West Hartford fifth grader George Udal organized the six-week program which raised $2,500 for Dog Star Rescue.
By Ronni Newton
George Udal may only be 11 and in fifth grade at Duffy Elementary School in West Hartford, but he’s already learned the importance of fitness and philanthropy.
Sunday April 2 was the last day of the six-week winter session of Fitness Class Training, a running club for children ages 3-12. By the end of the program, George had raised $2,500, which he donated to Dog Star Rescue’s “Dog Star 4 Vets,” a special dog adoption program for honorably discharged U.S. Armed Forces veterans.
In 2020, then 8-year-old George started training in a fitness class at his West Hartford backyard in order to stay in shape during COVID. With the support of both his parents – Betsy and Matthew Udal are avid CrossFit enthusiasts and involved in other athletic pursuits, and both are also actively involved in local non-profit organizations – George has also chosen to charge a nominal fee for fitness classes and donate proceeds. for charities.
It started with just friends and family, but the program continued to grow. Children from several cities took part in the just-concluded fitness class training program, which took place on Sunday afternoon at the Conard High School track. They would do laps, aiming to go a little further each week, Betsy Udal said.
“This season there was a bonus of fitness stations for the kids, which seemed to be the part they liked the most,” she said. “There were kettlebells, sled pull-ups, sandbags, jumping rope, ladders and several other fun fitness challenges. The children won charms to attach to their backpacks to do the fitness stations and run the miles.
In less than three years of operation, Fitness Class Training has become a 501(c)(3) and in 2022 has donated more than $20,800 to local charities, said Betsy Udal – organizations focused on animals and/or veterans which also includes Open Doors Outdoors and Run for the Wild at the Bronx Zoo.
Overall donations to Dog Star Rescue exceed $14,000, including last session’s donation of $2,500 to Dog Star 4 Vets.
“We match qualified veteran men and women with deserving homeless abandoned dogs,” program manager Bonnie Gaynor said of DS4V.
“Our goal is to place dogs that have ended up in shelters following abandonment or surrender from their owners, into permanent homes with veterans, where they are cared for with respect and camaraderie. We offer reduced adoption fees for honorably discharged veterans, discounted veterinary care through Veterinary Care Everywhere, and financial assistance for approved training programs,” Gaynor said.
Gaynor said Dog Star is proud of the program and noted that “military veterans’ companion dogs can improve mental well-being, motivate veterans to get up and out in the world, and improve the transition of veterans with disabilities into civilian life”.
For more information on fitness class training and future programs or volunteer opportunities, visit Fitnessct.org, @fitnessclasstraining on Instagram, and fitness class training on Facebook.
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