January 07, 2010

Remembering John

My very close friend, boss and mentor John Velandra was killed yesterday in a car accident. He was hit by a speeding vehicle that was involved in a police chase.

John and I on our birthday - April 3rd last year

I was and still am in shock that someone who has made such an impact on my life since living here in Fayetteville is now gone. I can not think of one part of my life as it is today that John did not touch in some way. He even helped me to stop biting me finger nails at one point which was a terrible habit of mine - he cared that much about every part of a persons life even the small things :) I first contacted John about possibly doing an internship with him towards the end of my senior year in college. I needed to complete an internship in my two fields on interest (business and exercise and wellness) in order to graduate. I was able to meet with John for the first time when I came to visit Dan in March... I was so nervous at our meeting but John was completely laid back and made me feel right at home from the very beginning. After talking he felt comfortable with bringing me on as intern and that's how it all started. Once I moved to Fayetteville in May I started my internship with John and I have learned more about nutrition, exercise, wellness and helping others on a different sort of level than I have my entire life. He took time out of everyday to explain things to me, to ask me really tough questions in order to make me think outside the box, practice consultations with me (my least favorite thing because he would come up with the craziest pretend clients - but in reality it was great practice for me and just what I needed) so that I could do them on my own, do workouts with me so that I could learn the movements and just to sit and chat while we drank cup after cup of Starbucks Coffe (his favorite). I loved my internship time because we got to spend so much time together and I really came to know and love John as family. I remember the day that he told me that he thought I was ready for my first client and that he wanted to keep me on as a trainer after my internship ended. I have never felt so honored - to have the trust of such an amazing trainer/coach. John did not have to do any of this with me... he could have easily said no to the internship because I was brand new to the field, had no experience with personal training or CrossFit and was not very confident about myself or what I had to offer. I'll never know what made him bring me on as an intern but I am FOREVER grateful that he did... John and my time spent with him has changed my life and the way I live. As a trainer John could bring out the best in people, make them see and feel things about themselves that they never had before and accomplish things they never thought possible - this is the kind of trainer and person I want to be. John showed me that I could be this kind of trainer with time, patience and a lot of heart. He always took that extra step, showed concern for others , took the time to make each individual feel special and welcome others into his family without hesitation. I learned a lot about the kind of person I wanted to be and from how I see it the kind of person I am meant to be thanks of John. He helped Dan and I turn to God and start attending Manna Church... we are closer to God and each other because of the way our faith has been strengthened through our time at Manna. He met Dan and I late one night last January after Dan's accident to bring us dinner that he had just made since we were coming home late from the hospital and hadn't eaten yet. He came to watch me run in the Jingle Jog two Decembers ago while Dan was at SF selection... he just came to cheer me on... I didn't ask or anything he just came because he wanted to be there - it was so nice to know that I had him when at the time I didn't have any other real friends here. He also came to a track meet that I ran in last spring along with his wife Niv. He would send me a text at the beginning of each week with his workout schedule so that I could tag along - we had some of the best workouts... the tougher we could make it the better :) He invited us over for holidays in case we weren't going to MD to see my family. He would always send a text when he hadn't seen me in a couple days to make sure I was doing ok. And the thing that sticks with the most right now is how excited he was to meet Ava - he was already Uncle John to her. I would picture him sometimes when I would eventually come back to train at the gym sitting with Ava at his computer, sipping coffee and just hanging out with her. I loved how excited he would get seeing me workout during this pregnancy... made me feel so good just to know he was proud of me. I am so sad that Ava will not have the chance to know her Uncle John the way Dan and I have come to know him but she will know him through the stories we tell, the pictures we show her and his spirit that will live on through us in our everyday lives and our workouts. I am so thankful to have known John and to have had the kind of bond and friendship that we had. I love you John and you will never EVER be forgotten... thank you for everything, you are an amazing man and I am proud to call you my friend.

P.S. We will always have our birthday to share and I will always do a workout in your honor on that day.


John Velandra
April 3, 1966 - January 6, 2010

This is a video from about a month ago of John and I working with my client Kristin on her box jumps... I love how excited he is to sneakily take this video so she can see her accomplishment :) I am glad to have this video of us together, doing what we love to do.

1 comment:

Samantha Huddleston said...

That was an amazing post, Ashley! I am so sorry about your loss and wish I could have met John. Thinking about you and Dan :) XOXO, Sam