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 SRU's I Can Do It, You Can Do It program goes national 



Oct. 13, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:


SRU's I Can Do It, You Can Do It program goes national

 SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's I Can Do It, You Can Do It mentoring program has been selected to be the national role model for launching nine new I Can Do It programs at schools and community centers across the country. 

            SRU has received a three-year, $850,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Disability to become the charter institution for a national expansion of the program. I Can Do It partners college student mentors with children and adults with disabilities for weekly physical activity sessions.

            Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, will serve as project director and technical adviser for implementing the new programs. The money received by SRU will provide up to $15,000 grants for each of the nine new programs.

            "All these places from around the country - schools, recreation centers and agencies - will apply for a grant through us," Arnhold said. "We're going to bring all the directors here this fall for training, and they will go back and implement programs that duplicate the success we've had with our program."

            SRU is the only University in the country that was asked to help launch new programs. The University was selected from a national pool of applicants.

            "We chose Slippery Rock University because the peer review committee judged it to be an excellent proposal and one of high quality," said Michael Marge, deputy director for the Office on Disability. "Bob Arnhold is a nationally recognized specialist. He has been identified as a major leader in the field of physical fitness for youth with disabilities. He's got the intellectual capabilities and the creativity to take on real challenges."

            The I Can Do It program supports several national health priorities, Marge added. The program aims to decrease health risks associated with inactivity, such as obesity, while encouraging healthy living habits. Six million American children have an intellectual disability and could benefit from increased activity, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

            "We're very excited and anxious to expand the program with help from the standard-bearer program at Slippery Rock University," Marge said. "We're dealing with children who are at risk for childhood obesity and other health conditions. Some of the children are in wheelchairs and are sedentary."

            Arnhold will review grant applications from agencies and serve as a physical activity consultant during planning and implementation. Applications must be received by the end of November. Arnhold will evaluate the request for funding proposals and pick the best nine. He will also make site visits to each new program. 

            "The beauty of this program is that when a site applies, they have the flexibility to provide any form of physical activity. They can pick what is most appropriate for their environment and demographics," Arnhold said. "Each site will have to conduct three, eight-week waves of activity during the year. We will be evaluating the client's performance as well as parent or caretakers' thoughts about the program."

            Bonnie Hoolahan, an SRU adapted physical activity graduate student from Pittsburgh, will assist Arnhold. Arnhold and Hoolahan will attend the Office on Disability's Monday kickoff in Washington, D.C.

            "Virtually all of our own undergraduate and graduate students will be involved because we have to run our own I Can Do It program, which will be showcased as the model," Arnhold said. 

            "It's a very big deal for me and the University," said Hoolahan, a former YMCA director in San Diego. "Dr. Arnhold and our program are revolutionizing the field of adapted physical activity. That's why I came to Slippery Rock University. I want to work mainly with amputees who are U.S. veterans. I've always been the kind the person who wants to be out there helping."

Exercise benefits clients

Barbara Braham, a 39-year-old Harrisville woman with mental retardation, lost six pounds and increased her stamina by participating in SRU's In Can Do It program last year.  The weekly sessions provided her opportunities for walking, swimming and calisthenics at the University's Robert N. Abersold Student Recreation Center.

 "She's overweight and she needed that stimulus. Honestly, it was a great program," said Susie Braham, her mother. "They walked with her on the track upstairs. Her legs hurt her a lot, but the walking really loosened up her legs."

            Barbara Braham loves to swim, her mother said, so the program tied in with her interests and it was nice to have the activities led by a non-family member.

            "It's easy to say that you're going to do it, but she works better with someone other than a parent. She did enjoy it. Sometimes she would come home and take a nap, but by the end of the program, she wasn't taking a nap. She was energized."

            SRU launched the I Can Do It program in 2006, modeled after the I Can Do It, You Can Do program initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Disability in 2004. 

            "A lot of individuals with disabilities do not have a regular exercise program or routine in which they're engaged," Arnhold said. "We're trying to change that and this national initiative will help."

            SRU students work with clients at the Grove City and Butler YMCAs. Arnhold expects more than 60 students to partner with more 180 clients this year, providing guidance in recreation, exercise and fitness activities.

            Most of the SRU students are enrolled in SRU's adapted physical activity minor, or the new master of science degree that specialize in preparing graduates for jobs leading physical activities for those with a disability.

            "Our students gain valuable experience through this program," Arnhold said. "They lead a variety of physical activities in one-on-one settings. Not only do our students obtain career preparation, their work fills treatment gaps."


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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