Mid-South Hero: Woman creates fitness program with those with special needs

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 6:53 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This month’s Mid-South Hero cares for the mind, body and soul.

Jan Averwater has been at Christ Church since 1990. When the director of fitness and wellness position opened up, Jan applied, and after being chosen, she found a new passion.

“God just kept me here, and it’s a great job, I love it,” she said. “I love the relationships, I love meeting people, I love using sports and fitness as a tool to reach people, as a way to glorify God by what we’re doing each and every day.”

After noticing that there was a lack of special needs fitness programs in the community, Jan went to work.

“I like to call it special abilities, because those people also have great abilities that they bring each time they come in. they are happy, they’re cheerful, they’re fun to be with.”

Christ Church now provides a space for special populations to exercise, fellowship, and play sports…like baseball.

“We have a baseball program called challenger baseball for special needs. And it’s kids, youth, and adults, and the reason they chose baseball was they said, I can bowl, I can do other things like basketball, there a league for that, but there’s nothing in baseball…”

“One particular young man said, I go to the Cardinals games all the time, I go to the Redbirds game, and now I can play the game. He was so excited. He was a first baseman.”

While Challenger Baseball has been successful, Jan hopes to eventually help raise enough funds to build a Miracle League field in Memphis – a ballpark with a rubberized infield with a playground in the outfield for those with special abilities.

For now, it’s all about creating a space for them a part of a community, and, putting smiles on faces.

“It’s really, really rewarding. We have another young man…that’s in a wheelchair, and he is not verbal at all…but when his buddy pushes him around the bases to score, he crosses that plate and has the biggest grin on his face that you would ever see of any child playing baseball.”

“It makes you realize that you can enjoy life at any level, where you are. And it makes you realize how blessed you are.”

“I think we’re all called to be involved in the community, whether it’s sharing talents, whether it’s serving others, but I believe that our community is only gonna be as strong as we get involved and volunteer.”

Congratulations Jan, you are this month’s Mid-South Hero.

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