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Building Bodies, Building Minds

Inside Wilton VFD’s Cutting-Edge Wellness Program



Did you know that Chris, the founder of Nourishing Minds, is also the 1st Assistant Chief of the Wilton Volunteer Fire Department? Check out this article featuring in the FASNY Volunteer Firefighter™ Magazine. 

Chris Leuzinger is a man on a mission, a wellness mission.

The 1st Assistant Chief with the Wilton Volunteer Fire Department in Saratoga County wants to provide the 40 firefighter under his command with access to the best health and wellness activities so they can perform their best and return safely to their loved ones after every call.

Ten years ago the Canadian native, who holds an undergraduate degree in exercise science from The University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta, sought to beef up the department’s fitness facilities when he first joined the department.

“We had a gym, but it wasn’t very well appointed,” recalled Leuzinger. “I asked if we could get some more equipment so we could get our guys healthier. They were happy to oblige.”

1st Assistant Chief Chris Leuzinger of the Wilton Volunteer Fire Department prioritizes equipping the 40 firefighters under his command with top health and wellness activities for optimal performance and safe returns to their loved ones after every call. 

Armed with $6,000 from the Chief at the time, Leuzinger, who enjoys CrossFit — the workout that mimics daily activities like squatting, pulling, and pushing — purchased free weights, kettlebells, barbells, and a squat rack.

Over the next few years, he added treadmills, a rowing machine, and a handful of exercise bikes.

“I thought if I can share my background in exercise and health, it will not only help our team be more efficient responding to calls, but also benefit the community in their time of need when we’re responding,” he said.

Leuzinger, who played ice hockey, baseball, competitive badminton, and even Muay Thai during his youth to stay fit, then went a step further. Three years ago he arranged for Max Level Fitness & Athletics in Saratoga Springs to hold one-hour training sessions on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays each week at the firehouse.

“In the winter we back the trucks out of the bays and exercise there with our weights,” he said. “Once the weather gets warmer, we open up the doors and make our sessions an inside, outside workout.”

To get participants warmed up, trainers start with simple stretching and mobility exercises before elevating attendees’ heart rates. Workouts constantly shift so that sessions remain fun and different muscle groups are challenged. Exercises can also be modified to account for injuries and less agile members.

By highlighting dynamic movements that replicate the diverse tasks firefighters face during their calls, trainers Danielle Borelli, Heather Lewis, and Amanda Brown have played a vital role in in inspiring every firefighter to boost their physical prowess and overall health.

The classes have proven to be immensely popular, with a remarkable 35% of Wilton VFD’s members, spanning from 16 to 75 years old, actively participating in the dynamic sessions.

Additionally, members have experienced noticeable improvements in their fitness levels and strength. “I know that’s true because I keep having to buy heavier kettlebells and free weights,” he quipped. “That’s tremendously rewarding, and I love seeing it!”

By having instructors come to the department, an expense paid for by Wilton VFD, firefighters save up to $260 per month.

The convenient workout location is also a great recruiting tool, as members can have their immediate family join them while they are put through their paces — a $500 yearly savings!

In addition to enhancing the fitness levels of his firefighters to meet the physical demands crucial for the job, which can be a decisive factor in life-or-death situations, Leuzinger is also committed to supporting his team with any mental health challenges they may be experiencing.

Toward that end, Wilton VFD recently initiated a mental health program. It contracted with Tandi Orluk, a licensed mental health professional, from Set Free Counselling.

Wilton Volunteer Fire Department members participate in a recent mental health roundtable session. From left to right: 1st Assistant Chief Chris Leuzinger, 2nd Captain Chris Brown, Firefighter Keith Tanney, Tandi Orluk (Set Free Counseling), and 1st Lt. Michael Fish.

Orluk, who lives in nearby Ballston Lake and has a background working with veterans and those suffering with PTSD, visits the department every six weeks and talks with members to see how they are doing.

Leuzinger said she creates a “safe atmosphere,” so people feel comfortable disclosing issues they are going through.

Orluk is accessible for follow-up check-ins with team members after challenging incidents. They witness distressing scenes such as gunshot and stab wounds, children’s falls, and animal attacks. Moreover, they load critically injured patients onto LifeNet of NY helicopters, which land at the department’s rear and transport patients to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Leuzinger said firefighters are typically people who want to help others and that’s his motivation behind both programs.

“Changing the culture of the fire service sometimes takes time,” he noted. “I’ve got my guys on board with exercise and my next goal is to get people to buy into the mental piece because your mental health is important as well. After that, I’d like to tackle some of the nutrition aspects as well.

“If somebody can look at what I’m doing and mimic it or take my ideas and help their little chunk of the world,” he concluded, “then that just helps the fire service in New York state overall, and that’s what it’s all about!”

If you’d like to contact Leuzinger about Wilton VFD’s health and wellness programs, you can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by calling (518) 812-9821.

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We offer qualified, reliable, and knowledgeable tutors who are expert teachers. We take the time to develop a rapport with each student to enable them to reach their fullest academic potential. Simply put, we believe that it is our job to make learning happen.