality of life.
When asked about future plans for the Wellness Center, Cash simply smiled and answered, “Making our wellness community even stronger.”
“We are constantly looking to see how we can flex and grow our programs to reach and benefit more people in our community,” she said.
In 2013, the Wellness Center began offering the Silver Sneakers program to members who qualify. Silver Sneakers is an energizing program that helps older adults take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity.
In the months ahead, another new addition to the Wellness Center is being made thanks to funds raised through ARHS Foundation. In an effort to provide a safe wellness home for everyone, the Foundation purchased an Apex Challenge 7,000 machine optimized for wheelchair users. This unique piece of equipment will allow these members to perform a variety of exercises at the Wellness Center independently.
The Wellness Center, home to more than 2,200 active members, has truly grown from its humble beginnings. Its state-of-the-art facility, paired with its invaluable partnership with the healthcare system, has made the Wellness Center a pillar of fitness, health and community in the High Country.
“To be honest, I get emotional just thinking about how the dream has become a reality over the years,” said Cash. “I truly feel honored to be a part of something much bigger than myself that is doing so much good for our community.”