FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Cyclists in the Connecticut Challenge have pedaled a million miles preparing for and riding in the annual fundraising event. On Monday, they will finally be able to see what all that hard work was for as the Connecticut Challenge Center for Survivorship opens in Fairfield.
The doors will swing open at the facility at 250 Pequot Ave. in Southport. It is the first of its kind in the nation that is not affiliated with a hospital and will offer exercise classes, psychosocial support, nutrition and education. Cancer survivors will be eligible to enroll in a 12-week program that includes a variety of wellness activities.
The center has everything survivors need to promote healthy lifestyles. It includes a kitchen, private showers, a meditation garden, consultation rooms, exercise equipment and a large fitness room for yoga and Pilates classes. The room has drop-down shades for survivors to exercise without stares, prejudice or emotional discomfort.
“We had a lot of time to plan, and we did our homework,’’ said Tamara Deyle, the center’s program director. “We talked with survivors and found out what they wanted. This is the product of that as well as the vision of our founder, Jeff Keith.”
The survivorship center is a big part of plans by the Connecticut Challenge to prove that exercise benefits cancer survivors. Every survivor who exercises at the facility will receive long-term monitoring, Deyle said. The premise of Challenge leaders is that survivors can lead healthier lives – and prevent or delay recurrence – with proper nutrition and exercise.
“We’re a thought leader in survivorship,’’ said Deyle, who became passionate for the cause after her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. “We’re going to collect data and follow them along. The ultimate goal is to prove to insurance companies that they should be covering these services. Cancer survivors are currently paying for these services without any help from insurance companies.”
Survivors who use the center will pay $50 for six months for unlimited classes and a nutrition class. They will also receive three free personal training sessions. Rates for more training sessions will be much cheaper than standard sessions at private training facilities. The survivors will also receive one-on-one attention. No more than two survivors will be in the center’s exercise room at one time.
The center will be open for all survivors, not just those from Fairfield County. People who live in New York or Boston, for instance, can take the train to Fairfield and walk a short distance to the center.
Construction took nearly 18 months and includes green energy concepts and open lighting. There’s even a spin room for cyclists, the only feature not designed specifically for survivors.
“It’s going to be a place a cancer survivor can come and feel welcome,’’ Deyle said. “We want to make them feel like they’re not the only one.”