Every holiday season since its 2002 founding, the Bodies by Design Workout Room in Pflugerville has taken its mission further than fitness. This year with the help of its 200 clients, it chose to help a North Austin family — Kizzy Jackson, 38, her sons Joseph, 10, and Clarence, 11, and mother Betty Hyder, 62.
The Jacksons move to Austin two years ago after flooding in Baton Rouge made it difficult for Jackson to find work in Louisiana. Kizzy Jackson has had to find all the resources she needs in a new town. Joseph has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety and Clarence has autism.
Their family is one of 12 featured in the 2019 Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families through local nonprofit organizations. The Jackson family was nominated to the program by Communities In Schools, which will fulfill the Jackson family’s needs first and then help the other families it serves. Since Dec. 1, the Season for Caring has raised more than $820,000. It’s the 21st year of the program.
Through a raffle, the gym raised $1,350, which went toward a day bed and couch for the family, and will also help go toward rent. Their clients also donated a total of $500 in H-E-B, Walmart and Visa gift cards, as well as winter jackets, dressers and a deep freezer.
"Since we are a local business, we want to give back to our local community," said Fred Sassani, one of the leaders at Bodies by Design. "Whether we’re helping people through fitness, or helping people get their health in order, it is important for us to come together as a team and help others who are down on their luck."
After reading the Jacksons' Season for Caring story, Sassani contacted Communities in Schools, which works with seven Central Texas school districts to provide students with support and resources they need to succeed.
Jackson lives in a cramped, two-bedroom apartment and works hard to make ends meet as a server at a local restaurant. She hopes to move into a house where her sons don’t have to room with her and Hyder.
"We’re living paycheck to paycheck and trying to get so much stuff, and it’s hard to get the things that will help the boys become better people," Jackson said.
Her job allows her flexible hours, which helps Jackson be with her boys more. When Communities in Schools nominated the Jacksons, they created a wish list, which Communities in Schools gave to Sassani.
Donovan Owens — another leader at the gym who helps organize the annual adoption — sent emails to clients on Dec. 10, listing the family’s needs and asking for donations.
Owens said that their Bodies by Design family gets excited about their adoption each year, especially because the members stay on average for more than four years and about 20 have stayed since it opened.
"We are firm believers that everybody loves to give and to impact someone else’s life as they can, so what we do as the Bodies by Design team is provide the vehicle for them to do that," Owens said. "They just respond in a way that is amazing."
The gym also hosts an annual workout fundraiser called "Calories for St. Jude’s," which garnered $3,000 for the hospital last year.
They decided to introduce another fundraiser this December, one for Dress for Success, an international nonprofit helping women gain economic independence. The gym has since collected five boxes of women’s professional attire and will donate $200 worth of bus tickets.
On Dec. 20, Bodies by Design rented a trailer and delivered their donations personally to the Jackson family.
"It was a blessing because it was a lot of stuff that I wanted to get, but now I don’t have to worry about them," Jackson said. She called Bodies by Design "such a blessing." "We really appreciate what they have done for our family," she said.
Most of the needs for the Jackson family have been met through this donation and by the community at Grisham Middle School, which collected more than $10,480 worth of Christmas presents and gift cards for the family.
To find out more about the family’s needs, contact Communities In Schools, 512-462-1771, ciscentraltexas.org.