|Josh and Erin Limmer Guerrieri '01|
Deserving Design finds people doing extraordinary things for others in their community and gives them a makeover of two rooms in their home. The Guerrieris — who will get a whole new look for their living room and home office — have been carrying on the tradition of giving back to the community, which they learned at Wittenberg University.
After graduating, Josh began working for Teach for America in inner-city Atlanta public schools teaching history, and coaching basketball and track. A couple of years later, Erin, in search of more meaningful work, turned to teaching as well. After several years, this husband and wife team saw a limit to what they could accomplish in the classroom and a real need for quality physical education and tutoring for these children. Believing that a strong mind and a strong body go hand in hand, they combined free fitness training and academic tutoring into one program, and FitWit was born.
What started in 2005 as an after-school program for under-served kids expanded to include an adult fitness program — a fitness camp that brings the elements of personal training into a group setting in the outdoors. Soon, the adult fitness camps were so successful that it was getting difficult for Josh and Erin to properly focus on the children’s programs.
Enter another Wittenberg graduate and friend, Ben Thoele, class of 2000, who suggested that Josh and Erin split their enterprise into two distinct entities. Last year, the three created the FitWit Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees and implements the youth programs. It was Thoele’s vision of creating the foundation, Josh said, that is helping them realize their original goals of improving health and academics, and fostering personal growth in traditionally underserved youth. Today, a portion of the proceeds from the FitWit adult camps goes to the foundation.
“The children were why we started FitWit and that was getting lost with the success of the adult programs,” Josh said. “Setting up the foundation lets us get back to the heart of the change we are trying to create in these communities with these kids.”
The vision is ambitious and growing daily. The foundation’s programs range from “Midnight Basketball,” an evening program where kids get to play basketball and learn life skills, to “FitTeens,” a six-week fitness competition led by certified professional trainers that includes workout sessions and nutrition education.
Thoele and the Guerrieris are currently working on expanding the existing programs as well as starting new ones, including summer camps that will teach leadership and fitness and even get city children out in the woods for a few days. They also hope to launch programs in Ohio.
“We know from our own experience that fitness makes you feel good about yourself,” Josh said. “And more studies are showing that kids who are active and fit perform better in school. We want FitWit to eventually be an all-inclusive approach to helping kids overcome some of their difficult circumstances.”
As far as being featured on national TV, Josh says it was “strange, but fun,” and it has inspired them all to work even harder to be “deserving” of this recognition. From his newly designed home office, he reflects on how Wittenberg helped bring all three graduates to where they are today.
“Running a non-profit made sense to us because Wittenberg nurtured the idea of serving others,” Josh said.
The Deserving Design program featuring Josh and Erin will air on HGTV at 8:30 p.m. EST., Saturday, Sept. 6, and again at 12:30 a.m. EST Sunday, Sept. 7, and 1:30 p.m. EST Sunday, Nov. 9.
Written By: Gabrielle Antoniadis
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