Alexander Lopez stands in the Holbrook facility where he operates Inclusive...

Alexander Lopez stands in the Holbrook facility where he operates Inclusive Sports and Fitness. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Volunteering in the community has been a longstanding endeavor for Sayville resident Alexander Lopez.

The occupational therapist and college professor has created a mentorship program for at-risk young people, using golf as an “entry point,” and now has a sports facility dedicated to helping young people with disabilities improve their movement and socialization skills.

When people ask him what he likes to do for fun, Lopez, 55, said he responds, “Creating programs like this.”

“Programs like this” are PAR FORE, a free program he started in 2007 in Brentwood where “golf was the medium we used” to match volunteer college-age student mentors with at-risk children. Therapeutic principles to help the children develop positive personal, social and physical growth were also part of it, as the Town of Islip noted in celebrating Lopez’s contributions to the community in 2022. Lopez ran PAR FORE until 2017, when grant funding was no longer available. “I couldn’t bring myself to charge people,” he said.

In 2013, Lopez founded Inclusive Sports and Fitness Inc., which operates out of a facility in Holbrook that has state-of-the-art treadmills and other specialized equipment to help improve the movement of disabled children. He runs that program as a volunteer.

Lopez said about 80% of the organization’s 70 participants are on the autism spectrum. Children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and development coordination disorder also attend. The 12-week program, with twice-a-week sessions, costs $600, Lopez said.

The participants have access to high-tech equipment, such as treadmills that can go as fast as 31 mph and are designed with virtual-reality components like games. “It reduces what they see and they move with greater fluidity,” Lopez said. He noted the program’s work is backed by research from his colleagues at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, where he is an associate professor of occupational therapy.

“We have kids with autism who’ve never exercised, never played with other kids. . . . We start them with a high-intensity running program. They go from awkward to greater efficiency,” Lopez said.

Dinora Guardado, of Brentwood, said both of Lopez’s programs have helped her son, Joshua, who is now 25 and in a job training program. He is “more confident to believe he can do things...He’s a different person,” she said.

He credited the support he’s received from volunteers across Suffolk County for helping him grow the Holbrook program, among them Islip Town Councilman John Lorenzo, who was an early supporter and is now a member of its board of directors.

Lorenzo, whose son Aiden is on the autism spectrum, praised Lopez’s programs for helping the 19-year-old. “My son is now a sophomore at Hofstra University. He’s driving his car. . . . My son ran track in high school. He’s got a job,” Lorenzo said.

“Alex Lopez and his vision” gets a lot of the credit for that, he added.

Nominate a Long Islander who goes above and beyond or serves as an inspiration to their community. Send details and photograph to Michael Ebert, michael.ebert@newsday.com (photos should be high-resolution). Photos may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

Rally for food at NCC … Imagine Dragons at Jones Beach … Mascot ban update Credit: Newsday

Updated 19 minutes ago Testing barrels found in Bethpage ... Opening statements in Trump trial ... Jets trade Zach Wilson ... Tulip festival

Rally for food at NCC … Imagine Dragons at Jones Beach … Mascot ban update Credit: Newsday

Updated 19 minutes ago Testing barrels found in Bethpage ... Opening statements in Trump trial ... Jets trade Zach Wilson ... Tulip festival

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME