David and Margaret Girls Flex Muscles and New Attitudes

April 28, 2009
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Front entrance to David and Margaret Home

Front entrance to David and Margaret Home



For a century, the David and Margaret home has been reaching out in creative and innovative ways to reach out and connect with teenage girls who have come to it for special care and support of their emotional, behavioral and educational needs. So it was right in character for Carlos Cisneros, David and Margaret’s recreational leader, to reach out to Canice Barbone, co-owner and director of Ultimate Fitness Camps in La Verne, to develop a six-week health and fitness program for the girls.

“In my 15 years at the David and Margaret Home, I have never seen the girls respond as the way theydid to this program,” Carlos said. “The girls started eating better, sleeping better, and treating one another with more respect. If you gave them a task, they didn’t grumble any more. They would just go ahead and do it. They accepted the challenge, because I think they felt they could meet any challenge. It was really a short and dramatic transformation for the girls who chose to participate.”

The best part, Carlos didn’t have to reach far to his motivational ace in the hole. Canice’s exercise facility is located on Palomares St. across the road from the south entrance to the David and Margaret Home. While Canice had counseled people of all ages in fitness and health, she hadn’t customized a program for a large residential treatment program for girls living in a foster care and probation situation.

“I was really proud that I was selected to help the girls, and wanted to use every minute I had with them to show how improved health and exercise can improve every facet of their lives,” Canice said.

She prepared a complete and comprehensive fitness package and laid out a six-week program for the girls to follow with or without her.

“Many of the girls were apprehensive at first,” said Canice, who started the program in early March. “It took about two weeks before they started to let their guard down and really trust me.”

Canice performs curls in her own gym, one of the many workout sites she used during her six-week training course.
Canice performs curls in her own gym, one of the many workout sites she used during her six-week training course.

Naomi Barnes, a member of the David and Margaret recreational staff who also participated in many of the fitness routines, was impressed with Canice from the start. “Canice said she would give 100 percent of her effort to help the girls, and she did,” Naomi said.

“She trained them and worked them out, and showed them how different exercises benefitted their bodies. A lot of the girls were telling me they felt better and were sleeping better. I see a lot of the girls going through anxiety, not liking each other, being angry and emotional. I think the fitness program helped them in a way they could deal with some of their emotions better.”

Canice’s offered Monday and Wednesday sessions from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday sessions from 3:30 p.m. to 4: 30 p.m. It was not unusual for some of the girls to participate in all four sessions once they began to experience the fun and benefits of a regular fitness regimen.

Workout sites varied, from the expansive lawn on the David and Margaret grounds, to the Home’s on-site fitness facility, to Canice’s own exercise studio across the street. She integrated strength and cardio conditioning, and also showed the girls that discipline more than fancy machines was all they really needed to get and stay in shape.

Michelle, 16, was Canice’s team leader who helped lead the exercises and keep the girls’ lines straight and orderly. “Being out here was fun,” she said. “I feel better about my health and my weight now.”

Lala, 15, said the exercises she liked the most were the ones that worked her core area. “I enjoyed coming out here every day,” adding that she was no longer taking medicine prescribed for her anxiety and migraines as a result of the exercise. “My headaches are gone,” she declared.

At the end of the six week program, which ended last Thursday, Canice re-measured the girls’ waists and body fat content. “In many cases,” Canice said, “we saw losses of 4 and 5 percent body fat, and as much as 6 inches off their waistlines.”

With funding for the program uncertain, the hugs at the end of the six weeks lasted a few seconds longer. But even in that short time, Canice’s impact was tremendous.

“I always thought I wanted to be an actress,” Lala said. “Now I’m thinking of joining the Air Force. Doing these workouts will prepare me for doing workouts in the Air Force.”


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