Following her husband’s open-heart surgery two years ago, Libby Bottero started going to the supervised exercise program at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend as his workout partner, but she didn’t realize how major the benefits would be.
Before going, her husband struggled to walk a few steps and couldn’t carry anything heavy, she said. But after regular trips to the supervised exercise program that assists pulmonary, cardiac and vascular patients, there’s been a massive improvement.
“It’s so wonderful, he hadn’t driven for a few years before coming here, he couldn’t walk upstairs … and now he he drives to the gym, he drives to the library and will bring in a big bag of library books he carries upstairs,” said Bottero, 74, adding she has also seen significant improvement to her own health.
Patients in the program work with specialists to develop customized exercise routines and work out at RiverBend’s Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute gym. The program typically costs $44 per month, giving participants access to a weights area, an indoor walking track, cardio machines, classes and more.
Now, thanks to a $100,000 gift, PeaceHealth is creating an endowment that will allow it to bring in and maintain more participants who otherwise couldn’t afford their workout program.
The endowment will allow PeaceHealth to double the number of scholarships each year, enabling 24 patients — up from 12 — to continue to participate in the program after their insurance benefits are exhausted, according to PeaceHealth.
Robert Stalbow, a respiratory therapist at RiverBend, said he hopes the endowment will help ensure that no patient is unable to participate in the exercise program due to financial constraints.
“What we’re trying to do is beef up the scholarships so we’ve got more interest in the community in terms of funding it and matching funds,” Stalbow told reporters Tuesday in the hospital gym. “We don’t want people to turn away because they can’t afford it.”
The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, which donated the funds, will give an additional $50,000 in matching funds if the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Foundation successfully raises another $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 a program participant, late Bob Cochran, after he noticed one of the regulars stopped coming because her insurance coverage had run out and she couldn’t afford the sessions.
While many participants spend their time at the supervised weights and cardio machines, Bottero said she most enjoys the classes offered, such as yoga, Pilates and Qigong.
Bottero said she also appreciates the socializing aspect of the program, with participants helping each other train.
“People encourage each other and look out for each other,” Bottero said. “I think that’s very helpful because it’s not just physical fitness. It’s mental and emotional fitness people check in with each other about.”
Bottero said she supports expanding the scholarships and thinks it should result in benefiting community members already having a hard time getting by with rising housing costs in the Eugene-Springfield area.
“A lot of people don’t even know about (the program), and I know plenty of people who are just barely getting by on their Social Security, rent, food and everything,” she said. “Giving them that extra amount they just can’t afford would offer so many benefits to their quality of life.”
Those interested in contributing to the endowment fund 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.