DIRECTOR OF PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
Heather comes to Team GUTS as an experienced professional in the non-profit sector, working directly in the Adaptive Fitness community. She has strong ties to the community and its social services and has a passion for working with those that have special needs. Her experience extends to building highly successful adaptive fitness, social and sports programs, and inclusion camps. Heather has always been involved in outdoor recreation, health and fitness from hiking, biking to playing softball, volleyball, and swimming in her earlier years. She followed that desire for being fit and healthy to the YMCA where she obtained numerous certifications for Group Exercise Fitness, Kickboxing, Yoga, Strength and Conditioning, Senior Fitness, Aerobics, and more. She found her true calling when she began working with those that have special needs, spurred from her own personal experience of having a son with cerebral palsy and cognitive impairments.
RD / INSTRUCTOR
Anne-Marie studied nutrition at Wayne State University and became a Registered Dietitian in 1996. Prior to that she earned a Bachelor degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Anne-Marie is also a certified Zumba instructor and a full-time mom of four children – she intimately understands the personal challenges of raising a family and trying to fit in exercise.
TRAINER / INSTRUCTOR
Rachel has spent the last three years as a personal trainer and group instructor, teaching yoga, senior fitness classes and Tough Mudder Boot Camps. For the last seven years, Rachel has worked with children and adults with special needs at The Miracle League of Michigan. “The Miracle League” is a charitable organization that provides children with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball as a team member in an organized league.
As Rachel states; "I enjoy all aspects of physical fitness, including exercise, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle choices. I have worked with people at many different fitness levels and ages, including children, seniors, and people with special needs. I LOVE helping to motivate people to get active and implement changes that will become life-long and life-altering. Age and gender are not barriers for me. I enjoy them all!"
Melanie Johnson is a graduate of Madonna University with a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is also a graduate of Oakland University with a Bachelor of Arts in Performing Arts with honors in Dance. In 2014, Melanie received her certification to teach in Autism Movement Therapy to young children, teens and adults.
Melanie has been teaching for more than fifteen years and has been on staff or faculty with several notable institutions and organizations such as The Friendship Circle, Savannah College of Art & Design, and The Institute of Music & Dance at Marygrove College. She has taught and mentored children and adults of diverse ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, “at risk” youth and special needs individuals with varying degrees of cognitive impairment (i.e., Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome).
Before starting her family, which includes two beautiful daughters, and her career in teaching, Melanie danced and toured professionally with Jazz Dance Theater and Eisenhower Dance Ensemble. Melanie is ecstatic about sharing her passion for dance and movement with every child, regardless of age or “ability”.
TRAINER / INSTRUCTOR
Jake has been involved in sports and physical fitness his entire life; baseball, wrestling, swimming/diving, yoga, crossfit, power building — and the list goes on. He also considers himself as a “gym rat”. Ever since Jake started training for the military as a young adult, he has been involved with a gym. It’s simply who he is.
However, Jake has another passion and that is working with children with special needs. His background with children with disabilities started when he was a teenager. Whether he wanted to or not, Jake helped care for his foster brother with extreme autism (his dad was the primary caregiver to his foster brother) and he was always submerged with caring for his six special needs cousins. Interestingly enough, Jake didn’t mind at all. In fact, he enjoyed it. Best of all, he is currently blessed with the opportunity to do respite care for a young boy with hurlers and autism who has become like a little brother. This too is who he is.
Jake is now 21 years old and, for the past three years, he has worked as a para-pro at Edison Max and SXI in Hazel Park with cognitively and emotionally impaired kids from 4 years to 26 years of age. In that time, he has also been a counselor/team leader for a special needs camp at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield.