Spotlight on an Israel Outdoors Alumn – Staying on Balance

Here at Israel Outdoors we love to hear about what our alumni are up to. Julie O. participated in a Taglit-Birthright trip with Israel Outdoors one year ago in December of 2013.  Julie volunteers for an amazing organization called Balance 180.

Where are you from?
I’m from Coral Springs, FL.

Where do you live currently?
I currently live in Gainesville, FL.

Balance 180What do you do now for a living?
I’m a student at the University of Florida, planning on going to Physical Therapy School. I also work part time as a research assistant for the Glycogen Storage Disease Puppy Project at UF.

What is Balance 180?
Balance 180 is an adaptive gymnastics program for children with special needs and developmental disabilities. We work with children to accomplish gymnastics goals, follow directions, and interact with their peers. Classes meet every week and create a fun and valuable experience for each child.

How did you become involved with Balance 180?
I learned about the program through the college of health and human performance at UF. I saw that they were looking for volunteers for their summer camp, and I began volunteering with them two summers ago.

What is your favorite part of working with Balance 180?
My favorite part of Balance 180 is being able to see the children improve. Many of the kids were initially nervous about participating in the program, but the transformations I’ve seen have been incredible. They now come into the gym with smiles on their faces and a willingness to learn and participate. They cheer for each other and continuously try new activities, which creates both an exciting and challenging environment. Being able to see the kids progress over time has made the experience extremely rewarding as a volunteer.

Balance 180-2Why did you decide to go on an Israel Outdoors trip?
I chose the Israel Outdoors trip because I not only wanted to learn about the history and culture of Israel, but I also wanted to experience Israel’s diverse and unique environment. The outdoors trip provided a way to explore Israel in a memorable and meaningful way, and I would recommend it to anyone considering going on a birthright trip.

What was your favorite part of your Israel Outdoors Trip?
My favorite part about the trip was having the Israelis stay with us. We had Israeli soldiers, a policeman, and a teacher spend a few days with our group. Getting to know them was a great way to learn more about what living in Israel is really like, and they became a part of our group as soon as they came on the bus. They left a few days before our trip ended, but then two of them surprised us at the airport the day we were leaving. We were all so happy to see them again, and it was a perfect ending to the trip.