JMFitness athlete, Miana Catahay, and her mom, Anna, reflect on their “Why JMF?” with Miana’s love of participating in adaptive and inclusive sports.

When I first heard about JMF, I was ecstatic! It had been just about 6 months since we moved to Indiana and I really wanted my daughter Miana, now 6 years old, to find something fun to participate in. Miana has Spina Bifida and she gets around in a wheelchair. She is such a social and active little butterfly, and it was important for me to find something for her that she can engage in and really enjoy, with support from people that are familiar with working with kids with special needs. Oftentimes, it had been a struggle for Miana to get involved in activities because there were not very many resources for Miana where we are from.

I found out about JMF through her school, Shamrock Springs Elementary. JMF had conducted a puppet show at the school featuring puppets with various disabilities. Miana told me she saw a puppet show at her school and that one was in a wheelchair. How awesome is that for raising awareness, and that Miana was excited and identified with one of the puppets. The school told me that it was JMF who performed the show. From there I went to the JMF website and was extremely interested in the JMFitness program. I got in contact with Cory Hernandez, JMFitness Director, who introduced us to many opportunities and continues to communicate ongoing opportunities. Miana’s first program was basketball and she loved it! She then joined swimming, and then cheerleading, then run2gether, then running club! She wants to join just about everything! It is just so amazing that there are these opportunities and more, for her and for many other kids. It is more than we ever hoped for. Through JMF, she has also been connected to other programs such as Perfect Harmony, a musical theatre class that the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre offers for kids with special needs.

Through JMF, Miana has found some of her passions and has goals for herself. One of them is learning to play basketball. Basketball skills have been incorporated into her Recreational Therapy sessions and she will definitely be joining the next JMF session that comes around. She loves to perform and sing, so musical theatre will continue in Miana’s future. And completing races through the run2gether program is another passion, from kid’s runs to 5ks to half and even full marathons (with the help and support of experienced runners who push the kids through the race). My little “butterfly” is training to participate in these events and has even set goals to practice and push herself in her wheelchair for the kids runs. I, too, have been inspired and motivated to participate in the races. As Miana’s mother, it is such a wonderful thing to be a part of something Miana is passionate about, and being a team. Molly Shawhan, Communications Director, has been integral in encouraging and supporting Miana’s and my involvement in the run2gether program along with many others.

Miana is enthusiastic about it all and always looking forward to the next opportunity. And what’s great is that JMF works with volunteers, mentors, and connects with others to help make these adaptations for children of ALL abilities to participate in activities and sports that they may not have been able to do so in the past.

JMFitness’s recognition of each child’s participation in each sport at the Sports Banquet is also such a great part of the program. The kids feel good about themselves and I definitely see that Miana is proud of her accomplishments…and so are mom and dad 🙂 Miana wants to display all her medals and awards that she received (many of them from JMFitness), so as a surprise for Christmas, we are making an award board for her to hang on her bedroom wall…sshh!

I asked Miana what she thought about JMF. She said, “I like JMF because I get involved in stuff, like basketball, swimming, running club and cheerleading. JMF is really fun!” It is so great and so uplifting to be a part of something important for anyone, let alone children who face challenges of being different.

We always tell Miana that she can do the things she wants to do, but she may have to do it differently, and that’s okay. That’s what JMF provides for her – and opportunity to do what she loves and adapt how she participates.

I cannot express how grateful I am for JMF and the wonderful staff that make it all happen, and worthwhile. Thank you! I always tell people I hold JMF close to my heart because Miana is so happy to be a part of JMF, and to see my daughter motivated and thriving in the programs fills my heart with joy. We are looking forward to many more years with JMF.

Read more about Miana in the December issue of Indy’s Child on page 30!

Post written by: Anna Catahay, mother of JMFitness athlete Miana.