Oklahoma First Responder Wellness Division fosters holistic health through group exercise

The Oklahoma First Responder Wellness Division, or OKFRWD, is pioneering the way for first responders’ holistic well-being, using group fitness as a catalyst for deeper transformation – and BeaverFit equipment to conduct it. 

At the core of their mission lies one word: resiliency. Encompassing body, mind and spirit, the Division uses structured workouts and communal activities to not only promote healthier lifestyles, but to provide a platform for building trust and camaraderie. 

Danny Long, director of OKFRWD, called group fitness a bridge-builder. “It builds trust when you’re spending that amount of time together. Even if you’re not talking, even if you’re just there suffering through a workout together, it’s one of the best bridges for trust I can think of.”

As a retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, Long experienced firsthand the challenges faced by the first responder community, which extend far beyond physical dangers. While leading outdoor workouts with his team during the pandemic, he began noticing that physical fitness wasn’t the only thing coming out of the group exercise sessions. 

“I started keeping track of all the follow-up conversations post-workout,” he said. “What is counseling? What else can we do to improve our home life? Where can we get help financially? All these questions started coming in, and I knew it all had to be tied directly into one wellness program.” 

How a unique approach went beyond an equipment purchase

A significant milestone in OKFRWD’s journey was the acquisition of 12 BeaverFit Performance Lockers and four Beyond Trailers, funded through the Department of Public Safety, making functional fitness more accessible for first responders throughout the state. The Performance Lockers create an outdoor training environment with a fully-loaded container gym, and the mobile fitness trailers bring a gym on wheels wherever it is needed – whether that be an event, a training, a conference, or a deployment.

While enhancing physical fitness is indeed a primary objective, the ultimate goal is to foster a sense of community and connection among first responders, Long explained, which then opens the door for meaningful conversation and assistance in other areas of overall well-being. 

Along with the increased physical fitness component, OKFRWD integrated mental health seamlessly into its program, offering an hour of mental health training alongside prescribed workouts. This creates a unique opportunity for first responders to complete their state-mandated mental health training outside of a traditional classroom setting. 

Moreover, OKFRWD incorporated sleep treatment beds, neurological stimulation, financial classes tailored for first responders, and more, to their comprehensive approach to wellness.

“What we’re really about is preventative maintenance versus needing a rescue when your house is on fire,” Long said. “The byproduct is a healthier, more capable first responder.”

The impact of the initiative is palpable. Counselor workloads have quadrupled in response to increased demand, signaling a growing acceptance and utilization of mental health services among first responders. And the deployment of mobile fitness trailers has not only facilitated physical training on-the-go, but also served as a platform for mental health awareness and support.

Planting a seed for future growth

“Being able to help OKFRWD push this initiative and impact lives for the better goes right along with our mission at BeaverFit,” said CJ Kostranchuk, director of key accounts, BeaverFit. “Our motto is ‘Winning Matters’ – what matters here is the human life, and winning means being able to get them the resources they need. We’re excited to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves.”

Now, other state agencies are reaching out to OKFRWD for guidance on how they can start similar initiatives, and how they can receive funding for their own BeaverFit equipment. “The holistic approach – that’s the funding right there,” Long explained, noting there are government grants focused on health and wellness for the first responder community. “Focus on health and wellness. Yes, BeaverFit is a huge part of this and why it’s working, but it’s not just about working out.”

“What we’re doing here collectively is planting a seed, and over the next few years we’re going to see that seed grow and replicate elsewhere,” he added.

“It’s going to be a game changer,” Kostranchuk agreed.

Learn more about the OKFRWD mission or get in touch by visiting their website, and see how they’re putting their BeaverFit units in action by following them on Instagram. 

related articles