Everybody should have access to and the opportunity to exercise with the one body they are given, despite what obstacles might be standing in the way. Sometimes, resources aren’t as abundant for the needs of one community as much as others. Thanks to one individual, Southern Nevada has been gifted with The Ability Center, a non-profit organization that provides a safe space to empower, enhance, and increase the natural ability of those with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. It is the only sensory fitness center of its kind in the valley and is changing the world for so many individuals who wouldn’t otherwise have a place to comfortably take care of their bodies and connect with others around physical health.
For the last two years in Nevada, Chris Salas, Founder and President of The Ability Center, has been advancing the physical health and well-being of individuals with special needs.
“It began with a mother who asked me to provide physical fitness training to her child,” recalls Salas. “Seeing the transformation in that child’s life changed my life forever. Where she struggled to function, she was now empowered to thrive. Families began to ask me for help with their children, and The Ability Center was launched.”
From ages ten and up, The Ability Center trains people with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities and soon will be expanding its programs to even younger children, ages three to nine.
Everyone has unique needs and differences in life, with fitness being no exception. The Ability Center has created three different programs, each offering different activities and methods of instruction. There are the Adaptive Fitness Classes, the Small Group Circuit Training, the Group Themed Fitness Classes, and a Cheerleading program starting this summer. The Adaptive Fitness Classes offer personalized daily structured workouts with a member working one-on-one with a coach. This program allows the trainer extra time and availability to gauge their client’s exact needs. The Small Group Circuit Training provides workouts focused on weights and cardio, during which each member is paired one-on-one with a coach. The Group Themed Fitness Classes offer karate and hip-hop dance classes. Each one of these programs is carefully created to allow each individual to grow and maintain healthy physical, social, and developmental abilities.
Gauging each person’s needs for their health and development is at the core of providing the best training possible.
“Knowing that a member’s attitude or attention span might vary from class to class, the coaches of The Ability Center focus on small, everyday successes, such as a member completing an exercise, enjoying a class, or having a positive social interaction,” Salas explained. “These small, everyday successes add up over time and lead to members gaining exercise independence, improved communication, and strengthened self-care habits and attention spans.”
Being the only fitness center of its kind locally, they had some speed bumps they had to overcome when first starting out. With a combination of small workspaces, limited volunteers to help train and run the center, and raising funds to secure a permanent location, The Ability Center has come to thrive in its new environment. With all its success, it can sometimes limit the center’s availability for training members. With a waiting list of new gym-goers, they extend their reach by providing on-site fitness classes to Opportunity Village, a life-changing company that devotes its time to changing the lives of people with disabilities. With community partnerships, grant funding, an increase in membership, as well as a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman Susie Lee and a Certificate of Congressional Commendation from Senator Cortez Masto, The Ability Center has been able to expand its operations in 2023 and even collaborate with Special Olympics of Southern Nevada and CCSD.
Before 2022, there was no gym, or any fitness program of its kind like The Ability Center has successfully accomplished. Dedicating this center to serving people with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities is a passion for everyone coming together to operate and fulfill the needs of those often overlooked. The Ability Center of Southern Nevada aims to become an essential part of the Las Vegas community.
“The special needs community has taken an unprecedented hit in the area of physical well-being,” Salas said. “We are proud to be the only special needs gym in Nevada.”
“These small, everyday successes add up over time and lead to members gaining exercise independence, improved communication, and strengthened self-care habits and attention spans," said Chris Salas, Founder and President of The Ability Center.