Paul Richards' mission to make life better for cancer sufferers has been recognised at the New Zealander of the Year awards.
Club Physical chief executive Paul Richards received a local hero award last week, honouring his gym's work in making life better for those dealing with cancer.
The gym created Cancer Wellfit six years ago, offering a free 10-week membership and specialised fitness programme aimed at improving the wellbeing of people who are going through cancer treatment or have ever dealt with the disease in the past.
Participants are placed in groups and work under a personal trainer twice a week.
Mr Richards has worked with more than 1000 cancer sufferers in six years.
He says that the gym aims to employ trainers who have "heart".
"We make sure we get trainers who have real heart and feel passionate about the programme," he says.
"The groups really help each other along as well, they form a strength and camaraderie."
Reports by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that New Zealand has the third highest number of deaths from cancer in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr Richards says the programme focuses on building strength and keeping fit during a time when people might not have much energy.
"Chemotherapy and radiation can make people feel tired and so research says with the little energy you do have to focus on building your strength. I don't add up the cost, we just do it and we love doing it. You just have to go down when there is a group that has gone through the exercise programme and see the result.
"It makes me feel twice as determined to keep this programme going when I see the good it does for people."
Bruce Compain was diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 years ago. He got involved with the Cancer Wellfit programme at the beginning of the year and he is so hooked, he now regularly attends the gym.
"It helps with a lot of things like depression, fatigue - cancer takes it all out of you.
"Getting fit again makes you feel good and you're mixing with people from all walks of life who have the same challenge as you do.
"There are quite a few of us who have become regulars now."
He says there is no obligation to join the gym once your 10-week session has finished.
Mr Compain was involved in nominating Mr Richards on behalf of the Club Physical Te Atatu branch.
"People like Paul who run a business but put a lot into the community, they need to be recognised.
"He is an incredible person and we cannot thank the gym enough."
Mr Richards hopes the programme will continue to help give those living with cancer a positive outlook.
"This is something positive you can do. You can either stay at home or take charge and empower yourself."
The next Cancer Wellfit session starts on February 12 and is available at all Club Physical branches in West Auckland.
- Western Leader
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