By: USA Games Correspondent, Mike Gastineau
Imagine you belong to a group of a couple dozen people who work out together at a gym at a pre-dawn early morning hour before you go to work. For the parents in the group, it has become a small slice of the day where they can focus on themselves and not their kids.
Over time, your group becomes close-knit. They’ve nicknamed themselves “Macho Madness” and in addition to helping everyone physically, the sessions build camaraderie.
Then, one day, one of your fellow early bird workout fiends surprises everyone when he brings his 10-year-old daughter to the gym. How would you react?
Dr. Ross McDaniel is a chiropractor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His daughter Kaylor has Smith Magenis Syndrome (SMS) which is a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body. Among the symptoms Kaylor has is a reverse melatonin cycle. This means she’s tired in the afternoon and wide awake in the middle of the night. This can make the simple act of doing things with her a little problematic.
“As with many of these kids, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to be active and there isn’t a lot of emphasis put on it,” said Dr. McDaniel. “Obesity can also be a problem for people with Kaylor’s genetic condition. They tend to gain more weight even with the exact same diet as kids who don’t have SMS.”
McDaniel realized that physical fitness and health and wellness needed to be an important part of Kaylor’s life. He also wanted to give her something to do when she was awake at a time that most kids are sleeping. So one day he invited her to come with him to the gym and meet his Macho Madness group. He admits he did so with a little trepidation.
“My original concern was how the group would react,” he said. “The reason you work out at five in the morning isn’t because you want to, it’s because you have kids and by working out early in the morning you don’t interfere with family schedules. It also means that for a lot of us, it’s our time. It’s a small part of the day that’s adult time and no one is interrupting us.”
His initial concerns about his group’s reaction to him bringing Kaylor to the club once a week quickly faded due at least in part to her outgoing personality.
“It was an overwhelmingly positive response,” he laughed. “She was like a Wal-Mart greeter introducing herself to everybody. The group was not only accepting of her but they were overwhelmingly positive. Their response left me in tears.”
It also left him with the desire to nominate Macho Madness for recognition in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games #ImAGameChanger campaign.
Now, every Wednesday, Kaylor patrols the perimeter of the gym during workouts and blows a whistle when the time comes for the group to change stations.
“She does the thing where she points at her eyes and then points at someone in the group,” McDaniel laughed again. “She wants them to know that she’s watching them. It’s turned into her favorite time of the week. She loves it.”
McDaniel says he hopes that some of the group’s healthy habits will rub off on his daughter as she gets older. But for now, it’s enough that she has an activity that she gets to do each week.
“She knows that it’s not typical to be up at 4:00 a.m. and having this to look forward to makes it a little easier to accept. She’s always been a happy, upbeat kid, but since we’ve started doing this she’s had an attitude like ‘I’m the big sister and I get to do this with my dad.’ For her, that was a big step.”