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On the morning of Jan. 26, 2005, Bob Janovici was on his way to work, riding a Metrolink train from his home in Northridge to his office in downtown Los Angeles. At 6:03 a.m., an SUV abandoned on the tracks caused a major derailment of his train, leaving 11 people dead and Bob in a coma with a broken neck and a severe brain injury. Although doctors told his wife, Sue, that Bob had only a 1 percent chance of regaining consciousness, he did. He then started the slow process of recovering.
After a year of therapy, the Janovicis were referred to the California State University, Northridge Center of Achievement Through Adapted Physical Activity, an internationally recognized facility that provides adapted physical fitness programs for people with disabilities. The Center was opened in 1971.
At the Center, Bob receives not only daily exercise on the state-of-the-art adaptive equipment but also fulfillment in being part of a community — one that’s become important to him and his wife, Sue. They have enjoyed making friends with the Center’s other clients and their spouses.
Sue noted that when you have an injury, it’s easy to feel isolated. “We were both working until the day of the accident and so, all of a sudden, our world was totally changed,” she said. “The Center has really helped fill that hole, that need to feel a part of something, to have some direction. I cannot overstate how valuable it’s been to have a place like this.”
Bob echoed her sentiments. “People at the Center become social again,” he said. “They make connections with other people who have had a similar experience.”
For Sue, coming to regular sessions at the Center meant coming back to her alma mater: She studied sociology at CSUN in the 1960s. Their experience at the Center has renewed the couple’s zest for CSUN and for giving to the university. They now give annually to the Sam Britten Scholarship Fund, named in honor of the Center’s founder.
“This fund proves much needed support for children and adults from low-income families who would otherwise not be able to take advantage of programs offered at the Center,” said Carol Bennett, the Center’s operations manager. Through their gifts, Bob and Sue embody the Center’s inclusive goals. “They are a direct enactment of the mission of the Center of Achievement. Their donations and caring are always greatly appreciated,” Bennett said.
“I always designate my money to the scholarship,” said Sue. “I truly feel it would be a sin if someone needed to be here but just couldn’t afford to go. That is why I give.”
With four pools and an extensive array of specialized gym equipment, the Center offers both aquatic and land-based exercise programs while also training students and professionals in health and rehabilitation-related fields. The unique combination of academic programs and service-learning has made the Center one of the most successful programs in the nation.
Sue encourages anyone who is interested in supporting the Center or exercising there to come take a tour and “see how critical it is” to students, clients and their families.