Defining Courage

The concept of “courage” means different things to different people.  Courage, by definition, is “the ability to disregard fear,” according […]

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The concept of “courage” means different things to different people.  Courage, by definition, is “the ability to disregard fear,” according to the Oxford American Dictionary of Modern English.  That’s an accurate defining of the word, but  it needs to be taken further.  True courage is awareness of fear and utilization of that fear to conquer unknowns or breech gaps in one’s beliefs.

Most people think of courage a something they must display only when faced with a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle. Much like L. Frank Baum’s Cowardly Lion, there are times when we all want to turn and run back down that great Emerald City hall and swan-dive through the stained-glass window to escape something of which we’re afraid.  People with disabilities (PWD’s) know courage from a different viewpoint.  To them courage means, not necessarily facing an unknown or a fear, but simply facing life day in and day out. To get up and face another day through the difficulties living with a disability poses them during everyday activities.  It takes gumption for someone with a disability to get up in the morning and say, “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself and I’m going to work hard so other people won’t feel sorry for me.”

Right here in the Twin Cities, we have a nationally renowned center to help people get back on their feet and stay on track.  Established in 1929 and celebrating 75 years this year, Courage Center is a non-profit rehabilitation center where abilities and disabilities become possibilities. Courage Center’s mission statement is simple: “To empower people with disabilities to reach for their full potential in every aspect of life, guided by a vision that one day all people will live, work, learn and play in a community based on abilities, not disabilities.” Perhaps one could summarize that by saying to live in a world where our limitations can grant us unlimited freedom.  However you wish to word it, Courage Center is a good place to start.

The first impression of any establishment is its staff, and Courage Center’s staff was extremely friendly, willing to stop whatever they were doing to answer my questions.  Having been a long-term in-patient at a similar rehabilitation facility back in Michigan where I grew up, I was eager to do a little “comparison shopping.”  The first noticeable thing is how unlike a hospital it felt.  It was more like a resort hotel or health spa.  Wide open lobby, nice pool visible from the front desk, open hallway above that lead back to the administrative offices and assistive technology lab, HAM radio labs and other service departments.

I was able to observe one of the many classes offered to the residents and outpatients of Courage Center.  Due to the winter storm the Twin Cities experienced only the day before, many of the daily classes were canceled due to lack of transportation for the outpatients, but I was able to watch one of the Adapted Aerobics classes.  I spoke to the young man who participated in the class (the only one who was able to be there) afterward.  His name was  John Cremer, and he is confined to a wheelchair from Cerebral Palsy.  Confined?  Perhaps not, because from what I observed he is more mobile than most people.  He was working out so hard I’d hate to run into him in a dark alley!  Special thanks to John for allowing me to watch him in action and for speaking to me later.

One of the latest features at the Golden Valley site is a brand new Fitness and Wellness Center.  This was the primary reason for my visit, and I’ll be returning in April to check out the grand opening, but from what I saw it’s quite impressive as it stands, with the latest in adapted equipment.  The most interesting feature were the pull-away seats on the weight machines, to allow wheelchair access, along with moveable and removeable seats for easier transferring from chair to weight machine.  Everything can be utilized by a person with only a moderate disability as well as someone with a severe disability.

Currently, the actual weight room itself is rather small, with only a few feet between each machine, and only a modest amount of center space.  But before opening there are plans to double the size of the room, which will give more than enough space for a comfortable workout.  Specialized nutritionists and one-on-one personal training will be offered, as well as professional massage for the aches and pains experienced by over-achievers who might occasionally strain his or her quadriceps or triceps.  And you can finish off your workout with a soak in the walk-in hot-tub, located off the swimming pool.  Packaged deals allowing use of the fitness center and swimming pool are available.

Adaptive programs are at the heart of the many aspects of Courage Center.  It’s a place where confidence is earned through the desire to achieve.  It’s home to those who are in residence, and home-away-from-home for those who come in to participate in programs, classes and therapy.  Independence is advocated and taught through assistive technology if necessary.  Firm yet gentle encouragement, help in physical and emotional recovery is provided by the caring and knowledgeable staff.  Training for everything, including HAM radio licensing, is offered.  Aquatics to weight-training, anything to give PWD’s the ability to throw their berets over their heads and shout, “I’m gonna make it after all!”

Contact Courage Center at 763-520-0520, or 1-888-846-8253.  TTY, 763-520-0245.  Fax, 763-520-0577.  Or visit them on the web at for more details.

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Mental Wellness