Fitness for Health. ;e first time he spot-
ted the Trazer, an interactive gaming
system similar to the Nintendo Wii, he
hid behind the TV. “I was so terrified,”
he says. “It was a new environment, and
I did not like new things.”
Sickel sat on the floor near him. “It’s
OK, bud, it’s OK,” Sickel said. “You can
come out—we’re here to have fun.” Ethan
spent his first 30-minute session hiding.
But after a few more visits he began to
warm up to Sickel, and to the games.
After spending his days in school being
told, “Don’t do this. Don’t climb on that.
Don’t touch that,” Fitness for Health
became an outlet.
“Now you’re climbing on a climbing
wall, you’re throwing balls at a light-up
wall…you’re in an indoor batting cage,”
says Ethan, who graduated from Win-
ston Churchill High School in Potomac.
“Honestly, for a while I thought my par-
ents were just paying for me to have fun.”
Being able to let out his stress helped
improve his behavior and increase his
activity level. But he still struggled at
times. “It’s this magical thing,” he says.
“In my darkest of times, I would go to
Fitness for Health and really feel like
myself, and feel happy.”
For Ethan, it helped to know that his
trainer understood what he was going
through. Sickel had told him, as he
often tells children who are frustrated
or discouraged, that he himself had a
learning disability. “Growing up, I wasn’t
really skilled at sports,” Sickel said. “It
took time, but don’t ever give up.” Last
December Ethan received a degree in
psychology from American University.
He’s currently earning a master’s degree
in social work at Columbia University in
New York, hoping to help kids like him.
WHEN LOLA BYRON, NOW 73, met
Sickel three years ago, she looked around
at all the “kids games” and thought, ;is
is baloney. ;e Bethesda resident didn’t
hide her skepticism. Sickel chuckles,
remembering her saying something like,
“How are these toys going to help me?”
“I took that as a challenge,” he says.
Byron, who calls herself “an open-minded skeptic,” began working with
Sickel twice a week and quickly noticed
a di;erence in herself. She’d been diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) as a child,
but it was a mild case and rarely a;ected
her. In her mid-50s, while on a European
vacation with her husband, she started
having trouble walking. “;en I began
to notice all kinds of little things,” Byron
says. Her balance was shaky, her energy
and endurance were lower than usual.
It became hard to lift her legs, which
would drag slightly. She fell a lot. She
searched for someone who specialized
in adults with CP—physicians, physical therapists, personal trainers—but
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