For some, hitting the gym to get into better shape is a regular practice. For people with autism, it’s not always that simple. Fitness coach Chad Hooker is realizing how much of a difference he can make by making it easier for young people on the spectrum to get the specialized training they need and deserve.
Soon after starting his career in California, Hooker realized he enjoyed working with young people most. But it wasn’t until five years ago when he took on a challenge to work with kids with autism.
Hooker was asked if he’d be able to work with a friend’s son, who had autism. Even with no experience training people on the spectrum, Hooker said he’d give it a try. It went over so well that the boy’s mom would tearfully thank him for the positive influence he had on her son’s life.
With that, Puzzle Piece Athletics was born.
Hooker now trains nearly 50 clients, some traveling hours for a single session with him and his team. “With positive motivation, connection and a little bit of love, you can get them to do anything,” Hooker said of his clients. “They are very, very capable.”
Parents feel the same way about him. “Chad really has a special ability to connect with kids,” one of them said.
What he does is rare — so rare, in fact, that he’s gotten calls from outside the United States: “I’ve been hit up from Abu Dhabi. I’ve been hit up from Australia, the Netherlands,” Hooker said. “It’s not just the United States that needs a program like this.”
Hooker plans to expand his program and take his job on the road. In addition to personal training, he also teaches classes in Krav Masga and Mixed Martial Arts.
A major drug manufacturing facility in West Orange was shut down, and nearly one million dollars in methamphetamine was seized, by a law enforcement task force comprised of Essex County sheriff’s detectives and detectives from Newark, Bloomfield, Irvington and West Orange. The Nutley and New Jersey State Police hazard materials (HAZMAT) teams were also called to the scene.
According to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, “detectives recovered 4,450 grams of methamphetamine in both liquid and crystal form; 96 ounces of gamma-butyrolactone, a chemical that is used to convert one drug into another; 74 grams of marijuana; a wide assortment of narcotics paraphernalia, including butane torches, digital scales and plastic funnels; $3,840 in cash; four BB guns; a video surveillance system, and bank deposit receipts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Brian Chedahackembruch, 23, was charged with possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), possession of CDS with intent to distribute, and possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park. An accomplice, 39-year old Eduardo Martinez, is still at large.