For more than 20 years the University of Northern Colorado Cancer Rehabilitation Institute (UNCCRI) has been working to improve the lives of cancer patients through exercise.
Originally established in 1996 by professor of sport and exercise science Dr. Carole Schneider, the UNCCRI is a unique non-profit program, recognized as a frontrunner in the field of cancer rehabilitation. Over the last two decades the UNCCRI has delivered clinical cancer rehabilitation services, provided educational opportunities and experiences in cancer rehabilitation, and conducted cutting-edge research in exercise-based cancer rehabilitation.
“We’re the only type of facility like this in the world. There are others that provide services for cancer rehabilitation, there are other companies that are doing research related to cancer, but we provide three tiers of service: service through rehabilitation for patients, education for our students and research for not only our community, but the world,” says Michael Lazio, Clinical Coordinator of the UNCCRI.
The UNCCRI has served more than 1,000 adult cancer survivors with all types of cancer in various stages of treatment. Research initiatives have produced more than 150 national presentations, journal articles and manuscripts culminating in a published textbook.
Housed in a 10,000 square-foot facility on the campus of UNC, the Cancer Rehabilitation Institute is dedicated to improving the quality of life for cancer survivors through individualized exercise programs that are targeted at alleviating the side effects of cancer treatment.
“This is one thing that a cancer patient can do to make him or herself feel better. It’s mentally empowering to them because they’re in control of this. When you get cancer, they say you feel like you’re not in control of your life because you’re being told everything you have to do, but this is one thing that they can control,” says Allison Mendes, Program Manager of the UNCCRI.
“UNCCRI has been such a wonderful blessing in my life. This program brought me new physical and mental strength and a renewed hope to live a healthy life! My specialist was able to design a special fitness plan to suit my physical ability. What I loved best about UNCCRI was the friendly, loving and supportive environment from all the staff and trainers. I am so very thankful for UNCCRI pouring into my life,” says former patient Dana Dunlap.
Although the UNCCRI is located on UNC’s campus, it is a non-profit entity that relies entirely on donor support and grants to achieve its mission.
“We wouldn’t be open without donor support and we wouldn’t be able to help out the thousands of patients that we’ve been able to. Donor support not only helps with upkeep of our facility and daily operations but also provides us with new advances in research,” Lazio says.
“The more support we get, the more people we can help.”
Thanks to donor support during the Campaign for UNC, the Cancer Rehabilitation Institute has even been able to purchase new equipment and enhance the services available to their patients.
“That equipment is used every day, every hour by patients. Every hour, on the hour from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. they are used by 60 to 70 patients per day,” Mendes says. “Not only that, donations from Bear Tuesday went directly to supporting our endowment which will help keep us open for years to come.”
To learn more about the University of Northern Colorado Cancer Rehabilitation Institute and ways you can support its mission, visit https://www.unco.edu/nhs/cancer-rehabilitation-institute/.