Veterans gym celebrates first year success

Diana J. Smith

The Adaptive Performance Center celebrated its one-year anniversary on Saturday.

During the COVID-19 shutdowns, it was considered essential of fitness and mental health therapy.

Veterans say they enjoy working out at the Adaptive Performance Center (APC).

“It’s a nice quiet atmosphere,” said Jim Carnathan, a U.S. Navy and U.S. Army veteran. “A lot of times when I was working out, I’d be maybe the only one in there for a while.”

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Jim Carnathan

KTVQ photo

“If you served, you’re in the club and that’s all it takes,” said Jeffrey Bokma “So there’s no, like, you know feel out process. You’re just accepted, and then like Karen (Pearson) and Mitch (Crouse) are just top notch people, easy to talk to.”

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Jeffrey Bokma

KTVQ photo

Pearson and Crouse started APC in March of 2020 right before the closures.

“It is beyond special for us to have our one year anniversary,” Pearson said. “We didn’t know what to expect when we opened APC last year, because we’re the first of its kind in the nation. And nobody has taken the combination of mental health and physical fitness and put it together to try to serve our veteran community.”

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Karen Pearson, Adaptive Performance Center co-founder

KTVQ photo

“We’re here for our vets for active military,” Crouse said. “It’s their home. We consider it their gym.”

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Mitch Crouse, Adapative Performance Center co-founder.

KTVQ photo

It looks like a normal gym, but it’s the veterans that make it a special place to work out.

“Nobody comes through the door that’s not a brother, sister,” said Carnathan. “It’s an enjoyable place to be. There’s no competition as we’ve all got limitations. You know some of us have physical disabilities. Some of us have mental disabilities that we’re working on.”

“If you have a safe place to go and not, you know, feel out of place, you can relax and just get after it,” Bokma said. “You can leave here just feeling good about yourself.”

“Here I can be myself,” said Richard Shepard, U.S. Army veteran. “Veterans, we’re a unique breed. We were trained, and we became things that most civilians will never understand. So we don’t act like most people do.”

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Richard Shepard

KTVQ photo

Shepard also is a gym manager and a boxing trainer and he understands the needs his fellow veterans.

“We were thrown into situations with total strangers,” Shepard said. “And we were relied on them to make sure we got back in one piece. Besides first responders, there’s nothing quite like it.”

“I talk it up and I said man you just won’t believe the support that you get,” Carnathan said.

“I’ve never had an experience of like awkward first meeting with somebody here,” said Bokma.

“We all talk about we’ve got each other’s six, we’ve got each other’s back,” said Shepard. “We’re there for you. It’s a camaraderie that you won’t find anywhere else. And it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Hey, he made in today. He’s doing good.”

Crouse and Pearson say this is the only gym of its kind in the country and have plans to build more outside of Billings.

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