Independence & confidence

Pictured above: Ash (left) and Thomas (right) at Fit n Fast, Forest Hill.

THOMAS and his parents were stunned when Ashley, the general manager of Fit n Fast gym in Forest Hill, told Thomas that the gym was donating a 12 month membership to Thomas.

“We were shocked and surprised when they told us about it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t believe it.”

Thomas is twenty years old and is a client with UnitingCare lifeAssist. He has Neurofibromatosis NF1, a genetic disorder where tumors grow along nerves in the body.

Thomas knows that keeping fit and healthy is important for someone with NF1. He also likes going to the gym because it helps with stress.

“I love going when it is quiet, and I have time to myself,” Thomas said. “It builds my independence and builds confidence."

Initially, Thomas used some of his funds from his Flexible Support Package to purchase the gym membership. However, since Fit n Fast’s generous gesture, he has been able to spend the funds saved on much needed orthotic shoes – and still have funds remaining to help with other supports.

Ashley, General Manager at Forest Hill Fit n Fast has noticed the changes in Thomas since he started attending the gym.

“From the day Thomas started here at the club both staff and members have witnessed Thomas’s transformation first hand from his growing confidence interacting with members and staff to his amazing body transformation,” said Ashley.

“Thomas’ social skills have risen from our first encounter with him to present… Thomas is always extremely enthusiastic and has a very positive approach towards his training, the staff members, the club and surrounding members,” said Ashley.

“We are all extremely happy to see how much he has grown as a person and we look forward to see his continued development both physically and socially,” said Ashley.

Leanne, Thomas’ mum, is thankful for the opportunity and recognises how important it is for business and people to be inclusive and welcoming.

“We want to say a really big thank you to Ash for giving Thomas a go. I really appreciate everything he has done. I don’t think opportunities like this happen often," Leanne said.

In the past few years, Thomas’ skills have increased and his confidence has soared, not only at the gym, but with many other life skills.

He enjoys photography, specialising in taking stunning pictures of landscapes. His camera goes everywhere with him.

Thomas loves travel and recently flew to Perth by himself. His dream destination is London so he can ride on the London Underground.

Thomas has taken barista training under his Certificate I in Work Education. He also helps with the cooking, cleaning and shopping at home.

With all of Thomas’ many talents, the best thing is right at home. “Having a good mum is the best thing in life," Thomas said.

Leanne and Thomas have important advice for people in the community.

“When you get an opportunity, you should think about it – is it the right pathway?” Thomas said.

“Give (people with a disability) a go. These are people too, with the same dreams, just give them the opportunity," said Leanne.