Client Spotlight: Mary Johanson

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Mary Johanson-2017 Special Olympics Michigan (Area 20) Coach of the Year Honoree

Two hours a week Mary Johanson gets out of her skates and comes through the doors of the Ann Arbor Applied Fitness Solutions to get her work out in. Although it’s ultimately our job to provide a tremendous atmosphere for our clients, Mary is an example of just how easy our clients make it. When she’s with us she fills the room with smiles, joy, and an over abundance of laughter. There are certain people in this world who simply have a glow about them (not the pregnancy glow!) and Mary is one of them. It’s our belief that this special energy she carries is a product of how fulfilled she is as a person. She has a wonderful family, great kids, and enjoys every second of her day working with her other kids in the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club and the Special Olympics area 20 skating program. Recently we learned that Mary has been named Area 20 coach of the year for her efforts and we couldn’t be more proud of her! We caught up with her to learn more about the honor she has received.

How Did You Get Involved?

Back in 2014 there was not an existing Special Olympic skating program in Washtenaw County. As the Learn to Skate Director at AAFSC we had two skaters in our typical classes with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Their parents kept telling us how great the skating was because the kids had tried other team sports without much success and with skating they could go at their own pace while still having the social interaction with the other skaters in the group. When we realized the impact we were making in these kid’s lives, we knew we had to do more so we started the Special Olympics program in conjunction with a therapeutic skating class. Our two original skaters had 2 friends who had never had skates on before but wanted to try skating. That first year we went to Traverse City for the winter games and within 3 months they had accomplished the skills required to compete.  It’s important to remember I didn’t launch and sustain this on my own, all coaching is on a volunteer basis and I have been fortunate to have a tremendous staff working with me the last 4 years.

What else should we know?

many people don’t realize that all Special Olympic sports are free of any cost to the athletes, which includes equipment, uniforms, training, and travel to competitions and there are various sports offered year round.  We know that skating is an expensive sport so we looked for ways to do our own fundraising so we we’re not taking money from the other programs Washtenaw County offers.  Between donations from AAFSC club members, a grant I was awarded from US Figure Skating and a fundraising show we have put on the last 2 years, our program is almost entirely self funded.

 Words with Friends

Kristi Haywood (friend and fellow program director) was visibly joyous when asked about Johanson’s selection as area 20 coach of the year.”This year it was a no brainer for Mary as she is absolutely incredible and has done so much for our program, including starting it,” She said. “The beautiful moments we see our athletes live out on the ice simply would not happen without the vision Mary has and the dedication her staff has had along the way. We’re so proud of her!”
 Special Olympic volunteer and coach of the year honorees will be recognized the night before the kick-off of the “summer games” in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan with a formal dinner and award presentation in June. Clients and Friends: Stay tuned later this summer for announcements about how AFS is looking to raise funds for Special Olympics of Washtenaw County!

Video of Mary and team with the kids 🙂

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