After her husband’s open-heart surgery two years ago, Libby Bottero began participating in the supervised exercise program at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in RiverBend as a workout partner, but she didn’t realize at how significant the benefits would be.
Before leaving, her husband struggled to walk a few steps and could not carry anything heavy, she said. But after regular visits to the supervised exercise program that helps lung, heart and blood vessel patients, there was massive improvement.
“It’s so wonderful, he hadn’t driven for a few years before he came here, he couldn’t climb stairs…and now he’s going to the gym, he’s going to the library and will bring a big bag of books bookcase he carries upstairs,” Bottero, 74, said, adding that she’s also seen a significant improvement in her own health.
Patients in the program work with specialists to develop personalized exercise routines and train at the gymnasium at the Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute at RiverBend. The program typically costs $44 per month, giving participants access to a weight zone, indoor walking track, cardio machines, classes and more.
Now, with a $100,000 donation, PeaceHealth is creating an endowment that will allow it to attract and retain more participants who otherwise could not afford their workout program.
The endowment will allow PeaceHealth to double the number of scholarships each year, allowing 24 patients — up from 12 — to continue participating in the program after their insurance benefits run out, according to PeaceHealth.
Robert Stalbow, a respiratory therapist at RiverBend, said he hoped the endowment would help ensure that no patient could participate in the exercise program due to financial constraints.
“What we’re trying to do is strengthen the scholarships so that we have more interest in the community in terms of funding and matching funds,” Stalbow told reporters in the hospital gymnasium on Tuesday. . “We don’t want people turning away because they can’t afford it.”
The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, which donated the funds, will donate an additional $50,000 in matching funds if the PeaceHealth Foundation Sacred Heart Medical Center is successful in raising an additional $50,000 from the community. The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation is a charitable trust founded in Eugene in 1977 and is now based in Rancho Mirage, California.
The scholarship was started years ago by program participant, the late Bob Cochran, after noticing that one of the regulars had stopped coming because his insurance cover had run out and he couldn’t afford the sessions.
While many attendees spend their time on the supervised weight and cardio machines, Bottero said she most enjoys the classes on offer, such as yoga, Pilates and Qigong.
Bottero said she also enjoys the social aspect of the program, with participants helping each other out.
“People encourage each other and look out for each other,” Bottero said. “I think it’s very helpful because it’s not just the physical fitness. It’s the mental and emotional fitness that people check on each other.”
Bottero said she supports the scholarship expansion and believes it should benefit community members who are already struggling to cope with rising housing costs in the Eugene-Springfield area.
“A lot of people don’t even know about (the program), and I know a lot of people who are barely getting by with their social security, their rent, their food and everything,” she said. “Giving them that extra amount that they just can’t afford would provide so many benefits to their quality of life.”
Those interested in contributing to the endowment can do so online at peacehealth.org/foundation/sacred-heart/supervised-exercise-program-scholarship-endowment.
Louis Krauss covers breaking news for The Register-Guard. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @LouisKraussNews.