STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Four Staten Island professionals have teamed up to create one mega recreation center where clients of all ages and backgrounds can get fit, delve into the arts, and learn about new subjects all under one roof.
The entrepreneurs set out to combine their talents and expertise to open The Fusion Programs, a 4,800-square-foot center in Dongan Hills in September.
The all-inclusive facility designed to foster unique talents and interests in kids, teens and adults is the brainchild of nationally board-certified educator Maria Casale and her husband, George Casale, a creative artist, who reside in New Dorp and own LEAP Tutoring Academy. They teamed up with former Olympic athlete Frank Mensah and Diane Campione, an adaptive programmer, both of Olyimpic Fit, and a perfect “Fusion” occurred.
“Where the collaboration comes in is Frank and I deal with adults age 21 plus post-special education, post-secondary school,” explained Campione. “So they [The Casales] were not entering into an adult portion of it. And then when we all collaborated it became a beautiful, creative collaboration.”
Fusion will be offering classes in technology, coding, cosmetology, aesthetics, fitness, dance, culinary arts, gaming, theatre arts, social media classes, and DIY [do it yourself] art projects, as well as learning how to take talents to the YouTube productions arena, said Maria Casale.
“Each of us came up with a model to provide quality programming,” she said. “The educator, athlete, graphic artist, and adaptive programmer proved to be a great combination of talent, motivation and dedication. Fusion Programs are a unique blend of innovation and recreation, housed in a beautiful state-of-the-art facility.”
CATERING TO ALL AGES
The center’s programming includes activities and classes for people age 2 and up.
“Our range of programming will be available for children, teens and adults. The Fusion Programs were founded out of a need to offer individuals creative outlets for expression,” said George Casale. “Whether you like cooking, nutrition, health, art, media productions, photography, fitness, sensory-inspired play spaces, drama, coding, creating digital art and avatars, gaming, science or technology, Fusion has something for you.”
Campione noted that The Fusion Programs cater to both neurotypical and special needs children and adults.
“The Fusions Programs are unique in that you mostly see places that either do all special needs in one place or you’ll see places that all do neurotypical individuals,” said Campione. “Very rarely do you see a mix.”
“For example, when our kids, teens and young adults arrive they are given choices to customize their program for the day. They are welcome to grab a snack at the mini café, park their belongings in a creative space and literally stay for hours enjoying being involved in programs they love,” she added.
Mensah was already running a successful personal training business for more than 20 years when he decided to team up with Maria and George Casale.
Mensah opened an all-inclusive model for his business with help from Campione — a special needs mother and former adaptive programming specialist for the New York Public Library (NYPL). In 2017, Mensah developed the Triumph Program, and when Campione decided to retire from NYPL in 2021 after 34 years of service, Mensah seized the opportunity and offered her a spot as director of programming at his business Olyimpic Fit.
“Mensah carefully and confidently orchestrated a way to include special needs individuals into his daily roster of community classes. He takes his new clientele to community-based centers and private gyms alongside typical individuals to strength train,” said Campione.
As owners of Leap Tutoring Academy — which has been working with children, teens and young adults for many years using multi-sensory instructional approaches, such as Orton-Gillingham and Touch Math — The Casales have an extensive background in education.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Casales came up with the idea for The Fusion Programs, and broke ground on the facility on Cromwell Avenue in Dongan Hills, located directly across from Leap Tutoring Academy.
“COVID really opened our eyes to how small the world really is. Why should young children, teenagers, and young adults need to travel to many different facilities both on Staten Island and outside of the borough to enjoy a cooking class, a health and fitness class, an art class or even a gaming experience?” said Maria Casale.
“It was with that mindset that we decided to build a state-of-the-art facility not just to pique the interests of our students, but to also inspire and cultivate hidden talents in those who are typically developing, as well as those who have special needs. [We realize] both sectors need to socialize, be creative and find meaningful outlets as a real alternative to using their phones and playing on their iPads,” she added.
THE FUSION PROGRAMS AT A GLANCE
Address: 300 Cromwell Ave.
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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