CrossFit Program for Special Needs Community—Uniquely Abled— Spread its Wings to More Gyms

September 3, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Uniquely Abled
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Less than a year ago, we featured coach Christiana Siegelin, who started a program called Uniquely Abled CrossFit to serve those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

At the time, Siegelin’s long-term goal was to spread her program to other coaches and other CrossFit gyms interested in working with the special needs community, but she wasn’t sure how to go about growing it beyond the 17 kids and teens with Down Syndrome she was working with at the time out of CrossFit Valley Park in Valley Park, MO.

  • “The dream was always to take the program I started in Missouri and spread it, but it felt like a long-term dream that didn’t feel tangible,” she said.

Turns out, it was more tangible than she thought. After the Morning Chalk Up article was published, coaches began reaching out to Siegelin for advice on starting similar programs, and despite being pregnant at the time, Siegelin didn’t hesitate to offer guidance.

The result: Today, on top of Siegelin’s original program in Missouri—which now runs out of BARx CrossFit in Kirkwood, MO—there are three other Uniquely Abled chapters currently operating in the United States and Canada: one that runs out of CrossFit Quispamsis in New Brunswick, Canada, one at CrossFit Syndicate in Waterford, WI and one at CrossFit Rock Solid in Downingtown, PA. Together, they are working with 70-plus athletes.

On top of helping educate the program’s coaches about the ins and outs of working with the special needs population, Siegelin also provided various resources she picked up or built along the way, and helped them market their programs.

  • “My goal was to help them reduce hurdles so they could get up and running quickly,” she said, adding that today each Uniquely Abled chapter receives weekly programming with various scaling options.

Felicia Davis is one of the coaches who has benefited from Siegelin’s guidance. Davis runs the Uniquely Abled Waterford chapter, which serves about 20 clients with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to autism to Spina Bifida.

Davis couldn’t be happier to be a part of the movement, a movement she hopes continues to grow. 

  • “Every CrossFit gym can coach people with disabilities. They just have to have the desire,” Davis said. “Fitness is for everybody.”

Next up for Siegelin is to go through the process, which has already been started, to turn Uniquely Abled into a 501c3 non-profit, so she can fundraise and offer grants to support Uniquely Abled athletes even more.

  • “They already feel like they’re part of something, but I want to enhance their experience even more,” she said.

The big picture: Watching her program grow organically from a simple article has given Siegelin the confidence that it’s only getting started, because she quickly saw that “there are people out there willing to take on something like this,” she said.

“It’s amazing to me there are so many individuals who share my passion to help the special needs community. It’s such a gift,” she added.

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