For nineteen years, Hammerhead Beach Gym owner Tiffany Kersten has provided a clean, friendly and spacious place for the many fitness buffs who live, work and visit the island. And now, everyone, whether you are a member of the gym or not, is welcome to attend the once a month ‘Healthy Happy Hour’. This month’s event takes place this Tuesday, September 27th from 7 to 8 PM. Tiffany explains the basic inspiration behind it.
“People make New Year’s Resolutions, but I thought it would be good to get a fitness plan together in time for the holidays. You could make great strides before then, and look fabulous in those special outfits you have for holiday parties.” She’s hoping the success story of local ‘Beach Kid’ Dawson LaForce will help inspire people to do just that.
Seventeen-year-old Dawson grew up on Fort Myers Beach and works at Bay Oaks. Over the past year or so, he has been working with Dr. Sal Lacagnina and the Hammerhead staff to take himself from a lifetime of obesity to a level of fitness he never thought he could achieve.
It all started with a conversation between Dawson’s mom Pam and her physician, Dr. Sal Lacagnina, who is Lee Memorial Health System’s Director of Wellness and Employee Health. As Dawson tells it, after a regular office visit last June, the doctor noticed that Pam was ‘a bit glum’. “My mother told him she was worried about me, that I was morbidly obese.” Pam asked the busy physician if he could help. Surprisingly, Dr. Sal said he would see Dawson as soon as possible, which turned out to be a four-month wait for the next open slot in his schedule. But an hour later, the doctor’s office called his mother and said they had a cancellation that day and offered it to Dawson. “My mother called me. I was driving someone to the airport, and she tells me I have an appointment that day. I wasn’t too happy about it at the time.”
Dawson tells us in a conversation this week that he had battled obesity all his life. “I was born heavy. I never had any real motivation to stick with any workouts or diets.” Reluctantly, the teenager went to the appointment, and that turned out to be a huge turning point in his life. “Dr. Sal told me the truth. He didn’t scare me about my health, but he made me realize how much my family and friends care about me. He is the biggest blessing. He makes time for me in his busy schedule.”
Working at Bay Oaks turns out to be a blessing too. “I work with the kids. I love those kids. They have really cheered me on. They see that it’s working.” The kids’ parents have noticed the changes and have also been very encouraging as Dawson has worked over 130 pounds off – quite a transformation.
Both Dr. Lacagnina and Dawson LaForce will be featured speakers at next week’s Healthy Happy Hour. In addition to discussing Dawson’s experience, the doctor will also talk about nutrition as it relates to health and fitness. “I do a lot of speaking engagements and I always include some discussion about nutrition. After all,” he quips during a phone conversation this week, “It is the foundation for sickness or health – depending on what you are eating.”
Sometimes a workout won’t be enough to address certain health and physical issues. “I refer people to local wellness providers, here on the island,” Kersten says. “I think it’s important to support other local businesses in town.” Because of the transitory nature of life on the island, there are folks who may not realize all the fitness and wellness opportunities that can be found without ‘going over the bridge’. “We will have several local wellness providers here at Happy Hour to distribute information and answer questions about the services they provide.”
Personal Trainer Janna Clark CPT, Wellness Therapist Dorothy Rodwell, Chiropractor and Acupuncturist Dr. Nicole Bennett will all be there to explain the services they provide. Corri Francisco, owner of Healing Harbor Massage, will be on hand to give free chair massages, and several fitness instructors will be there to talk about the myriad of classes they offer. There will be snacks and beverages available, on the house.
Hammerhead Beach Gym, located in the 7-11 building across the street from Junkanoo’s, is practically next door to Fire Station #31 at Donora Blvd. and the firefighters stationed there have made Hammerhead their workout center. Tiffany smiles when the firefighters are mentioned. “They have to stay fit and strong so that they will be able to do their (often physically challenging) jobs. They are very much a part of this place.” As a matter of fact, the October Healthy Happy Hour will feature one of the folks from the Beach Fire District as a guest speaker.
On first glance, the gym’s storefront gives the impression that it is a small space. But once you step inside, you are quickly disabused of that idea. 3500 square feet easily accommodate the 27 machines that target specific muscles or movements, several benches for free weight work and over 3,000 lb. of free weights. To make your visit to Hammerhead the best it can be, employees Anita Voss, Wendy Hillila, Mary Hewitt and Dennis Drake are very helpful too. “My staff is fabulous,” crows their boss. “I am so blessed – I couldn’t do it without them.”
There are many ways to join Hammerhead Gym – daily, weekly, monthly, with a limited visit punch card, or you can even just walk in for a one-time visit. There will be several discounts offered at the Healthy Happy Hour that will not be available at any other time. If you have been thinking about getting started on a fitness plan, Hammerhead Beach Gym’s Healthy Happy Hour might be a great place to start.