Here, we share stories of Hubbers who shine bright and inspire others.
BRITTANY SZYNKOWSKI'S STORY: Brittany Szynkowski, 30, of Crab Orchard is a wife and mother of three beautiful daughters. After giving birth to her third baby, like many moms, she was ready to shed that excess pregnancy weight. “It’s hard to have self-control when you know you’re going to get bigger,” she admitted. Last year, she was determined to “get herself back.” Brittany set a goal of losing 42 pounds but knew it would be easier said than done. As a mother, she knows how hard it can be to put yourself first. “It’s hard to do when they need so much from you,” she explained. “But it’s my time now.”
Brittany started working out at home and eating less sugar and fat and more lean meats, salads and “a lot of quesadillas,” she laughed. Her journey wasn’t always easy, though. Hip surgeries restricted her from doing high impact workouts and her abdominal muscles had split, which required even more work to get back to her pre-pregnancy body.
She remembered driving by The HUB one day and noticing the equipment upstairs and thinking the waterslide would be fun for the kids. Brittany, her husband Joe and their three daughters became Hubbers in January. She said it didn’t take long before her daughters started asking if they could come because they love the child watch. “The ladies that work there are great,” Brittany said. “It’s nice to get a two hour break without feeling guilty about it,” she added.
When upstairs, Brittany enjoys doing cardio, working her arms and abs, and using the arc trainer. She frequents The HUB three or four times a week, thanks to help from her husband. “I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who encouraged me to do something for myself,” she insisted. Brittany hit her goal of losing 42 pounds in six months, so she kept going and set a new goal, losing 50 pounds before her 30th birthday. She was able to accomplish it all in 10 months. Her advice is to set a goal until you reach it. “Don’t give up!” said Brittany. “If you stumble, get back up and do it again.”
The HUB Team wishes Brittany CONGRATULATIONS on setting a goal and surpassing it! Best wishes to you and your family in 2017 and beyond!
MARY JARRELL'S STORY: Overcoming obstacles and pushing past her limits is the best way to describe 52-year-old Mary Jarrell’s story. She, her husband and their two granddaughters became Hubbers back in April when she was able to take advantage of our one dollar enrollment fee. “The HUB is the greatest things that’s happened to Marion,” Jarrell insisted.
Living with an unstable spine, Jarrell could barely walk a mile in an hour when she started walking the track here at The HUB. “It’s safe, you don’t have to worry about the weather and there’s childcare. What more could you ask for?” said Jarrell. Now, her granddaughters are able to socialize and enjoy themselves in The HUB Kids Club four or five times a week, while Jarrell is able to walk 3.5 miles in an hour and half. “Sometimes you have to push through the pain to feel better,” explained Jarrell. She says now, if she’s not able to make it to The HUB to walk, she finds herself in a foul mood. “It makes you feel so much better,” she said. When Jarrell pulls in to the parking lot of The HUB, it feels like home. Since starting at The HUB, Jarrell says her new lifestyle has even motivated her doctor to participate in a “Couch to 5K” program.
Jarrell says the employees here are great. “I’m always greeted by a smile and a good-morning from Jaimie,” she said. She appreciates the variety of people here at The HUB and the fact that everyone does their own thing. “Everybody should just tour the facility if nothing else,” she added.
The HUB Team would like to say CONGRATS to Mary for pushing past her limits and making changes towards a life of better health and wellness!
THE KING FAMILY'S STORY: The King family of Marion had discussed joining The HUB Recreation Center before it opened, but hadn’t quite made up their minds. It must have been fate that brought them to The HUB when they won a free one month membership at a Herrin House of Hope event.
The family became Hubbers in December 2014 and started using the facility as soon as it opened. Dan enjoys weightlifting, cardio, and high intensity circuits while his wife Alana likes to walk the track and complete circuits on the machines. Their sons, Austin and Colten, love to swim and play games like ping-pong in the youth center and have both participated in HUBballers and Youth Speed and Agility Training. “It’s good and fun and gives us muscles and speed,” the boys explained.
You can usually find the four of them here at The HUB two or three times a week. They’ve been using the facility for a year now and together, Dan and Alana have lost nearly 100 pounds. “Before, I was worn out, tired and had a lot of anxiety,” explained Dan. “A lot of that disappeared when I lost the weight. Now, I have a lot of energy to do things with my kids and for my church,” he added. Thanks to The HUB, Dan says he’s been able to hit personal milestones such as lifting more weight than he was ever able to in college, and that keeps him motivated.
The family says they have tried a number of other workout facilities, but nothing compares to what The HUB has to offer. They describe the facility as being family-friendly and believe it’s easy to stay active with the variety of programs, classes and services available. Now, the King family is training to run a 5K together later this year. “If we can do it, anyone can do it,” Alana insisted.
Congratulations to Dan and Alana for losing nearly 100 pounds! Thank you for sharing your story! We hope families just like yours will find the inspiration to live a more healthy and active lifestyle, together.
Check out their before and after pictures! Dan, 36 Alana, 35 Colten, 8 Austin, 9
ANGEL'S STORY: On Sunday Angel Prince, 48, of Marion couldn’t have been more shocked and excited about placing 2nd in her division at our first ever indoor triathlon Tri The HUB. Prince, originally from Granite City, has been a runner most her life thanks to a mentor who told her she needed “something to strive for” when she was just a young girl.
Thanks to a great friend, Dr. CJ Rubright, whom she playfully calls her drill sergeant, she has become more than just a runner. Today, she is a determined triathlete who is pushing the envelope by proving that she is more than what most people only assume blind people are capable of doing. “Our disabilities don’t define us, we define us,” she insists.
Prince lost all of her vision four and half years ago after her retina detached. “You can’t tie your shoes, you can’t brush your hair,” she said. “You forget what things look like and you can’t get seeing people’s faces back,” Prince explained, as she recalled feeling sorry for herself for the first few months.
That’s when Dr. Rubright helped bring her back to life. He pushed her and encouraged her to continue competing. “You’re not stuck,” she realized. “You can still be athletic. You can still have a normal life.” Prince was working out at home until Dr. Rubright brought her to The HUB. “I love The HUB!” she insisted. “It’s convenient, I feel safe, and they make me feel like I’m part of the family,” she added.
Now, you can find Prince and Dr. Rubright here three or four times a week running the track, working out in the fitness center and swimming laps in the pool. Tri The HUB was her first triathlon since losing all of her vision and she’s proud of her accomplishment, but Prince isn’t stopping there. She is now training for Ironman 2017 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and she won’t take no for an answer. “No excuses,” she insisted. “There’s always a way to reach your goal.” Prince may not able to see what is directly in front of her, but she’s not afraid of setting her sights high.
The HUB Team would like to wish Angel a huge CONGRATULATIONS for her second place trophy at Tri The HUB and a the best of luck at Ironman 2017! Thank you for inspiring us and other Hubbers to be more tomorrow than we are today.
MARY RUSSELL'S STORY: A Navy kid from Long Beach, California, Mary Russell Muchmore is proud to call southern Illinois her forever home. She was a lifeguard growing up and taught swim lessons at a local country club, so it’s no surprise to catch her in the water a few times a week. She and her husband Charles live in Carbondale and were driving to JALC for exercise until their aquatics facility closed for repairs.
The Friday before Memorial Day, Mary Russell was enjoying time on Lake Kincaid with her family when she noticed something unusual about her left breast. Thinking she had been stung, she went to the dermatologist as soon as she could. The doctor sent her on to the Breast Center in Carbondale where she was diagnosed with the same cancer that killed her mother at the young age of 47.
The news struck her with terror, but Mary Russell wasn’t going to let it bring her spirits down. She and Charles were determined to surround themselves with younger, more active people. Mary Russell had heard about The HUB from her friends, but assumed it was only for Williamson County residents. A SilverSneakers participant, she found out she and her husband could come here for free. “I felt guilty at first, until I realized The HUB would be reimbursed,” she said.
The couple started their journey at The HUB in June by participating in the River Walk class, walking the track, hopping on exercise bikes upstairs and relaxing in the therapy spa. “It’s like we were little teenagers again,” Mary Russell giggled. After her treatments, Mary Russell would come to The HUB and could feel herself getting stronger and stronger. “This place heals your spirit, body and joy,” she said.
Mary Russell agreed to participate in genetic testing and has since completed her radiation. She wants what is best for her grandchildren and hopes others will be aware and not be scared. Just a few months shy of her 80th birthday, Mary Russell and Charles continue to drive from Carbondale to Marion to use our facility a few times a week. The two love to sit on the bikes by the window upstairs to “see Marion the way God sees it” and encourages others to do the same. “When you’ve got a play land like this at your fingertips, you’re doing yourself the biggest favor because I am feeling more and more fit!”
The HUB Team admires Mary Russell for overcoming these trials and tribulations so quickly and with such grace. We wish Mary Russell and Charles the very best!
JOE'S STORY: If you have ever had the chance to meet Joe Pearce of Marion, it won’t take you long to figure out the man lives and breathes tennis. His dad, Jim, got him involved at a very young age. Today, Joe plays competitive tennis, is a part of the United States Tennis Association, holds seven certificates, and hosts a memorial tournament for his father every year.
Joe registered to be a Hubber as soon as we opened and you can find him working out at The HUB every day before work. He even found his new doubles partner here, Toshiaki Sazuki, who he says always beats him.
This summer, Joe and his wife Sally shared their passion with our summer campers for one week in July. He taught them what he calls the ABCs of tennis (Agility, Balance, and Coordination), but more importantly, good sportsmanship. “Nobody wins all the time, but you have to be a good sport when you’re a winner and when you’re a loser,” he said. Joe believes you should win and lose as a team and that even if you don’t take home a “W”, you should always win at something during your game.
To Joe, tennis is a sport you can play your whole life. He sees The HUB as a facility for people of all ages, and plans to bring more tennis to our Hubbers in the future. Joe insists, “the sky’s the limit!”
The HUB Team would like to thank Joe and Sally for sharing their love and enthusiasm for tennis with our Hubbers. We look forward to building an incredible foundation for the sport here at The HUB with their help!
NORMA'S STORY: It was just another Wednesday for Norma Spees of Marion, but in a matter of minutes, it wasn't so typical anymore. The 79-year-old was in the middle of her aquatics class at The HUB when she got a funny feeling, so she took a break and stood along the side of the pool for a little bit. Still not feeling herself, Norma told the instructor she had to leave. Norma was on her way out the door when she felt the need to sit down and rest.
A HUB employee quickly noticed Norma was having trouble and asked her if she was ok. Norma, who has a defibrillator, was having difficulty breathing, so the employee called for help. “It was scary,” Norma admitted. Aquatics Coordinator Chris Georgantas was able to administer oxygen as staff called 911 for help. Marion Life Line arrived quickly and transported Norma to Heartland Regional Medical Center, where she was told she had had a heart attack. She was in the hospital for four days with three blockages and two stents.
Hospital staff told Norma’s family she was at the right place at the right time. Had she not been at The HUB, received oxygen, and made it to the hospital when she did, Norma likely would not have survived. “Chris was so calm and helped me feel better,” said Norma. If she had been driving, or at home on the other side of town, Norma truly believes “she would have met that big long train.”
Norma registered to be a Hubber before the facility opened and started working out in the fitness center, before deciding to take her workout to the water. Today, Norma is feeling good and grateful to be back in her water aerobics class.
The HUB Team is happy to have Norma as a Hubber! We're so glad she's back in the Heartland Regional Aquatics Center and doing well!
PAUL'S STORY: Paul DeMichele was loving life. A scholarship recipient, he was preparing for his second semester at Eastern Illinois University. He was 19-years-old and on vacation with his family in Madison, Wisconsin when the accident happened. Paul fell water skiing, hit the left side of his neck on something, and suffered a blood clot that caused a massive stroke.
He was in a coma for three and half months when the doctors approached his parents about taking him off life support. They did not believe Paul would be able to walk or function like he should ever again. His parents, Don and Arlene, refused. They had faith in their son, so they brought him home.
It didn’t take long for Paul to wake up, go to rehab, and prove everyone wrong. Paul, now 52, enjoys fishing and hunting with his dad. His trophies included deer, elk, and even a bear. However, there are trophies smaller in size that mean more to Paul. You see, Paul loves to swim. He can do as many as 72 laps and has won awards at SIU for his accomplishments.
His dad says he was overjoyed to find out he would have a place closer to home to swim and exercise. “He would rather go swimming than eat, I think,” said Don. Now, you can find Paul at The HUB Recreation Center 6 days a week, swimming an average of 40 laps each day and exercising on the machines upstairs. Friday marks 33 years since his accident, and Paul is still loving life. His motto: Enjoy life, smile, and don’t give up. He says one day he’ll go to heaven and God will give him back his body but until then, he’ll just keep swimming.
ADAM'S STORY: The story of Adam Powell, 32, of Benton is one many of us can relate to. Working more than 60 hours a week, drinking sodas, grabbing fast food because we are too busy, and not making time to exercise. Powell was taking blood pressure and diabetes medication and admittedly was the heaviest he had ever been in his entire life.
Three years prior, he made some changes to his lifestyle and lost 60 pounds spinning and exercising. However, it didn’t take long to get caught back up in work and out of the habit. He went to work one day in January not feeling well, and ended up in the hospital due to extremely high blood pressure. Powell describes feeling pressure in his head that was so strong, he thought his head was going to burst. That day, he actually lost his hearing for a brief time period. “It was very scary,” he said, “I’m too young for that.”
It was time to make a change, and this time around, it was going to be different. He joined The HUB on February first, he says, because of the family-oriented atmosphere. “Anybody can come in here, workout, and not feel intimidated,” said Powell. He started making small changes to his diet, such as eliminating soda, which made a huge difference.
Powell jumped into our facility with both feet first, and now works out daily, sometimes even twice a day. He enjoys doing a cardio circuit in the morning by using the elliptical, bike, and treadmill, followed by weightlifting in the evening. “The people who work the fitness floor have knowledge and experience with weight training and can give anyone off the street guidance,” he said. He also describes the staff as motivational and encouraging. “Getting to know staff members like Preston Lunon personally, if they haven’t seen me for a while, they check in to see how I am doing and to make sure I’m not slacking.”
Powell also emphasizes the importance of meal preparation. He believes having food ready for you when you get home, alongside making sure you don’t have access to unhealthy foods in your home, makes it easier to avoid eating poorly.
To date, Powell has lost 45 pounds and is working hard towards his goal of losing 100 pounds. He’s developed some great friendships here at The HUB and appreciates his coworkers at the Marion VA who help hold him accountable. His advice? Don’t let yourself go too far, like he did. Don’t let it get to the point where it could be too late.
The HUB Team is very proud of Adam and wishes him the best! We know you can hit your goal! Thank you for being such an inspiration to all of our Hubbers.
LARRY'S STORY: Larry Richardson and his wife Ruth couldn’t wait for The HUB Recreation Center to be up and running. They’d been keeping an eye on the construction progress and looking forward to opening day. The couple moved here six years ago from Belleville, where they enjoyed using a similar facility. There, Larry would swim every day before he went to work.