St. Charles gym owner launches nonprofit to help special needs clients get fit

  • David Brown of Power Athletics, left, with Chris Chavez of St. Charles, a Special Olympian he's training. Brown created a nonprofit organization called PaWellness Inc. using his facility and trainers to serve clients with special needs.

      David Brown of Power Athletics, left, with Chris Chavez of St. Charles, a Special Olympian he's training. Brown created a nonprofit organization called PaWellness Inc. using his facility and trainers to serve clients with special needs. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted6/28/2018 9:54 AM

Persons with disabilities, low on income, or getting older should still be able to exercise at a fitness center -- except few, if any, places make it easy for those types of people to do so.

David Brown saw plenty of people who faced those challenges coming to his Power Athletics facility in the Charlestowne Mall and asked them how they could go about getting fit.


"That flipped the light bulb switch in my head to come up with an idea for a place for those with special needs," Brown said. "Through the network of our gym, we knew there was a need for low-income families, veterans and elderly people, as well as the disabled, to come and work out."

To address that, Brown created the PaWellness Inc. nonprofit organization, utilizing his same facility and trainers to serve these clients, but operating it as a separate entity from the for-profit Power Athletics.

It's been growing, along with the Power Athletics, to the point where Brown is hoping his negotiations with the city of St. Charles to move into the empty Butera grocery location on the city's east side will become a reality.

"We're hoping to close up that deal soon," Brown said. "If they accept our offer, the ball could be rolling within the next week or so."

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Power Athletics, in business about three years now, serves about 160 monthly clients and plenty of walk-ins who pay for single sessions while staying at local hotels.

Brown, a former football and basketball coach at South Elgin High School, is putting extra effort into building up the nonprofit.

He's establishing a relationship with the Boys and Girls Club in Elgin, creating a Special Olympics team, and working with St. Charles schools to determine interest and inform youths about his site.

One of his prized pupils right now is Chris Chavez, a 19-year-old St. Charles resident and Judson College student who took first place in 100-meter run in a Special Olympics regional, and second in the javelin at the statewide games.

"The nonprofit was established so we could get into other aspects of the community," Brown said. "We felt there was a need for what we are doing, and it's become our mission in the area."


Walrus takes the name:

Not only did author Lewis Caroll inspire "Alice in Wonderland" through his poem about a couple of it characters, "The Walrus and The Carpenter," he also helped Marshall McCarty and Laura Bentley come up with a name for their new restaurant in Geneva.

With a combined 36 years of restaurant experience, the Geneva couple will finally fulfill their dreams of owning their own place when the The Walrus Room opens it doors at 415 W. State St.

"Alice in Wonderland is our son's favorite movie, and it just so happens we were watching the movie one evening while also considering what to call the new restaurant," McCarty said. "It wasn't obvious to us at the time that this would end up being the name that stuck, but it did."

More importantly, McCarty plans to put his chef skills to good use in creating a "supper club" atmosphere that will feature events like fish fry Fridays, prime rib on Saturdays and various drinks and desserts.

"Most importantly, supper clubs are places to gather with friends and family to enjoy conversation and company after a long week of work," McCarty said. "We believe a basic tenant of supper clubs is to provide a great value for its guests."

Having worked at Geneva restaurants in the past, McCarty and Bentley knew this was the city in which to open their own place.

"The restaurant community here is lively and supportive," he said.

When we spoke last week, McCarty said he was hoping to open the restaurant in a couple of weeks. So, it shouldn't be long.

Bank building tenants:

A few readers have wondered what might be taking over the empty American Bank & Trust site on Merchants Drive off Randall Road in Geneva.

The city says the new tenants will be Baird & Warner and HC Private Capital.

Bank branches are undergoing significant changes these days, some of those changes making it less necessary to have a branch. We still like going to our bank, so hopefully we won't lose that to technology as well.

But it is a key reason people wonder what type of business could go into those buildings.

It's got more impact:

Not long ago, a subject of one of the items in my column said she had seen the story online, but was wondering when it would appear in the newspaper.

"It will have more impact in the paper," she said.

That comment, one you don't hear as often these days, jumped out at me a little more than it might have in the past. What she meant, most likely, was that most of the people she knew would more likely see it in the newspaper, and she could also buy more copies of the paper to share with others.

Either way, it felt good to hear someone share my feeling that the value of a newspaper can't be underestimated -- and that a newspaper in your hands has much appeal. Sure, it doesn't represent the flashiest new technology, but there is a lot of flashy technology and a lot of people involved behind the scenes in making sure it gets to your hands in the morning.

With the newspaper industry under attack, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves of what should be apparent -- without a free press, we would lose most of our other freedoms.

On this Fourth of July, if you are reading a newspaper, think of the countries in which that wouldn't be likely, or even possible. It helps us all realize what an important right it is to have those pages of newsprint in our hands.


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