Participants in Winston Lake Family YMCA’s popular Silver Sneakers program broke bread together May 14 for the First Annual Robert Edwards Silver Sneakers Luncheon.
Edwards is a longtime Winston Lake employee and an instructor for Silver Sneakers, an exercise program for senior citizens.
“We know that Robert is your most favorite instructor,” Program Director Jolyn Roberts told the dozens of seniors who gathered for the occasion. “Robert works you guys out, but he has a heart of gold, and cares about you guys like no other.”
There was no lack of praise for Edwards, who joined the Winston Lake staff seven years ago, and the program he leads. Doris Moore said she joined the Silver Sneakers program because she couldn’t afford the physical therapy her doctor had recommended.
“(Edwards) did all that he could for my betterment and to improve my health. It was very beneficial, and I didn’t have to pay that expensive price for physical therapy,” she remarked. “They took me back to good health, and it was really, I think, miraculous for God to do this work through them.”
Before joining Silver Sneakers, Safiya Griggs suffered from limited mobility and chronic pain due to Fibromyalgia.
“I was told about Robert and his class, and I came because I was hurting all the time. I had no energy; I could barely move,” she related. “The first class, I almost died, I tell you. It just hurt me so bad, but I knew that I needed to move.”
Since that time, Griggs says her mobility and energy levels have improved dramatically.
“It’s because of this young man, and I thank him for that,” she stated.
Edwards was visibly moved by his students’ testimonies. The father of six brushed away tears before addressing them.
“I say it all the time – it is not a program without y’all,” he declared. “You all really are the reason I love coming to this Y. I look around and I’ve got a story for everybody in here. Like Ms. Griggs said, we are a family.”
Al Jabbar, a longtime Winston Lake member and volunteer, sponsored the luncheon, which attracted many of the nearly 200 participants who regularly attend Silver Sneakers classes at Winston Lake.
“I’ve seen him grow,” he said of Edwards. “I’ve seen him take each one of you and individually nurture you so that you would have a (high) quality of life. That’s all we aspire to do. We pray for good health so that we can continue to do the things that God would have us to do.”
Jabbar said he has witnessed the results of Silver Sneakers firsthand.
“I’ve seen some of you come in with canes and walkers and you don’t have them no more,” he said. “That’s a blessing.”
Eighty two year-old Annie Pearl Wilson was diagnosed with diabetes. The restrictive diet caused her to shed valuable pounds from her already trim frame, so Wilson joined Silver Sneakers to help build her muscle strength and maintain a healthy weight. The retired Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools employee said Edwards encouraged her to push her limits and go beyond Silver Sneakers to the Y’s weight room. She now works out seven days a week.
“He took me under his wings and told me what I needed to do,” Wilson, a great-grandmother, said of Edwards. “I thought this (luncheon) was a good gesture. He’s great, he really is. He deserves it.”
Fred Marshall Sr. and his wife Geraldine were also in the number at the luncheon Tuesday. The couple who have been married 46 years, said they didn’t want to miss a chance to fete Edwards, whom they consider among their family at Winston Lake.
“Robert is a very good instructor,” Mrs. Marshall said. “Even with a classroom full of people, he still works one on one with the people and he has so much respect for the older people. It has been a good journey for us.”
Many of the Silver Sneakers members poke fun at Edwards, who is said to wear his heart on his sleeve.
“He’s emotional but it comes from his heart,” said Mr. Marshall, a retired Wachovia employee. “It’s because he cares.”
Edwards said he is grateful for the wealth of guidance, encouragement and support he has received from the Silver Sneakers over the years.
“The people that came out really showed how much they care. Mr. Jabbar just did it from the kindness of his heart, he’s not looking for accolades behind it,” he said. “It means a lot to see these people come out and just support anything that we do.”
Winston Lake staffer Rachel Shoffner, who is moving to Washington DC, was also recognized during the luncheon.
For more information about the Silver Sneakers program at Winston Lake, call 336-724-9205 or visit www.winstonlakeymca.org.