Fitness NI has proven to be a trailblazer for recreational and competitive exercise and fitness in Northern Ireland over the past 65 years. Formed on 4th December 1952, the charity is now closing and in a fitting testament to their passion for the provision of sports opportunities and inclusivity for all they have gifted their remaining funds of £24,000 to Disability Sport NI.
Disability Sport NI Chairperson Michael McAteer MBE praised the great work of both charities and welcomed the donation saying, “Fitness NI is a charity that I have always had great respect and admiration for having witnessed first-hand the tireless hours dedicated to its success by the founding members and subsequent volunteers.
“It is with great sadness that I see the charity close, however I will always be grateful for the legacy left by Fitness NI. I am confident that the funds will help Disability Sport NI to continue supporting people with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to live a full, active and healthy lifestyle through sport and active recreation.”
Fitness NI’s dedicated volunteer board members were passionate about driving the ethos of the organisation; they spent decades delivering fitness sessions personally and subsequently trained aspirant fitness instructors. On presenting the funds the President, Vice-presidents, Chairperson and Director of Fitness NI spoke fondly of their experiences with one stating “The experiences, the friendships and the bonds we have made have just been incredible”
The ladies discussed the evolution of their organisation from delivering keep-fit classes, competing in local and national competitions, setting up their own Northern Ireland championships, educating young and upcoming coaches and fitness instructors and developing a range of rehabilitation classes for post-operative hospital patients.
“Having supported people who came to our rehabilitation classes using a walking frame and then watching them walk out without it made us passionate advocates for the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.”
Fitness NI, originally known as the Central Council for Physical Recreation and later the Keep Fit Association of NI, worked closely with the home nations to ensure that Northern Ireland stayed at the cutting edge of training and opportunities.
One of Fitness NI’s most notable achievements was the development of the Northern Ireland Creative Movement and Aerobics Championships (NICMAC), inspired by similar championships in Scotland and Wales. NICMAC was launched in 1989 and proved to be hugely successful with over 80 schools and 100 dance club teams competing annually. The Championships will continue with a new committee specifically set up to do so, however the legacy that Fitness NI leaves through the two days of competition cannot be understated
At the cheque presentation Fitness NI board members reminisced with Disability Sport NI Senior Managers Aubrey Bingham and Elaine Reid and found further parallels between both organisations charitable objectives. Representing Fitness NI were founding members including Director, Marlene McAteer, President June Rea and Vice Presidents Eileen Irvine, Valerie Mullan and Bel Catterson. The meeting was chaired by Fitness NI Chairperson and past service user of Fitness NI Lisa Crossen and Disability Sport NI Chairperson Michael McAteer MBE.
Upon presenting Disability Sport NI with the cheque for £24,000, Fitness NI’s President June Rea said, “Obviously it is with a heavy heart that after 65 years in operation we have had to take the decision to close Fitness NI due to a lack of volunteers to join the board.
“We are, however, absolutely delighted to hand over £24,000 to Disability Sport NI, which is a ‘like-minded organisation in that their aim is to ‘Be Active. Be the Best.’ and who do such wonderful work in Northern Ireland.
“We wish Disability Sport NI a positive future and we will follow your progress with keen interest and best wishes from all past members of Fitness NI.”
This sizable donation follows an earlier donation from the Fitness NI’s Newtownabbey branch of £2,303 when Disability Sport NI was their charity of the year. This branch will continue to operate under Fitness Friends Newtownabbey.
For further information on Disability Sport NI please visit www.dsni.co.uk.
From left to right is Eileen Irvine, Bel Catterson, Aubrey Bingham, Lisa Crossen, Valerie Mullan, Marlene McAteer, Michael McAteer MBE, June Rea and Elaine Reid.