HUG advocates for inclusion and connects people with disabilities to social events and activities

HUG’s Community SWAG Award

At HUG, we are thrilled when we hear of a business, organization or individual going out of their way to be inclusive. We want the entire Tampa Bay area to know about the amazing inclusive efforts that are happening right here in our own community. Every month, Help Us Gather will highlight someone who is going above and beyond to include people of all abilities. If you have any recommendations on who should receive the next HUG Swag Community Award send an e-mail to

October 2018: Me & U Fitness Academy

When you walk through the front door of Me & U Fitness Academy, you may hear some upbeat music and see the members of the group boxing from a wheelchair or doing balance exercises while holding weights. All abilities are welcome in Tina Tallman’s innovative adaptive fitness class. Her current clients include individuals with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other disabilities.  Tina has a unique ability to blend a class full of people working with different abilities, creating an impactful workout for everyone involved.

Tina also has special events like a wheelchair rodeo, which is an obstacle course completed using a wheelchair.  The members of her class have also been helping to promote adaptive fitness by performing exercise dance routines specifically suited to each individual’s abilities.  Currently, Tina is working on an ambitious project to bring wheelchair motocross, a combination of skateboarding and BMX while in wheelchairs, to St. Petersburg, Florida.

July 2018: The Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Finding an organization where diversity is celebrated and inclusion is a top priority is a big deal. In fact, it really inspires us. At Clearwater Marine Aquarium, this is what they do every day and we are here to attest, they are really good at it! The staff loves connecting to people who are inspired by  Winter and Hope, and have created a program called “Inspirational Stories” to document these special experiences.

On July 28th, Clearwater Marine Aquarium hosted HUG’s friendship group of over 60 individuals with various disabilities. The group was greeted with big smiles, given a VIP meet and greet with Winter the dolphin’s trainer, allowed access to the aquarium for the full day, and each participant was even provided with a fun entry photos to take home. HUG thanks Clearwater Aquarium for its exceptional efforts of inclusion.

Help Us Gather thanks Clearwater Marine Aquarium for its exceptional efforts of inclusion and for making a difference in the lives of countless individuals with special needs.

June 2018: The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Help Us Gather (HUG) is pleased to award June’s Community Swag Award to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for its outstanding efforts of inclusion. On Saturday, June 9th, the first adapted Sheriff’s Citizens Academy was held at the Sheriff’s Administration building where attendees were treated to an interactive day of laughing and learning with over a dozen deputies.  Activities included virtual firearm demonstrations, self defense tactics, interactions with K9 officers, exploring police vehicles and a helicopter takeoff and landing.

By creating an inclusive event, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office provided the special needs community with a sense of importance and connection to community.  Help Us Gather commends the Sheriff’s Office for the positive example it has shown and looks forward to other organizations making similar changes.

May 2018: The Ability Experience

Inclusion is as easy as riding a bicycle and The Ability Experience is here to prove it! Every year, a team cycles over 800 miles for ‘Gear Up Florida’, a program designed to raise awareness and funds for inclusion. From Miami to Tallahassee, cyclists stop along the way visiting local organizations with similar missions and passions.

The HUG Team was able to catch up with the cyclists at The Disability Achievement Center and was honored to present the first ever HUG Swag award to The Ability Experience for their efforts of inclusion, fun and friendships!