FireLake Wellness Center celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its doors opened on Oct. 3, 2003, with the mission to “provide professionally designed and responsibly supervised physical fitness activities for Native Americans.” FireLake Wellness Center makes a difference in the lives of Native Americans and Citizen Potawatomi Nation employees every day.


FireLake Wellness Center offers a variety of services and fitness programs, ranging from free personal trainers to fitness classes to physical therapy and more. The convenience of services and programs draws in many Native Americans and CPN employees.

Sherry Byers and Reda Pitts, who work in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Housing Department, shared their experiences at FireLake Wellness Center.

“The variety of equipment provided, the pool and walking track, is a plus,” Byers said. “There are so many options for anybody that comes in, and you can do pretty much any workout without having to wait on a treadmill or bike. You can do any work out that you want at any time.”

“The convenience is so important to us because we can leave our office, get here and do a 30-minute workout during our lunch break, and get back to the office,” Pitts said.

Byers and Pitts describe FireLake Wellness Center as a “blessing.”

Holistic wellness

When it opened, its original name was FireLake Wellness and Fitness Center. Leslie Cooper, Director of FireLake Wellness Center, said Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett envisioned a place where senior Native Americans have a safe and welcoming space to work out. Cooper mentioned the word “fitness” feels like an intimidating word. However, the name change to FireLake Wellness Center offers the idea of a welcoming environment.

“There is so much more to being a well person than (being) physically fit,” said Cooper. “Individuals who come to the gym not only get strong physically; their mental and emotional wellness improves also.”

Leslie Collyer, a transitional trainer at FireLake Wellness Center, echoed Cooper’s sentiments.

“We look at the overall wellness of a person. The overall wellness includes the mental and emotional aspects, not just physical,” Collyer said. “We try to reach out to people on all levels.”

FireLake Wellness Center focuses on holistic wellness for the entire Native American community, from young adults to elders.

Success story

Brandon Edwards, head trainer at FireLake Wellness Center, still remembers one of his clients from 13 years ago who lost 100 pounds in 10 months.

“She stuck to it: lifting every day, cardio and an eating plan,” he said. “That story is one I always vividly remember in my head and is my favorite one to share.”

Supervisor/personal trainer Jessie Whitney trains some clients who have been with him consistently for more than four years.

“Even with COVID, they may have missed training sessions because of sickness, but as soon as the doors were back open, they were here,” he said.

Fitness instructor Shelley Holliday shared a piece of wisdom.

“The hardest part of working out is walking in the front door,” she said.

Holliday explained that once you enter FireLake Wellness Center, you have that incentive to work out or utilize the services.

“It just has to become a lifestyle,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter (what size) you are. There’s equipment for everybody, and you see all shapes and all sizes. It just makes my heart happy to know that people are utilizing our equipment and services to be healthy.”

FireLake Wellness Center is a valuable resource for the Native American community. Over the past 20 years, it has helped many people improve their health and well-being. The center continues to provide high-quality health and wellness services to the community, and the staff hopes to for years to come.

Learn more about FireLake Wellness Center at