SMH, JFCS Partnership to Expand Wellness Programs for Cancer Patients, Families & Caregivers

JFCS Cancer Support

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 23, 2017) – A partnership between Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast will provide dedicated wellness and exercise classes for cancer patients, their family members and caregivers at the health system’s HealthFit center.

The area’s only medically certified fitness center, HealthFit currently provides about 70 exercise and wellness classes per week, but these will be the first that Sarasota Memorial’s oncology and fitness professionals designed specifically to combat the harsh side effects of cancer and promote personal wellness of patients, survivors, families and caregivers throughout their cancer journey.

The classes – which begin next week – are free to all cancer patients and survivors, regardless of when and where they were treated, as well as their family members and caregivers, thanks to a community partnership between SMH and JFCS. SMH is providing the facility and operations of the wellness programs at HealthFit in the Sarasota Memorial Health Care Center at Clark Road, while JFCS is subsidizing the cost of HealthFit’s certified instructors and supplies for the oncology programs.

JFCS, which took over many of the cancer education, fitness and support programs previously offered at the Center for Building Hope when it closed in 2015, will continue to offer education, wellness classes and support services for cancer patients and their families. The organization decided to expand mind-body classes to SMH for the added expertise and state-of-the-art facility it could provide. JFCS’ efforts were made possible through the support and generosity of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and their donors, as well as individual donors. All of JFCS’ cancer support programs will continue to be fully operational.

JFCS President and CEO Heidi Brown said, “I am thrilled that we can expand our cancer support and wellness services through this partnership with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  This alliance further increases our visibility in the community and allows us to help more people, which is at the heart of our mission.”

The classes also were a good fit for Sarasota Memorial, which recently approved building a comprehensive cancer center on its main campus. The health system has made cancer care one of its highest priorities in recent years, recruiting several new cancer subspecialists to the community and launching an oncology survivorship and rehabilitation program to help patients and survivors overcome pain, weakness, cognitive impairment and other challenges that often follow chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

“Our goal is to provide residents of our community and beyond with access to not only the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options, but also a full spectrum of preventive and supportive care,” said Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder. “Providing oncology-specific wellness and survivorship programs to cancer patients, survivors and their families is vital to their recovery.”

The concentration on supportive care is part of Sarasota Memorial’s Thrive Program, which places greater emphasis and resources on helping survivors live well following treatment. The Thrive Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to address lingering side effects, including rehabilitation, nutrition, counseling and other wellness services.

An advisory group made up of SMH and JFCS representatives will meet regularly to evaluate the success of the wellness programs at HealthFit and JFCS’ other service location and discuss community needs.

HealthFit Oncology Wellness Class Schedule

The following new oncology wellness classes will begin March 27 at HealthFit, 5880 Rand Blvd., 1/2 –mile west of I-75 off Clark Road. For program or registration information, call (941) 917-7000.

Oncology Yoga: Led by a certified Yoga instructor, the class provides a gentle exercise program for those affected by cancer. In addition to promoting physical strength, the class is designed to help reduce stress, increase energy and support emotional wellbeing. The class offers sitting techniques, chairs and assistive props if needed. Weekly classes will be held at 1:30 pm Monday.

Oncology Tai Chi: Led by a trained Tai Chi instructor, the class helps participants improve balance, manage stress and increase strength and flexibility using an ancient form of Chinese meditative exercise. Gentle, fluid movement helps expand their range of motion at a calm pace. The class offers sitting techniques, chairs and assistive props if needed. Weekly classes will be held at 12:30 pm Tuesday and Thursday.

Mindful Meditation: Led by a certified Yoga instructor, the class is designed to relieve stress and tension through 30 minutes of guided meditation. Participants will learn meditation techniques to help manage anxiety and promote stronger mind-body awareness. Weekly classes will be held at 12:30 pm Monday.

Oncology Recovery Exercise: Led by a certified group fitness instructor, the class helps participants improve balance, flexibility, strength and mobility, with light weight exercises developed for cancer patients and survivors. Weekly classes will be held at 1:30 pm Wednesday and Friday.

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System 

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 900,000 patient visits a year. Sarasota Memorial’s flagship 819-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest, and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to skilled nursing & rehabilitation. For information, visit

HealthFit – Powered by Sarasota Memorial is a medically oriented fitness center owned and operated by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. Offering the amenities and services of an upscale health club combined with the knowledge and expertise of one of the nation’s top hospitals, SMH is one of only two health care providers in Florida with a Certified Medical Fitness Facility designated by the not-for-profit Medical Fitness Association. In addition to certified personal trainers and exercise physiologists, HealthFit’s medically integrated fitness programs include weight management & nutrition, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and physical & occupational therapy. For information, call (941) 917-7000 or visit

SMH Media Contact: Kim Savage

(941) 893-7649 /