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WATCH: Blind, Autistic Teen Is 'True Inspiration' For Hackensack Gym Goers

Bianca Angeli inspires at Retro Fitness Hackensack.
Bianca Angeli inspires at Retro Fitness Hackensack. Video Credit: Contributed
Sophia Mirwis, left, and Esther Bock, right with Bianca. Photo Credit: Contributed

Bianca Angeli of Teaneck is blissfully unaware of how difficult she has it.

The 19-year-old is blind, non-verbal and low-functioning on the autism spectrum.

Rarely without a smile, usually dancing and always working hard, Bianca's happy-go-lucky disposition has made her one of the most inspirational members of Retro Fitness in Hackensack.

"Seeing what this girl is doing is humbling," said Bianca's trainer Esther Bock, who works with her twice a week with help from trainer Sophia Mirwis.

"So many people have come up to me after seeing us work with her. They tell me about all the hard things going on in their lives, and then say how heart-warming and inspiring Bianca has been for them.

"It's hard for everyone to get to the gym, but for Bianca to come work out even with her challenges has been so positive."

Bianca's mom Sanja Petrovic was anxious to see how her daughter would respond on her first day working out with Bock and Mirwis last month.

But soon as she heard Bock's bubbly voice and encouraging words, the teen was all smiles.

"We never know how to Bianca will react," said Petrovic, who is by her daughter's side cheering her along at every session. "But she reacted so well to Esther's energy, she's like a little power ball. It was wonderful to watch."

Bianca Petrovic

With help and encouragement form Bock and Mirwis, Bianca uses the ab-crunch machine, the rower and does step-ups on a box. She recently learned to throw the ball back while playing catch -- among many more accomplishments.

Bianca's impact on fellow gym-goers and fitness trainers has been profound.

Bock recalled one of the first sessions she had with Bianca, when she and Mirwis were helping her with leg lifts.

"Everyone was so focused, and we can't take our eyes off of her for even one second," Bock said. "But when I glanced up, I saw almost 30 people standing in their spots in the weight room just watching."

And not in a malicious or judgmental way, Bock said: They were watching in amazement.

While before-and-after weight loss photos on social media might be motivating for some, Mirwis says all of that pales in comparison to working with Bianca.

"I see so many people post inspirational videos, pictures of their bikini bodies and enormous muscles on social media," the trainer said. "That may inspire some, but it can make others feel like they're not good enough.

"Bianca is the true inspiration. She doesn’t have it easy in any regard, yet she comes to the gym to work out and get stronger. She has to overcome so many obstacles just to get to the gym, and when she’s there, she doesn’t let any of her disabilities to get in her way.

"She works just as hard as anyone else would. And that is the true inspiration. Hard work, grit, consistency and dedication is what will get you to reach your goals."

Bianca remains focused and determined during the sessions. But at the end, she lets loose, dancing and cheering -- a telltale sign she's proud of her hard work.

To her coaches, that's the greatest prize.

"I just feel like everybody deserves a chance and it’s my responsibility to help everyone -- not just the people who are ready for a bikini contest," Bock said. "I don't think you can give up on anyone. When you show people you care, they will react."

The gym is there for everyone.

"People with disabilities are just like everybody else," Bock added. "They need motivation and they need pushing. They reward us with their appreciation -- and it happens to be unbelievable."

Bianca's mom has long known what her daughter is capable of. Now, she has finally found a way to help her achieve that with the trainers at Retro Fitness.

"When you look at Bianca, you’d never say she can do these things," Petrovic said. "But she’s doing it all. It's truly amazing that Esther and Sophia can do this with her."

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