BayCare Fitness Centers Help Train Youth with Disabilities for 2021 Special Olympics

March 26, 2021
BayCare Fitness Centers Help Train Youth with Disabilities for 2021 Special Olympics


For Omaries Rivera, 27, training for the Special Olympics is an exciting time. However, 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 games,” said Rivera, who is a member of Specially Fit Foundation. “But the pandemic made day-to-day training a bit harder.” 

Specially Fit Foundation, which helps provide year-round workouts, training, nutrition coaching and mentorship for members with developmental disabilities, struggled to find a safe location to train its special needs athletes. That’s when BayCare stepped in to help. 

BayCare partnered with Specially Fit Foundation to allow its athletes to safely train and exercise inside the state-of-the-art fitness center facility inside the BayCare HealthHub (Bloomingdale)

“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.”

Rivera said training for the Special Olympics at the BayCare Fitness center has giving her and other athletes motivation to train harder. “It’s a beautiful facility and it feels safe when we train there,” said Rivera. 

BayCare Fitness Centers Help Train Youth with Disabilities for 2021 Special Olympics
Omaries Rivera, 27, trains at BayCare Fitness Center for Special Olympics

“We’re honored and thrilled to welcome Specially Fit Foundation and all of their athletes into our fitness center,” said Melissa Zegarelli, director for Ambulatory Experience and Operations. “It’s been a pleasure inviting them here. The team is doing everything possible to ensure every athlete feels safe when they’re working out.” 

Rivera’s mother, Mariel Perez, said she feels comfortable knowing her daughter is training at a facility like the BayCare Fitness Center. 

“I feel comfortable sending my daughter to this fitness center,” said Perez. “The facility is clean, everyone wears masks and social distancing is followed.” 

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

“Our top priority is the health of our members and staff,” said Zegarelli. “Since we opened our facilities following temporary COVID-19 closings, we’ve put in place various preventive measures to keep our members healthy and our facilities extra clean.”

Andrew Robinson, 26, who is also training for the Special Olympics, is excited to exercise at the BayCare Fitness Center for the countywide Special Olympics in Tampa, March 27 through March 28. He is among 200 athletes competing during these events. 

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

BayCare Fitness Centers Help Train Youth with Disabilities for 2021 Special Olympics
Andrew Robinson, 26, trains at BayCare Fitness Center for Special Olympics

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 is looking forward to continuing to work with the Specially Fit Foundation and his 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.”   

For more information on BayCare Fitness Centers, visit


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