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Our Mission

Empowering cancer survivors to improve their quality of life through a program of fitness and health.

The Need

Medical studies have proven that exercise can help minimize and manage the associated side effects from cancer and treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Exercise training can restore physical function, enhance quality of life, and mitigate side effects such as fatigue, depression, lymphedema, and other health-related changes. Fit to Fight provides a positive, exercise-based program for cancer survivors to re-establish trust in their bodies and maximize health, movement, and function across an individual's lifespan.

The Program

A licensed Physical Therapist directly oversees the program for ongoing development, screening, and mentorship of participants and the University of Montana Student Physical Therapist volunteers. Fit to Fight is a free program for cancer survivors to promote fitness and health from the time of diagnosis through the balance of life. The format is a small, organized group setting with individual tailoring. Each session consists of education and activities focused on the body as a whole to address the musculoskeletal, lymphatic, cardiopulmonary, and neuromuscular systems through balance, breathing and relaxation, endurance, strength, and functional training. This program does not replace the importance of individualized skilled physical therapy that one may require.

Our Goals

We aim to create a community, camaraderie, and a positive support system for cancer survivors. We focus on expanding an individual's activity tolerance, functional capacity, and quality of life through movement and education to assist in meeting one's health and wellness goals.

Our Team

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Madison Small

Clinical Director

Maddie is responsible for clinical guidance during each session and building community involvement and support for Fit to Fight. She brings years of oncology based experience to the Program. Maddie graduated with her Bachelors of Science degree in Health and Human Performance, Exercise Science in 2016 from the University of Montana. While attending the University of Montana, she had the opportunity to work as a volunteer with FTF, as well as spent time as an Oncology Healthcare Intern at the Community Cancer Center in Missoula. Through years of continuing education and growing interest in oncology, Maddie concluded physical therapy school with a clinical experience at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT. Maddie earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania in May 2019 and joined the professional staff at Alpine Physical Therapy in June 2019. Maddie is well embedded in the Missoula community and offers a wealth of knowledge and resources. She is passionate about how movement enhances one’s quality of life.

 

Please contact Maddie with any questions or concerns about the exercise program participation or other related inquiries.

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Jessica Johnston

Program Coordinator

As program coordinator, Jessica leads our participants through exercise sessions designed to provide education about the benefits of movement and help participants accomplish their goals. Jessica hopes that Fit to Fight can help lead participants to an improved quality of life and inspire confidence.
Jessica earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from the University of Montana in 2019. She loves Montana so much that she decided to go back to school at the University of Montana to get her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and will graduate in 2023.
Jessica grew up in Big Timber, Montana but has loved living in Missoula for the past few years. She enjoys spending time outside hiking, trail running, and horseback riding but will also never pass up hanging out at a coffee shop or cool brewery or distillery.

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Sam Schmidt, PT, MPT, NCPT

Board Co-Chair

Sam is a physical therapist and co-owner of Alpine Physical Therapy and PhysioTrekk, a walk-in, urgent care physical therapy, both in Missoula, MT. Sam is the co-founder of Fit To Fight and is currently serving as the Co-Chair of the Fight To Fight Board. Sam has witnessed the positive impact the program provides not only to the participants but to all the volunteers and staff. The program’s unique model of exercise, education, and group support offers a successful journey in renewing one’s trust in their body from strength to endurance to pursuits in all aspects of life. It is why Sam continues her commitment to the board and the organization.

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Terry Carlson

Board Co-Chair

Terry Carlson joined the FTF Board in 2017. She is a retired Soil Scientist, an outdoor enthusiast, and a cancer survivor. As I reflect on why I like being on the Fit to Fight board, my thoughts drift to being part of a community and encouraging people to stand strong against cancer. Based on experiences during my own cancer journey I can’t imagine healing from treatment without the benefits of being active and support from friends and family. The Fit to Fight Mission Statement is very powerful; I believe that quality of life is improved through a program of fitness and health and the support of those around us.

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Natalie Hammond

Board Member

Natalie is Missoula an attorney with Cotner Law Firm in Missoula, MT. She has a diverse practice which includes family law, employment law, and general civil litigation. In addition to serving on the Fit to Fight Board Natalie is a board member of the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

  

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Andrew Larson

Board Member

Andrew Larson is a born and raised Montanan. After college, he wandered to both coasts for about a decade before finding his way home in 2008. He has been a commercial banker for First Security Bank since landing back in MT.  He feels lucky to call Montana home, and the availability to explore the outdoors with his wife and three daughters.
Cancer had a big impact on Andrew and his family with the loss of his father-in-law to Leukemia in 2002.

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TESSA PERESSINI, CPA

Board Secretary

Tessa is a CPA and Senior Manager specializing in taxation at Wipfli LLP.  She is currently serving as the Secretary of the Fit To Fight Board.

Cancer impacts every family at some point, directly or indirectly.  Tessa has been greatly impacted by the positive results this program has had on cancer survivors in our community.  The built-in support system for participants who are all experiencing a huge trauma in their lives is irreplaceable.  Tessa is inspired and amazed everyday by people overcoming the biggest obstacle anyone can face.

  

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Teri Heath

Board Member

Teri has sat on many non-profit boards including 12 years as a founding board member with the Traveler’s Rest Preservation Heritage Association.  Teri works at PEAK Health and Wellness.  She is a life-long Missoula County resident and enjoys many outdoor activities with her husband.
Cancer has touched 10 members of Teri’s family.  She shares Fit To Fight’s high level of commitment to participants.

Jennifer Bell

Board Member

Jenn is a physical therapist and the Program Director and Director of Clinical Education at the University of Montana School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.  For nine years, Jenn has been teaching students at UMPT about the importance of physical activity and exercise on preventing and managing cancer.  She is a strong believer that exercise programs like Fit to Fight provide essential physical activity and social support for people fighting and recovering from cancer.  She is excited to be a Board Member since 2021 and looks forward to continuing to support this life changing organization. 

Ron Veilleux

Board Member

Ron Veilleux joined the FTF Board in 2010.  He is the owner of MT ErgoFit, a company who assists employees with their health and comfort at work through ergonomics.  Ron’s passion for the Fit to Fight program started when his mother was battling breast cancer and has continued as he has begun his own personal journey through cancer treatment.

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