Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Alanna Devorkin, co-founder of All Star Health Center
THIENSVILLE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A new gym in Thiensville offers personal training, group fitness classes and nutrition coaching. But this isn’t your typical high-end health center. It’s a health center specifically designed for people with disabilities. And a teenager is the one who came up with the idea.
“We turn around ourselves. Jump! Jump,” Alanna Devorkin tells the people in the dance class she’s instructing, demonstrating the move for them.
Devorkin has been a dancer her whole life. So, it makes sense she’d be teaching dance classes, doing the choreography and picking the music.
In this class, she’s up at the front of the room.
“Bounce, bounce, hit. Bounce, bounce hit,” she tells them.
In the back of the class, her brother, Brian Devorkin, is following along, but between these two, there’s no sibling rivalry.
“I'm going to have to give all of that credit to my sister,” Brian said. “She's pretty remarkable in the fact that she pretty much single-handedly, through her relationships with individuals with disabilities, came up with this.”
The ‘this’ he’s referring to is Thiensville’s new All Star Health Center. The Devorkin family opened the facility in July and it’s designed to meet the fitness needs of people with disabilities.
“We have nutrition, cooking classes, dance, we have different martial arts, and we also have, a big thing is the training,” Brian, who’s one of the co-founders, explained.
Alanna, who’s 17 years old, came up with the idea.
“I definitely have high ambitions, and people always comment, oh, you're only 17, how did you do it? But age is definitely not something that defines me,” she said.
The fact that she’s still in high school, in some ways, led her to this.
“I would say about junior year, I was struggling,” she admits. “I mean, it's just the high school, the drama, obviously. And I needed that outlet, and I really didn't have it.”
So she started volunteering at Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center.
“Did you come up to me? Or did I come up to you,” she asks her friend, Emily Oberneder.
“I came up to you,” Emily replied, remembering the day they met.
“We just clicked. I mean, I was with her for five minutes and she said to me, when are you coming over,” Devorkin said with a big smile.
Over the following months, their relationship grew.
Alanna loved Emily’s self-confidence.
“We were standing in front of the mirror at her house and she said, ‘look at how pretty I look in this dress.’ She was just standing there and asked me why I wasn't saying that about myself,” Devorkin said.
It’s one of the moments that helped inspire her big idea.
“That's why we need All Star. We need people to be able to find the confidence that she has,” she explained.
Devorkin’s family has always found confidence through fitness.
“I talked to my dad and we said, we need something for this community. It's not only her that's dealing with this, it's all of them who need that,” she said.
Brian Devorkin said exercise is something that keeps him focused and grounded.
“It keeps me sane. It gives me purpose. It just helps me with my drive,” he said.
Alanna threw herself into finding out what it would take to open All Star, and started developing a plan.
“Before that, I actually didn't know anything about the community for individuals with disabilities, so it was super intimidating because I'm just a newbie going in,” she admits.
With the support of their dad, Greg Devorkin, the family made it happen.
“We've been extremely happy with the success and the partnerships we've created. It's just amazing,” Brian said.
Their goal is to help meet the goals of their clients.
“We're never going to say to them, we want you to do this,” Alanna said. “It's always, what would you like to do? And we will help you get there.”
In creating a space where everyone is accepted, Alanna said Emily helped her learn to accept herself.
“So, she, in a way has helped me grow, because I've felt that I've had more self-love and that's something I've been working towards because of her,” she said.
To find out more about All Star Health Center, just visit https://www.allstarhealthcenter.com/.
If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.