After 34 years of teaching high school students, Mary Blandino set her sights on motivating a different generation. The Milwaukee resident retired in 2004, from West Allis Hale High School where she’d been a teacher, coach, and athletic director, leading teams to prestigious conference and state championships.
“When I retired, a friend of mine said that an area retirement community needed help in their fitness center. I asked, ‘why would I want to do that? I’m retired.’” Mary eventually agreed to lead a few fitness classes.. Fifteen years later, she’s still the aquatics and fitness coordinator at Eastcastle Place senior living in Milwaukee. “I ended up really liking the people and the age group. I had worked with high school kids my whole life. Working with seniors is very different and I like it a lot. They’re friendly and appreciative!”
What she likes best about working with the seniors, Mary said, is that they are trying to stay active so they’re able to maintain their independence and enjoy their retirement. “Some people haven’t been doing anything in terms of fitness when they move here. I encourage them to give it a try. We have so many different classes and activities that I’m able to help them find things they enjoy. Others have been very active when they move in and are happy to have the opportunity to continue being so. People can work out alone, join classes, or have personal training sessions.” Eastcastle Place’s aquatic center is open to surrounding area and Mary is happy to welcome people from the community to water exercise classes.
In her ‘spare’ time, Mary teaches water exercise classes at Wisconsin Athletic Club and is an active member of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Senior Olympics, an organization with which she also competes. She has won state and national awards in badminton, volleyball and track and field. Mary has volunteered for Special Olympics for more than 40 years and has been a leader and activity coordinator for Boy Scouts.
Mary has earned multiple accolades, including induction into the West Allis Hale Athletic Hall of Fame, Senior Olympics Hall of Fame, and Wisconsin High School Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Sports Advocates of Milwaukee, and many more.
“We are so fortunate to have Mary working with the residents at Eastcastle Place,” said Laura Wengler, director of community life. “Mary is an inspiration to the residents. She has a great sense of humor, she keeps things fun, and she’s energetic. She’s really committed to helping residents stay strong. Her history of having worked as a coach and motivator serves the residents well. She pushes them to do more than they thought they could, and they’re always surprised and pleased that they succeed!”