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Exercise group for mobility differences

Exercise group for mobility differences


John Soltis, founder of Achilles London, demonstrates the hand cycle he uses on group runs. Currently Soltis meets a small group at Masonville Mall for an hour and a half walk.

Stephanie Lai | Interrobang | Leisure | May 26th, 2014

John Soltis, a London man, formed a new exercise group aimed to bring together people with all sorts of mobility differences.

The group, under the umbrella of organization Achilles International, was founded by Dick Traum who became the first amputee to run the New York City Marathon.

Soltis explained how Achilles came to be.

“He was the first amputee to do that and that inspired Terry Fox,” said Soltis. “As a result, [Fox] did the Marathon of Hope ... The story goes that Dick Traum was in Canada supporting [the Terry Fox Run] and he got inspired seeing other people with mobility differences there and said, ‘You know what, people with mobility differences, they need a group too.'”

Thirty-one years ago, Traum started the first Achilles chapter in New York City, and now, Soltis — a quadriplegic — is bringing it to the Forest City.

The goal is to bring people together.

“It brings together volunteers with people with mobility differences; all kinds,” said Soltis. “Could be people with a visual difference ... people that use wheelchairs. Could be people with autism.”

Soltis said volunteers are crucial in making group meet-ups possible.

“Without having volunteers, I couldn't go out and use my hand cycle. It's physically impossible,” he said. “It's the idea of that social experience. It's a chance for people with mobility differences to be with other people.”

Currently, Soltis meets a small group at Masonville Mall to walk every Tuesday afternoon for a two-hour walk around the mall.

“We do that for exercise — it's social, and to maintain good shape” said Soltis. “When the weather's nice, most people would rather be outside.”

Soltis believes a group like this can have physical and mental benefits.

“It's the stimulation of being around other people — social interactions,” he said. “It's the stimulation of [being] out in nature. For myself and for many people with mobility differences, we're often indoors and we're indoors a lot.”

Soltis hopes as interest grows, volunteers from all walks of life will also get involved.

“Hopefully this will grow and there will be large numbers involved,” he said. “It also give san opportunity for volunteers to know about people with mobility differences they may not otherwise come to know at their work place, at school ... that's breaking down a lot of barriers.”

Achilles' main objective is to bring “hope, inspiration and the joys of achievement to people with disabilities.”

Soltis hopes both members and volunteers can be inspired through this experience.

“For people with mobility differences, the fact that they can have that opportunity to exercise with the assistance of a volunteer, it can maybe then inspire them to set goals,” said Soltis. “For the volunteers, I think the inspiration is being around people with mobility differences.”

For more information on how to become involved with Achilles London, visit

“I'm an optimistic person ... I could see some [work] placements… this is going all year round and its benefitting people in many ways. We'll see what happens. Hopefully this will inspire some people.”
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