The Wilton High School community has a new amenity to show off, which is what it did Wednesday, Jan. 4 when school officials held a ribbon cutting to open its newly updated workout space. The facility was recently completely renovated and outfitted with brand new, top-of-the-line equipment, and expanded to include a dance/yoga studio.
It’s a facility that is intended to be used not just by student athletes training for sports team participation, but by teachers and students who don’t participating in extracurricular athletics as well. It will also be used as part of the physical education curriculum.
“The message has to be the whole school community. This is everybody’s health and wellness room. Come in and use it, try it out, and you plant that seed for fitness, health, and wellness and it can grow in different ways. So everybody’s welcome here,” WHS Principal Dr. Robert O’Donnell said.
The need for the new space was first raised in July 2021 by former athletic director Chris McDougal and WHS football coach E.J. DiNunzio.
“Mr. McDougal and Coach DiNunzio showed up in my office and said, ‘Hey, do you want to renovate the weight room because it’s a dump and we need to do something more respectful for our kids?'” Superintendent Kevin Smith explained.
“I said, ‘Sure, how are you going to pay for it?,'” he continued, noting there was no funding in the district’s budget for any renovation.
That’s when several outside groups and individuals helped make the renovation possible, underwriting the entire cost.
“We have two anonymous donors who donated substantially to support this. We had donations from the Wilton High School PTSA, the Wilton Gridiron Club, the Wilton Soccer Association, and the Wilton Baseball Association. And frankly, without their generous support, this would not be possible,” Smith said.
Both O’Donnell and Smith referred to how, as Smith put it, “lifelong health and wellness is a key component of our overall educational mission,” and talked about how the workout rooms would contribute to that mission.
“The vision for this space was to provide an environment for all of our students, student athletes and staff to pursue their health and wellness goals in a space that was both respectful and safe. For our teams, we envisioned creating a space worthy of them and worthy of the Wilton ‘W’. And I think when you go through the doors, you’ll see that we’ve met that target,” Smith said.
For O’Donnell, the new space fits with the District’s “Portrait of the Graduate,” which includes the principle of “balanced, healthy human being” as one of six core attributes WHS graduates should develop.
“We recognize that our students will learn better and our teachers will teach better if they’re healthy and if they’re feeling well. So a very wise person once said, ‘To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and our mind clear.’ And I think that’s true. Students will learn optimally when they’re coming in, they’re working to get in shape, they’re getting exercise endorphins, right?” O’Donnell said.
Bobby Rushton, the high school’s new athletic director, said the facility is one more great example of the commitment to excellence that the Wilton School District and the wider Wilton community. “Hopefully when you walk in those doors, that’s what you’ll feel. It’s the foundation for continuing this success [that] hopefully we see in the classroom, on the field, and with our teachers feeling mentally healthy.”
Wednesday’s ribbon cutting drew an excited crowd of students as well as some of the donors. As soon as officials unveiled the new space, close to 30 students flooded in to see it and try out some of the equipment.
“It’s just insane,” sophomore football and lacrosse player Tanner Schmauch said. “The old facility we had was all rusted equipment, stuff falling apart. There wasn’t any clips on any of the bars, on any of the weights. So a lot of times, weights would fall off, which is really dangerous and scary when we’re lifting. Just having this whole new facility literally means the world. It’ll make us all a better, every team at the high school better. It’ll make all of us more conditioned and it’ll just be amazing.”