ROCHESTER — Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping has always had a mission of being an eccentric part of the Rochester community. This last year, the ownership group was able to find a new way to give back to the community when they partnered with Down-to-Box.
Down-to-Box is a nonprofit that provides people with Down syndrome or any other disability the opportunity to learn kickboxing.
The idea was brought to the ownership of Farrell’s by one of its members, Erin Schwartz, who is now a coach at the gym. Schwartz works full time in the Rochester School District. When she discovered the mission of Down-to-Box, wanted to bring that experience to Rochester for her students.
“With the pandemic, I was feeling really overwhelmed with my work and I had been looking for something to just have fun with,” said Schwartz. “I wanted to find something within the community that would be positive. When I found Down-to-Box, I thought what a cool opportunity to take this gym that I love going to and then bring these people that I’ve worked with for so long together.”
Once Schwartz brought the idea to Lenore Schoenfelder, a lead coach at Farrell’s, Schoenfelder was instantly hooked on making the partnership with Down-to-Box happen.
“We reached out to the leadership of Down-to-Box last spring and received our certification in August of last year. From there, we were able to start the program in September 2021 and we had great interest from the community at the get go,” said Schoenfelder.
Since launching the Down-to-Box program last September, Farrell’s has hosted three 12-week sessions. Participants meet once a week, on Tuesdays. The number of participants for each session has grown, starting with 10-15 in their first session last September and having as many as 22 participants in the most recent session, which ended on June 24.
The Down-to-Box program offers an opportunity for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities to get involved in athletics.
“It’s super rewarding and more fun than someone might think it could be,” Schoenfelder said. “It’s not only a newer program in Rochester for people with disabilities to showcase what they can do with their bodies, it’s also a fun place to hang out, learn, make new friends and see their confidence in their abilities.”
In addition, the Down-to-Box sessions also opened the door for participants to join in the more regular and popular kick boxing and body training programs offered at Farrell’s. Schwartz spoke on how one young man who originally went to Farrell’s for Down-to-Box sessions was invited to join a 10-week program and welcomed with open arms from the people in the group.
“The general gym members welcomed him into the class and anyone nearby took an opportunity to help him whenever he would need it. I am so proud of the community in these groups and how they have helped expanding the opportunities for these people to be apart of the gym. Just seeing those connections being made for someone who hasn’t had that opportunity before is absolutely amazing,” said Schwartz.
In addition to the growth of opportunity for the participants, Schoenfelder shared how she herself has grown as an instructor.
“My big concern at the start was I worried that I wouldn’t be enough for these individuals that needed a little extra help to adapt,” she said. “Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded. It’s a lot more fun and a lot easier than what most people would think it would be and Erin was a big help for all of us with that.”
Schwartz said some of the other coaches were similarly nervous. “They hadn’t necessarily interacted with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities before,” she said. “I remember just saying a lot of times, ‘You’re gonna be fine, they’re just people.’ After the first session, that really sunk in for the people that they really can do this coaching.”
Although Down-to-Box sessions have been ongoing for a year at Farrell’s, Schoenfelder and Schwartz are continuing to find ways to get more people involved with the program for their next session. Connecting with organizations such as Special Olympics and the local school districts helped get the word around.
“We’re always working through our connections, most of them were really accommodating in helping get the word out,” Schwartz said. “Because it was something that no one else was doing, it helped draw their interest in to help us.”
The next Down-to-Box session begins on Tuesday, Sept. 27, running from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The sessions repeat every Tuesday until Dec. 20.
There will be open house classes, one in August and September, that have yet to be scheduled, for those interested in the sessions. Enrollment costs $175 per person.
Farrell’s is located at 4214 U.S. Highway 52 North. Schoenfelder can answer questions about Down-to-Box. Call 507-358-6324.
Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping
4214 Highway 52 North
Rochester, MN 55901