Chris Faggion, in-house trainer and instruc[auth] tor for the Health Matters Program at Tobosa Developmental Services, works to repair lives and build community bridges. (Ilissa Gilmore Photo)
Chris Faggion used to want to repair cars as an auto mechanic. Now she works to repair lives as an in-house trainer and instructor for the Health Matters Program at Tobosa Developmental Services.
For more than 30 years, the non-profit has provided services and support for individuals living with developmental disabilities in Chaves County, as well as their families.
Faggion, 30 years old herself, “stumbled into” the field 10 years ago and has worked at Tobosa for five. When she first began, she wasn’t sure it was something she wanted to do, she said, but eventually, it “captured my heart.”
“I really felt like I was doing something here; it’s such a rewarding thing to see these little steps they make,” she said. “They’re some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They gave me this passion and drive I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else now actually.”
Faggion came to Roswell from California, originally to meet her father for the first time. The family she had in town eventually moved away, but she stayed to raise her three children.
“That’s my life,” she said. Mounted on her office wall is a photo collage of her children. Among them are photos of Faggion’s favorite comedians Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey. Faggion considers herself a movie buff — mostly comedies — and also is heavy into the music scene. She tries to attend as many concerts as possible.
“It’s like therapy for me,” she said.
Faggion manages Tobosa’s Health Matters program, a 12-week health and wellness course specifically designed for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
An ARCA affiliate, the program addresses health, wellness and nutrition and also includes physical activity that focuses on FABS: Flexibilty, Aerobics, Balance and Strength.
Participants are given pre- and post-health assessments and they also are montiored during the program. Faggion said she has been floored by the results of past participants.
But more than weight-loss, she said the class promotes overall health and making better choices.
“The goal is to make people more independent,” she said. “It’s about health in every aspect.”
Jesse Moore, a Tobosa client of 10 years, participated in the Health Matters program and not only lost weight, but also increased upper body strength and flexibility.
Tobosa itself has helped him become more independent, he said, and has allowed him to become more active. In addition to having a job, Moore also finds time to volunteer and likes to go fishing and camping.
“I just like the staff,” he said of Tobosa. “Basically, I like the program; it gives me more opportunities to do more by myself and be pretty much independent.”
Though specifically tailored for those with disabilities, Faggion said anyone can participate in the Health Matters program and that it has inspired Tobosa staff and others to become more health conscious.
“I’m addicted to the program,” she said. “It’s just amazing — there’s so much research that goes into it. It definitely works…And it’s fun! It’s so much fun.”
Faggion wants to share the fun with the community; yet, there remains some reluctance from it.
“We try to get out into community as much as we can, but sometimes it’s like we’re in the Dark Ages,” she said. “People have actually told us, ‘we don’t take people like that.’”
However, Faggion acknowledged New Mexico Military Institute and Grace Community Church as two organizations that have been accepting and supportive, allowing the use of their facilities for aspects of the program.
The Institute offers its pool on cadet time, Faggion said, and Grace Community Church allows the program to hold its graduation ceremonies at the church for free.
“We’ve been able to get that place packed,” Faggion said.
She also wants to get more organizations throughout southeastern New Mexico involved and is willing to help them jumpstart a program of their own.
“I want to unite with other organizations; it’s just been hard to get people to bite so far,” she said. “I’m hoping that if one person takes a bite, others will jump in.
“This is too good to keep a secret…Either way, I’m not going to give up on it. Seeing the smiles on these guys’ faces makes it worth it. Once you see the results, it pays off.”