Vans drove in and out of Gina Gilligan-Della's driveway, dropping gym members off. Sometimes, Gilligan-Della herself assumed the role of traffic director when the area surrounding her Westminster home became congested. Inside her basement, there was a congestion of different sorts - several people and gym equipment inside a 500-square-foot room.
But not too many people. Because Gilligan-Della was running TheraFit Gym - a fitness spot for people with disabilities - out of her home, she couldn't have too many members come in and out due to zoning laws and space limitations.
All that changed in January, when the business moved in to a 2,000-square-foot space at 7 Tuc Road in Westminster. The TheraFit Gym president and fitness therapist's dreams of expansion became official Friday, when Gilligan-Della received the county occupancy permit for her new digs.
The gym's services, Gilligan-Della learned in a personal way, were needed in the community. It's activity-based, providing therapeutic exercise, health and wellness programming to the disabled community. With more space came the addition of physical therapy into TheraFit's offerings.
On Friday, the sound of equipment served as the gym's background music, as physical therapist Kate Green helped a member perform exercises lying on a physio-ball. Gilligan-Della's 26-year-old son, Justin Gilligan, helped his uncle work out on several of the machines.
His uncle, Rich Ayres, is, in part, the reason Gilligan found his niche as a physical therapist assistant. And he's also the reason TheraFit Gym even exists.
In 2002, Ayres - who is Gilligan-Della's brother - was in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver, according to Gilligan-Della. The accident caused Ayres severe head trauma. He was in a coma and paralyzed.
Although still in a comatose state, he was sent home after a year of inpatient rehabilitation, according to Gilligan-Della. But at home, his movements were minimal, as Gilligan-Della helped make frantic calls to find him an outpatient rehabilitation facility.
"He was deteriorating fast - he was curling up into a fetal position," she said. "We researched, we called outpatient physical therapy clinics. There was no place for him to go long term."
His insurance would only allow so many visits; much, much less than what Ayres needed, Gilligan-Della said.
In 2005, Gilligan-Della flew to California to review a piece of equipment called a Quadriciser. It's a motorized therapy system that simulates the movements of walking, such as moving the legs and arms while strapped into the machine.
She bought it, and Ayres used it.
"I didn't think he'd progress as much as he had. He has come such a long way," Gilligan-Della said. "When I saw the progress he was making, I said, we need to get this out."
So in December 2006, she opened her basement to others with physical disabilities and named it TheraFit Gym. Soon after, vans from adult day facilities, such as the The Arc Carroll County, CHANGE, Target Community and Educational Services, and Flying Colors of Success, started driving to and from her neighborhood, dropping off members with disabilities to use the equipment.
Lonyta McClain, Target's vocational programs director, has seen Target clients come back with strengthened balance and endurance.
"[The gym's] worked out really well," she said. "They're real flexible with their schedule. It's a really good resource in the community. I've seen a lot of progress with our individuals in the community who have used the program."
TheraFit Gym garnered about 25 regulars who came two to three times a week. Standing Friday in the new space that is quadruple the basement's size, Justin Gilligan marveled at being able to walk 40 feet in a straight line without bumping into anything or anyone. Gilligan-Della beamed at the ellipticals, quadricisers, bicycle, weight machines and the new physical therapy table.
A few minutes later, Kate Green and Gilligan-Della helped member Dana Pickett into a walker.
Green held Pickett's head. Gilligan-Della held the walker.
Several feet away, Rachel Gilmore - Pickett's job coach from Goodwill Industries - squatted.
"Now big steps," Green said.
And Pickett put one foot in front of the other, walking in a line - something she couldn't do before she started exercising at the gym more than five years ago. She reached Gilmore, turned around and continued to walk in the other direction.
When Pickett's mom saw her daughter's improvement, Gilmore said, her eyes welled, weeping with joy.
"Some days here," Gilligan-Della said, "there's tears galore."