Man of many talents Gary Riekes helps others reach their potential
We’re guessing we aren’t the only one who associate the The Reikes Center for Human Enhancement in Menlo Park with fitness. But on a recent visit there, we discovered that the Center’s fitness programs represent just 25% of the revenue. Also offered are art, music, nature and community service programs.
Center founder Gary Riekes journeyed west from Nebraska to attend Stanford Univeristy with two goals in mind — “to be a professional football player and rock star.” He played oboe in the Stanford orchestra and was a wide receiver on the football team before a debilitating injury shortened his college athletic pursuits. Rehabilitation gave him insights on preventing and treating injuries.
“People don’t stay in touch with their intuition,” he said, reflecting on how he re-injured himself. “There are things I like to do, but I make sure that I can do them. I have a routine that I follow every day. By being diligent, I can play basketball.
The roots of the Riekes Center music program began in the mid-70s and the fitness component was run out of Gary’s house for 20 years. Last year, the 40,000-square-foot Center, which opened in 1994, served over 4,000 students aged two to 92. “We ask people who come here: ‘What do you want? What would you like to do?'” he said. “Most people come here in pursuit of one thing, but they may discover other things.”
While walking around the facility, we stopped in one of the music rooms where Gary showed photographer Irene Searles that learning piano can be easier when taught in a less traditional manner. He also demonstrated he can still pound the keyboards.
Asked what kind of music he listens to, he replied: “I like Bruno Mars and still like Led Zeppelin. I’m really an old rocker. We have concert performances here, so I’m always listening to new things.”
The breadth of the non-profit Center’s programs are summed up simply by Gary: “Too many people don’t do things because they don’t think they are good at it. We provide an opportunity to prove them wrong!”
The Center has long offered adaptive sports and fitness programs. Upcoming is the Riekes Center Paralympic Experience on August 8 for children ages 5-12. All kids, whether they have a disability or not, are welcome to try some adaptive sports including goalball, sitting volleyball, archery, table tennis, relay races, an obstacle course and a climbing wall. A free barbecue lunch will follow. There is no cost to participate, but registration by August 3 is required. Email Shairon Kelleher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Irene Searles; vertical photo shows Gary standing next to the door he brought to the Center from the Redwood City that housed his fitness facility for 20 years