Everyday Hero Bonnie Buchanan

MADISON, Wis. – If it’s a Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning, you’ll find a group of mostly older people exercising in Olbrich Park.

A Wednesday in January had been quite cold. There was an extremely thin and invisible icy glaze above the basketball court. This meant that instead of a walking class, they would be sliding.

The group meets three times a week, taught by what one student calls their “fearless leader”: Bonnie Buchanan.

Buchanan first fell in love with fitness in 1984, after quitting smoking. She gained weight afterwards and took a headlong plunge into her health.

This led her to help others do the same.

“I’ve been teaching since I think 1985,” Buchanan said.

She has taught at gymnasiums throughout the region, including local Dane County YMCAs. However, when the pandemic hit, all of these classes came to a halt.

“We all got together for coffee in May or June one day at someone’s house. And I just said, you know, I have all these benches. And I said, why don’t we meet outside? That’s what we did,” Buchanan said.

Whether it’s 80 degrees or 0, they’re on Olbrich’s ground. They only remove the class when it is actively raining or snowing.

“It’s incredibly invigorating,” said participant Cathy Broan. “All friends in the South don’t understand when we send them a video!”

For Broan, being in Olbrich with his friends makes all the difference.

“Motivation [is big], because it’s different at home and trying to do it yourself. You’re just not excited for it,” Broan said.

Jodi Renaud is grateful to Buchanan. Without his guidance, she may not have exercised as much in the last year and a half.

“She’s a great lady,” said Renaud. “She inspired me to continue to stay active during the pandemic.”

“It inspires me to work with others. It gives me energy,” said Renaud.

Nobody is paying Bonnie to teach these classes. She does it because she likes it, and she likes this band.

They meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 a.m. on the basketball courts in Olbrich Park.

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