Many women can say they met their husband on a blind date, but how many can say she met her husband on a three-day camping trip that was also a blind date? Amber Blanchard can and it was fine with her because she is just that kind of outdoor girl.
“His roommate was dating my roommate. They put us together because we both liked to play outside,” she said. “It worked out great.”
In fact, they are married and have two kids, ages 7 and 10.
Now, the Blanchards are some of the newest business owners in Prescott.
Kevin and Amber bought the Prescott Athletic Club (PAC) along with James and Troy Haines at the end of last September. And business has been good and getting better.
“Up here, our winter season is slow because many snow birds go to Phoenix for the winter and in the spring people start coming back,” she said.
Since last September, Kevin has been getting a lot of work done in anticipation of the return of the snow birds. It has been mostly cosmetic and catching up with deferred maintenance. He has the pool and sauna up and running properly, and now is concentrating on the tennis courts.
The couple hopes the club can fill a need not already fulfilled in Prescott.
“We have two country clubs and a YMCA, but there was nothing in the middle for young families who want a little more, but don’t want to pay for a country club membership,” she said. “I have been in this field in camps and gyms since I was 14. I was raised by my dad who said girls can do anything boys can do. I was the only girl on a soccer team.”
Originally from Texarkana, Arkansas, she graduated in 1995 from the University of Arkansas with a degree in recreation management and an emphasis on therapeutic recreation.
After graduation, she moved to Park City, Utah, where she taught people with disabilities how to snow ski, water ski, horseback ride and other sports.
“I loved Park City, but it was hard to find housing because it is so expensive and recreation therapists don’t make that much money.”
She married Kevin in 2005 and moved to Bend, Oregon for eight years, running the city’s therapeutic recreation program.
When her husband was transferred to Phoenix to continue his construction career of building and remodeling homes, she landed a job at Ability 360, a 45,000-square-foot recreational facility focusing on people with disabilities. The facility is also the home of the national champion wheelchair rugby team, the Phoenix Heat.
Eventually, Amber had a serious talk with herself.
“Life is too short to work this much,” she said.
The couple decided to move to Prescott.
“It’s a great place to raise a family. I took a step back in Prescott and reflected on what I wanted to do: to be a mom and a wife and contribute to our community,” she said. “I taught some fitness classes and got my real estate license to help my husband.”
One day, the Blanchards were talking to the Haines about what a great facility PAC was and they all agreed they should purchase the facility.
“I was always camping with my family and playing outside. I went to college for it.”
A huge part of her philosophy is that “everyone has the right to play. It is great therapy for me to help others.”
When they bought the athletic club, it became a way of life for the entire family.
“The kids will grow up here,” she said. “Our kids are here with us. They have little jobs. They get paid for their jobs like picking up pine cones.”
They can take dance or tennis lessons right on site, she said.
“It’s a safe, healthy environment,” she said. “I feel fortunate that this is where my life brought me.”
Blanchard says the business gives back by helping non-profit organizations build a stronger community.
“There are so many opportunities and possibilities looking at the needs of our members that drive us in the direction in the future,” she said.
JaLene Gathman, café manager of the PAC, said it is wonderful to work for Amber. “It’s very family- and community-oriented. She cares a lot about her clients,” Gathman said. “It’s a pleasure to work here every day.”
When she thinks of all the things she could have done, Blanchard says owning an adult playground is very satisfying.
What do you do for fun?
“I spend time with my family. I still do a lot of camping.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Of course I got a lot of great advice from my parents. I also had a professor who said, ‘Who said life has to be serious?’ I like to have fun every day and have fun people around me and not take life too seriously and enjoy it.”
Who do you admire?
“I admire my children. They are amazing human beings. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met. They have been raised around people with different ability levels and they have this kindness about them.”
Where do you like to travel?
“Anywhere that has a place to put a tent, by the water preferably.”
What is your super power and when do you use it?
“My super power is my ADHD. I use it very day. I have so many moving parts in my life that I can’t focus on one thing, but I am able to jump from project to project and complete them. I have a lot of energy because I am hyper.” QCBN
By Patty McCormac, QCBN
The Prescott Athletic Club is on five acres in Kingswood Estates, just off Iron Springs Road. To learn more, call 928-379-2835 or visit the website at prescottathleticclub.com.