New program offers advanced therapy through skilled boxing

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After a decade working in the field of occupational therapy with a focus in pediatrics, Jana Sanford-Heller noticed an increase in the need for teen and young adult programs in therapeutic settings. As the founder of Ride the Wave Therapy Services, a small, locally-owned therapy clinic in St. Augustine, Sanford-Heller teamed up with Mike Sharman, the owner of St. Augustine Boxing, to offer Core Boxing Program, a client-centered, therapeutic approach to boxing aimed at building key life skills.

“Our focus has been on building social-emotional skills, self-regulation, strength and coordination for our clients in group homes, rehab centers and afterschool programs,” Sanford-Heller said. “While we have been working predominantly with at-risk youth in the area, people from all walks of life can benefit from a program like Core Boxing, where every group has a professional boxing coach and an occupational therapy practioner on site.”

After a brain and spinal cord injury left her husband with a lengthy recovery, Sanford-Heller found herself caring for him, two young children, working and keeping daily life running. She turned to boxing as an outlet for everything she was dealing with at the time.

Fast-forward four years, and Sanford-Heller is the proud owner of Ride the Wave Therapy Services in St. Augustine, offering services to children with autism, Down syndrome, ODD, ADHD, PTSD, sensory processing disorder, developmental delays and other diagnoses.

“The primary focus of our therapy clinic is skilled occupational therapy and behavioral therapy services for the pediatric population, both on-site and at local schools,” she said. “Clinic services use a combination of sensory integration, play therapy and community integration to build life skills. Core Boxing Program focuses on teens and young adults who suffer from depressive/anxiety disorders, trauma, sensory processing disorders and more, teaching social skills and life skills that will hopefully stay with them forever. It’s exciting to offer a program to the community that helped me overcome a very difficult time in my life.”

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