Goodwill Fitness Just What Doctor Ordered

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By Les Goldberg

Does this sound familiar?   With almost every visit to your doctor, you hear the same words:  You need to get more exercise!  

You know it’s true, but you may have several reasons for not heeding the advice to reach your fitness goals.  In fact, one of the most common is the cost.   Most of the popular fitness centers require expensive membership fees and minimum term contracts.   For those with physical disabilities, insurance policies only allow limited rehabilitation sessions at participating medical centers.  And investing in exercise equipment for your home is both costly and space prohibitive.

But there is an alternative:   The new Goodwill Fitness Center at 1601 East St. Andrews Place in Santa Ana ( may be just what the doctor ordered.   It is not just any fitness center because you do need your doctor’s permission to become a member of the huge 12,000-square-foot facility off of Grand Avenue.  And in case you are wondering, it is totally separate from Goodwill’s recycling facilities and thrift stores. 

After a minimum sign-up fee, all you have to do is pay $35 per month, show up anytime during the five days a week it is open and have access to the latest in fitness equipment available today, including a variety of free weights and Cybex Total Access and SCIFIT machines that allow wheelchair use.

Since the center opened a couple of years ago, its reputation has grown among physical therapy professionals and medical institutions throughout Southern California who now refer their patients for rehab treatment of spinal cord injuries, physical disabilities and chronic illness. 

Patients like Paul Snyder, 74, of Irvine.   No stranger to physical activity, workouts and serious athletics, he was riding his bike on a trail not far from his home seven years ago when he swerved suddenly on a blind curve to avoid hitting a 9-year-old girl who was jogging with her family and hurdled through the air.  Within the blink of an eye, Snyder was on his back with a broken neck and paralyzed from the shoulders down.    Luckily, the girl escaped injury.

“That night, the only thing I could move was my big toe – a quarter of an inch,” he recalls.  “My doctor said there is hope – there were signals from my brain to the bottom of my body.   That meant my spinal cord had not been severed.  I hoped the injury would be temporary, but it was not.  I was in recovery and the hospital for two and a half months before the doctors referred me to Goodwill.”

A former star basketball and baseball player from Indiana,  the wheelchair-bound Snyder has been a fixture at the center for nearly three years, participating in 14 different exercise programs .

“During my first week in the hospital, they (the doctors) told me that if there was going to be any normal improvement, it would be in the first three years after the accident,” he said.  “The three years passed but I continued with my workouts.   Today, I can move my arms, my hands are opening up and I can bring my lift my legs slightly..

“Thanks to the Goodwill Big Loser Program, I’ve lost 15 pounds and only need to lose 10 more to reach my goal. 

 “It is, by far, the most well-equipped, well-staffed and adaptive facility I have ever seen, and I’ve been working out in gyms since I was 7 years old.   And for spinal cord injury patients, it is the best well-kept secret.”

 Stating that Orange County has about 100,000 people with physical disabilities, Katherine Ransom, director of marketing and communications, Goodwill of Orange County,  says, “we believe that every person, regardless of physical disability or health status, can benefit from a comprehensive exercise program.”

She said that, in addition to all the latest equipment, physical trainers and trained staff, the facility offers classes in strength, balance, flexibility and yoga, spacious locker rooms and a computer area where members can keep busy while entertaining their children or waiting for transportation.

The secret’s out.



Les Goldberg, APR is an award-winning, experienced journalist and public relations practitioner.    His firm, Les Goldberg Public Relations, is one of Southern California’s pioneer public relations agencies specializing in high technology and consumer electronics. 

Throughout his career Les has shared his knowledge and experience as a part-time professor for the marketing and business schools at several Southern California universities, including UCI, Chapman University and California State Universities in Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Dominguez Hills. 

Today, in addition to his agency and teaching responsibilities, Les is a columnist for senior publications, including his popular “The Gadget Geezer” column which appears in Senior Reporter, Not Born Yesterday, Life After 50, and   As a full-time journalist, he was a staff writer for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Glendale News-Press, Culver City Star-News, Stars & Stripes Europe, OC Metro, OC Home & Outdoors and Digital Photographer.

Among the companies that have benefited from Les Goldberg’s brand of public relations include Doctors Telehealth Network, AST Research, Ashton-Tate, US Robotics, Phoenix Technologies, Odetics, MAI/Basic Four, American Home Theater, Inland Technologies; Freedom Innovations, Flex-Foot, Incline SoftWorks, USA Wireless Inc., D-Link Systems, Bell Micro, Seiko Instruments and Etak, Inc., a division of Sony.

Les holds a Certificate in Public Relations from UCLA, bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge and accreditation (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America where he served two terms as president of the Orange County chapter and member of the PRSA National Board of Directors. A past winner of the chapter’s Distinguished Service Award, he has been frequently honored for his achievements and contributions to his profession and his community.

Visit Les’ site at



One Response to Goodwill Fitness Just What Doctor Ordered

  1. Judith Rogow says:

    Interesting article, sure wish there was something like this near my home.

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