Gym geared towards special needs athletes believed to be first of its kind in Minnesota

It is believed to be the first gym of its kind in Minnesota and it’s geared toward special needs athletes.

The Mendota Heights gym hopes to become a place where all kinds of athletes feel comfortable coming in to work out.

Lions United Fitness Center opens at the end of the month. While the 5,300-square-foot facility looks like every other gym, the staff and equipment are geared toward individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities.

“Athletes come in here and think they can’t do half this stuff, but once they sit down and try it it’s just one more thing they are capable of,” said founder Andrew Cameron.

Cameron has been coaching Special Olympics for nearly 15 years and training many of his athletes on the side. This month, he opened this Mendota Heights gym to cater to them.

“There really aren’t any programs like this out there and coaching wasn’t enough for me,” Cameron said. “I’ve always wanted to do more.”

When Amy Gardner of St. Louis Park started working out with Cameron, she had limited mobility due to Cerebral Palsy. Recently, the 32-year-old competed in the Special Olympics weightlifting event.

“What I do is work with my arms on machines and I can do the bench press now, which I never thought I could do,” said Gardner. “It’s all because of Andy.”

“For him to do something like this for our athletes, it’s just unbelievable,” said Special Olympics athlete Trent Kekedakis.

Lions United Fitness opens March 25. While there is a membership fee, Cameron says health insurance will reimburse special needs athletes if they come at least eight days per month.

For more information visit the Lions United Fitness Center website.