Building Bodeez Fitness Center in Derry Township has the equipment and instructors typical of any gym. What it also has is members who are not only concerned about their physical fitness, but also giving back to their community.
“That’s what we pride ourselves in,” said Hayley Chemski Horwat of Derry Township, who owns the gym with her husband Shawn. “There has to be something bigger than just equipment. If it’s all just about fitness and a treadmill, you can do that at home. We want to tug on people’s inherent need to do good and to get them interested in fitness as well.”
The business on Pandora Road is based on fitness, she added, and also on the idea of giving back and building community.
That’s why they started the gym in the first place.
Horwat is a nurse anesthetist for UPMC in Pittsburgh. Her husband is a personal trainer and a partner in a fitness studio in Pittsburgh and also coaches youth sports teams. He was coaching the Derry Area High School football team in 2008 when he realized that there wasn’t any place for the athletes to work out after school. So he and his father-in-law Darryl Chemski remodeled a building that Chemski owned and turned it into a gym.
“The kids would come and their parents came to watch and they wanted to lift, too,” Horwat said. “We realized the need to have a gym, and it just kept expanding. It was just a metamorphosis of the whole place. We had some space, Shawn had connections to have equipment, and over time, the relationship we built with the community continued to grow.”
Her sister Regan Ferrenberg became the community initiative person and they would sit down to brainstorm ideas for getting the members involved in “doing something good.”
The projects started one by one, and now there’s something going on at least once a month.
This week, two projects overlapped as one ended and another began. On Wednesday, staff from the Westmoreland County Food Bank were scheduled to pick up several big bins of food that members collected over the last few weeks, and a drive started on Monday for Toys For Tots.
There have been many different projects. One time they raised money for a member’s daughter who has a rare syndrome. Another drive was for the Dakotah Rhodes Memorial Scholarship that’s affiliated with the high school football team. They have been involved in Breast Cancer Awareness Week, and in the past years have collected more than $76,000 for Relay For Life. They have also supported the Thinking of Nikki Foundation in Greensburg, which reaches out to families dealing with pediatric cancer.
Members responded to raising funds for Melinda Murty of Pittsburgh, whose niece Monica Carroll of Unity Township is an instructor at the gym.
“My aunt has ovarian cancer and she wanted to do something to raise awareness,” Carroll said. “We had an open house and people who came gave donations that helped with her medical bills, and she gave part of the money collected to the Ovarian Cancer Foundation. My aunt, who is now in hospice, was absolutely grateful that they would do this and she said that it was the kindest thing that anyone had ever done for her. A lot of good stuff happens here at the gym, and the fundraiser for my aunt was one that absolutely hit home for me.”
Melissa Robinsky of Unity Township is an instructor and the gym’s front desk manager. She calls the membership “one big family” that’s “very giving” with their response to the needs of others.
“It’s really great to be part of something like this,” she said.
Horwat gives credit to the generous and caring hearts of everyone involved.
“This has very little to do with Shawn and me, and everything to do with my employees, instructors and clients,” she said. “I was the initial brainchild for a lot of this stuff, and the reason that we are able to do all this is because folks are willing to volunteer. We have 26 employees, so I have a wealth of people helping me, and they do all of the work. It’s a relationship we started to build with the community when we first started, and it has just continued.”