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Maria Carver:  Fitness Hero

“This is our sanctuary,” declares Maria Carver.   “It’s not just children who need a village, we all do. And this is literally our ‘village’. ”   She also calls AMFC her second “home” and she shares her feelings about the community of Avera McKennan Fitness Center’s members and staff with loving sincerity.

Maria joined AMFC’s Greatest Loser program in January of 2011 and lost more weight than ever before. She was feeling strong and happy with her new routine, she’d discovered Zumba – which she loved – and was happy that her then 13 year old son, Xavier, was following in her fitness footsteps.

In late fall of 2012, everything changed.  An injury during football sent Xavier to the doctor and prompted more tests.   The resulting diagnosis was leukemia with a 23% chance to beat it. Reeling from that news, Maria and family learned that her father also had leukemia.  A spiral of stress ensued as she and her husband, Jesse, cared for their baby, two middle boys, and oldest son and father – both with leukemia. Her past lupus returned with a vengeance.  She gained weight, her blood pressure and anxiety shot up and a hernia she’d been living with now required surgery.

By 2014, Maria’s father had passed away. Xavier’s leukemia had gone into remission and Maria had had her gall bladder removed which forced her into changing her diet, quite literally, to survive.   Her hematologist said, “Maria, go back to the gym.”  Also, Jesse, ever her motivational coach, encouraged her to go ahead and “get obsessed with it”. So she did.

They put an accountability board in the kitchen – complete with happy and sad faces to note triumphs and set-backs.  They created their own little incentives including honest praise and big hugs for keeping workouts consistent and fun and for healthy food choices.   The steam room is a favorite reward.   True friendships have grown here with members and staff, in great part because of Maria’s commitment to reaching out and connecting, whether to ask for help or advice or to hear someone else’s story.

Maria will never forget Kenny Tomek, a past AMFC Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer.  One day she was trying to workout upstairs but feeling particularly down and discouraged, and he noticed.  He brought her over to the desk and pulled up her photo from the not-so-distant past which reflected a Maria carrying a great deal of weight and sadness, and said, “You are not that person anymore.  You’ve already beat this and you can keep going.  You can do this.”   And indeed, she did.

Now free of meds for blood pressure and anxiety, free of lupus, free of fatigue and free of over 100 lbs.  Maria is a passionate advocate for health and fitness and is so happy to share it.  Thank you Maria.


Joker Fun Run!


Have you signed up yet?!  The weather will be PERFECT, the runners will be ready to conquer the route after 5 weeks of dedicated training and, back at the Center, we’ll be waiting to celebrate with tunes, snacks and beverages.  Oh and – let’s not forget -  that the post-run beers will be cold!   This 4th Annual April 1 Joker 5K Fun Run starts at 5:30pm at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center entrance and the festivities begin around 6pm in the Old Orchard Cafe as the run is completed.

Stop by Member Services today to sign up.  Or, call us at 322-5300.  Cost is just $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers.  If you’d like to enjoy a beer, you’ll need your photo ID.   See you next Wednesday, April 1 – no foolin’!



Singing Bowls Sound Therapy sessions are now available by appointment with Glenda Baker and Deb Yoder.

Harmonic sound therapy has been used for centuries – and now through Western clinical research has been found to lessen stress and inflammation, ease pain from chronic conditions or injuries, to activate the body’s natural ability to re-balance and heal itself.

You can schedule an appointment for a singing bowls session by stopping by the Member Services Desk or by calling 322-5300.  This service is offered by individual session only, not by package.


Nominated by her daughter, AMFC member Jennifer Soule

At 91, my mother, Leone Kayl, may be the oldest active member at Avera McKennan Fitness Center; she was a charter member even before the center was built.  Yet age does not definer her – health and wellness do!

My mother has long been my fitness hero and I have often heard that she is an inspiration to many others.  I am the oldest of six.  An early memory of mine is of Mom, pregnant, and still insisting on a daily walk with me trailing behind.  Walking was what you did, even if you’d been working on your feet all day.  She quite naturally modeled wholeness of body, mind and spirit for us before such practices were popular in mainstream culture.

Mom has fun with fitness, meeting her friends in Senior Circuit and celebrating birthdays after class. She embodies joyful, healthy living through her devotion to exercise and willingness to change with the decades, accommodating physical changes.  She believes in moderation; she’s the master of “two bites”, and avoids processed foods, eating across all food groups with nary a fruit or vegetable that she doesn’t like.

Maintaining an active mind is vital to Mom.  She’s passed her love of reading and learning on to her children and continues to inspire us through her love of her book club, Ollie classes and willingness to learn new technologies – just to name a few.  She loves and embraces new experiences – meeting new people, travel, and trying new recipes, colors, wines or flowers in her garden.

Leone knows how to downshift and relax with friends and family.  Her willingness to listen and be there for others is a rare gift.  Her soul is fed by a faith which is big enough and loving enough for her to be receptive to other’s beliefs too.  She cherishes her decades-long church home of Augustana Lutheran and her mother’s devotional book begins Leone’s day.

A well-rounded, healthy woman for all seasons, Mom continues to enjoy life and inspire people of all ages to live the good life she relishes every day at the Fitness Center, in her neighborhood, reading a book, attending a church, or feeding her family – the secret ingredient in all her endeavors is love of all.


AMFC Specials

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What better gifts could could you give than Health and Fitness?!

Avera McKennan Fitness Center offers special packages to delight and inspire:

  • Membership:  Get a jump-start on New Year’s savings, health and fitness.  Join now and we’ll waive the enrollment fee.  That’s a savings of at least $60 and your comprehensive Kick Start Personalized Assessment and Exercise Plan is FREE.
  • Personal Training:  Purchase 8 half hours or 4 hours of one-to-one personal training for only $150; up to 2 packages can be purchased at this terrific rate.
  • Therapeutic Massage:  Purchase 2 one hour or 3 half hour sessions for $110 for yourself or someone you love.

Stop by Member Services for details and to purchase gift cards, membership and swim instruction, personal training, therapeutic massage and nutrition counseling.