Editor’s Note: This personal story was shared with us by a loyal MANIA® attendee who participated yearly with her beloved Aunt. We hope you sense the pride and joy she received from their relationship and the powerful connection they experienced together to be remembered forever.
As a child, many of us are lucky to grow up with Aunts and Uncles, but as life goes on and we move away from our family nucleus, it is sometimes hard to keep those relationships close. I am one of those people to have a wonderful relationship with my Aunt Georgia. She is my mother’s sister and even though we were separated by 25 years, she was my best friend and confidant. Aunt Georgia was the family member everyone wishes they had and when that person is gone, you are left wondering how to take that next step.
Unfortunately, I just lost my aunt this past May to a very rare disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. This fast moving, uncommon brain disorder causes serious problems with walking, balance and eye movements. It results from deterioration of brain cells that control body movement, coordination, thinking and other functions. There is no cause or cure. She was diagnosed 5 years ago and within two months her stability and walking had declined. Her passing devastated my family and me, but instead of dwelling on the sadness, I’d like to tell you of our happy times and a bond I will always cherish thanks to SCW Fitness and Philadelphia MANIA®.
My Aunt Georgia has always been an important part of my life. She took me under her wing and we spend every summer together from childhood to college, even taking vacations to Cancun and the Dominican Republic. After college, my responsibilities increased. We lived nine hours apart (she was in Erie, PA and I was in Connecticut) and our time together became limited, but we did have one compelling connection, we were both Group Ex Instructors. About 15 years ago, Georgia had the idea to meet up at Philadelphia MANIA®. This not only provided us the opportunity to catch-up, but also strengthen our dedication to fitness and fulfill our required continuing education requirements. We made this our yearly get together and were able to meet for 10 subsequent years at Philly MANIA®.
This special time with Georgia took me back to my childhood. It was our weekend to bond, reminisce and learn. For as much as we had in common, our teaching skills were quite different. Georgia specialized in strength training, Silver Sneakers and her favorite, Pilates. I, on the other hand, taught a variety of classes, such as TRX, spin and yoga, but absolutely no Pilates. We would arrive on Thursday, check-in at registration to get our welcome packet and then head back to the room to make a session game plan. We rarely left the hotel and I even remember it snowing the whole weekend, only bringing our connection even closer knowing we had everything we needed inside. Most of our workshops pertained to our particular teaching skills, but we always chose one class to attend together. We looked forward to the breaks to go back to our room for a snack and rest. By the end of the day, even though we were both exhausted, we would each take turns reliving the day by acting out exercises learned on the hotel room floor.
When it came to favorite presenters, we agreed to disagree. I love Mindy Mylrea and her gliding discs. Gliders are my favorite piece of equipment even to this day. At home my class participants may groan when I say it’s “Glider Day,” but secretly I know they love it. Georgia loved Mindy’s sessions as well and would take the games she learned back home to share with her grandkids. They are now in college and still talk about the “Bubblegum Game” she used to play with them. Among my other favorites was Sara Kooperman’s yoga classes, and Georgia would attend any and all Pilates classes, especially those led by Leslie Bender.
We made a lot of memories at Philly MANIA®. It didn’t matter how tired we were after a full day of sessions, we always looked forward to the 6PM specialty class. We wanted to take advantage of every minute of instruction available and loved learning and using the latest equipment. During our free time, when we weren’t reviewing past sessions, we would walk through the expo to check out all the vendors and new gear. Our all-time favorite part of the weekend was the silent auction. Georgia and I would go from booth to booth and bid on the items that we wanted to win, waiting and watching as the clock ticked to the end of the auction. We always walked away with five to six exciting prizes.
After she was diagnosed, I would go visit her in Erie. Unfortunately, her physical abilities continued to decline because of the disease. After a few years, I attended Philly MANIA® with my best friend and fitness enthusiast, Nikki. We participated in a lot of the same activities that I shared with my Aunt, but it just wasn’t the same without her. I am planning to return to MANIA® once the pandemic is over. Since Nikki lives in North Carolina, we are going to choose a new location to try together. SCW Fitness Education is just an incredible company and I am grateful for the memories Georgia and I Created there. I will always remember sweating, learning and laughing alongside my Aunt Georgia in Philadelphia at MANIA®.