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Zumba mom brings Utah families together for fun and autism awareness

May 07, 2018 12:31PM ● Published by Keyra Kristoffersen

Zumba for Autism instructors at Dimple Dell Recreation Center. (Lisa McNett

April is Autism Awareness Month and one Sandy mom is raising that awareness through dance and fitness. 

"It's open to everybody, you don't have to be a Zumba enthusiast or dancer or fitness enthusiast to come," said Lisa McNett. "You really just have to love being part of a community and helping others."

McNett has been teaching Zumba and fitness classes for 10 years and is a mom of two boys, the oldest was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old just after the family moved to Utah. A friend introduced her to the Autism Council of Utah (ACU) a year later and she was able to make friends and learn about the new direction her family would take.

"We are an autism family, which is why we wanted to do something with autism," said McNett. "I wanted to do something that raised autism awareness and acceptance with my son being newly diagnosed and fresh."

Her first group fitness event was organized and took place while she was still pregnant with her second son. She chose April as the annual event month because it is commonly recognized as Autism Awareness Month; this year’s event was the fifth one she’s held. During the first year, McNett raised funds for the organization Autism Speaks, but switched to the Autism Council of Utah—a local nonprofit made up of volunteers—for the last four events because all of the funds raised are used to help Utah families.

"Everything they get goes back into the state," said McNett. "They volunteer their time to advocate for the whole community here in Utah." 

This year’s event took place on April 14. Last year, 80–100 people came to the family-friendly event to have a great time dancing and listening to upbeat music with others in the Sandy and surrounding communities. They were able to raise $900 through ticket and raffle sales. This year, they raised $1,200. Thanks to McNett's employment as a group fitness instructor at Dimple Dell Recreation Center, the 90-minute Zumba night can be held in one of their gyms, which have enough room to allow for a lot of people with six or seven instructors spread throughout the group to teach different songs and moves.

"It's like a huge party," said McNett. "We have raffles, local businesses come with their products to sell, we donate all our ticket proceeds to the ACU and they can take it and donate it to the resources that they have."

Raffle prizes comes from local businesses like Etude Fitness Studio, family members and friends who want to help so they donate gift cards to Amazon.com and other stores. McNett has been pleased with the number of people interested in her Zumba class; that number has increased every year, including many from the autism and Zumba communities.

"We wanted to find a way to give back and just promote that awareness within the community and bring everybody together for one night and try to have a good time," said McNett, who is grateful for the resources to different services in the area she has found through the ACU website and the different people she's met through it. "Being able to talk to somebody who gets it is great."

Along with her Zumba classes, McNett also teaches a four-week Bosu fitness class for kids on the autism spectrum on Thursdays. Children and parents engage in play-based fitness and use games to help them work on balance, coordination, taking turns, and flexibility using a balance trainer and weighted balls. Each week focuses on a different aspect.

For more information about autism services in Utah, visit https://autismcouncilofutah.org/

 

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