Ian Acker completed drug and alcohol inpatient treatment in 2012, but knew his sobriety was fragile. “I longed for a group of people who could come together regularly and support each other through exercise and fellowship,” he says.
A former college soccer player, exercise had always been a part of Acker’s life. So he took a boombox to a city park and posted a Facebook invitation for people in recovery to attend fitness boot camp. Four people attended Acker’s first session. By the third week, there were 40.
Acker knew he had hit on something the recovery community desired. He built Fit to Recover not only to provide opportunities to exercise as a group, but also as a place to to explore nutrition, community service and creativity. “With Fit to Recover, I have been able to turn one of my greatest liabilities into one of my greatest assets, and am able to help others do the same,” Acker says.
“It’s a place that is safe, where you won’t be judged and you’ll be loved for who you are.”
Fit to Recover has grown to offer a 5,500 square-foot nonprofit gym and community center, where more than 300 members and clients can choose from the 35 fitness classes offered weekly. The facility has a climbing wall, art studios, a community garden, meeting rooms, and a play room. Fit to Recover serves six Salt Lake-area treatment centers, three veterans groups, an early recovery women’s group, and a county at-risk youth program.
Today, between 40 and 70 people attend boot camp at the same park where Acker got his start. He has three full-time and two part-time employees, along with the dozens of volunteers who keep Fit to Recover's programs running smoothly.
“It’s the first time I feel proud about something that I’ve done,” Acker says.
Fit to Recover was named Outstanding Community Impact Business at the 2016 SCORE Awards.
Acker worked with volunteer mentor Doug McNeil to realize his dream. “I don’t know if we’d be here without SCORE and Doug’s consistency and push behind this project,” Acker admits. “I’m grateful for the day I walked into SCORE with a bag full of questions and confusion and walked out with a lifelong mentor and friend,” Acker says.
Acker attended a nonprofit accounting fundamentals workshop at McNeil's advisement. While McNeil helped Acker with initial nonprofit documentation and sustainability planning, the two still meet at least once each month to discuss the organization's progress.