Lexi Buckallew, 2, helps lead a group exercise class for seniors in Gardner. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

 Danedri Thompson
With arms raised and both feet on a ball beneath their chairs, two dozen participants worked through the final minutes of a Silver Sneakers class.
The Silver Sneakers program offers free gym memberships and workout opportunities for those with certain Medicare plans, but one of the athletes who regularly participates in the program at Anytime Fitness in Gardner won’t be eligible for Medicare anytime soon.
Two-year-old Lexi Buckallew has been attending the class since she was three months old. With her tiny chair and one-pound weights, Lexi sits in front of the class doing the exercises and counting with the rest of the class members.
“She knows the routine,” Helen Ballard, Lexi’s grandmother, said.
Helen watches Lexi during the day, and brought Lexi to the group exercise the first time in a walker. She’s since graduated to her own chair and uses tiny hand weights, an exercise ball and the tubing just like her senior peers.
Doug Carstens, group exercise leader, said participants enjoy the class much more when Lexi comes to class.
“They have a better time,” Carstens said. “She’s fun to have.”
Helen didn’t know how Lexi would do in the class once she started walking and being more active, but so far so good.

Lexi Buckallew gives group exercise leader Doug Carstens a fist bump following a session on Wednesday morning. Lexi’s grandmother, Helen Ballard of Edgerton, looks on. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

She sits in the front of the class and follows along. As an added bonus, Helen said Lexi’s involvement keeps some of her classmates coming to class.
“She doesn’t help get me here, but it helps the rest of them,” she said.
Linda Florence, Edgerton, agreed.
“She’s fun to have,” she said.