NORTHVALE, N.J.– The smiles and laughter of special needs students make all the hours that Rob DeBrino and Angelo Mazza put into their One Fitness gym in Northvale worth it.
Every Wednesday, the two welcome disabled young adults from The Junction , a special education program affiliated with the Northern Valley Regional School District.
"I feel like there aren't a lot of gyms that take in kids with special needs," said Mazza, who, like his partner, is a district graduate. "These kids gravitated to it. They love being in the gym, working with the machines... the different exercises."
The students, ages 18 to 21, are bused to One Fitness "to improve their mental, physical and spiritual well-being," said DeBrino, a former Minnesota Twins farmhand.
"If you could feel their energy... it makes everything we do worthwhile," Mazza said. "To see them smile, it makes my entire day."
The trip is part of The Junction's Community Based Instruction and Structural Learning Experiences. Each week, there's a different routine.
"It offers the students occupational, social and functional living skills," DeBrino said.
"It's really exciting because we feel like we're giving back," Mazza added.
It all started when Mazza reached out to his former teacher, Marybeth Reid, who currently works with The Junction.
"We try to do as much as we can for the community," DeBrino said. "Not every kid gets a chance to play sports."
DeBrino, a former pitcher, teaches the students how to throw baseballs.
"Just to see them have a great time, laughing – it's awesome," he said. "The feeling is hard to describe."