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In a senior exercise program already filled with energy, laughter and smiles, Bill Sattler adds a little extra sparkle.

Before his 10:30 a.m. fitness class at the Waukesha County YMCA, he chats and jokes with fellow classmates as he sets up everyone's equipment for them. During class, he takes a front-row spot and works hard.

'Bill is always 'on purpose,'' instructor Robyn Pearce said. 'He gets in there early, he sets up everybody, and he takes care of everybody else and worries about himself last.'

Sattler has been a member of SilverSneakers for nine years. The fitness program is designed for seniors. He is one of only 10 finalists nationwide for the SilverSneakers Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award, which honors members who are making the program a success.

Pearce said although she nominates someone each year, Sattler is the first to make it to the final round of public voting.

'His personality and his energy, it just stands out,' Pearce explained. 'I'll be working away [in my office] trying to get some emails done between classes, and you can hear him out there. 'How are you? What's going on?''

Sattler's classmates echoed many of Pearce's sentiments, saying he is a constantly friendly face.

'I vote for him every day,' class member Mary Olson said. 'We're going to see how far it goes. He's a good guy, and he's always helpful, kind and considerate.'

After he retired from WE Energies in 2002, Sattler said he and his wife discussed what he was going to do to fill his time and decided that an exercise class would be the perfect fit. In addition to the five days a week he now spends at the Y, Sattler helps his wife around the house and does yard and garden work.

In addition to the SilverSneakers sessions, Sattler participates in yoga, range of motion and cardio classes.

'The excitement and the exercise that we go through, it's so energizing, it makes you feel so much better,' Sattler said. 'All the nice people I've met here, I love all the different instructors that I've had. They're all so much fun.'

Sattler's nomination for the Swanson Award has been equally exciting, as he has reached out to family, friends and siblings from Arkansas to Chicago to make sure they're voting.

'At first, when Robyn said she was nominating me, I thought, 'Me? Insignificant me?' And I thought, I might as well go along with it,' Sattler said. 'Every day I'm excited about it. It's just been a ball.'

The Swanson Award is meant to promote SilverSneakers and encourage older adults to take advantage of it to ensure a better quality of life, Pearce explained.

She has been teaching SilverSneakers classes for roughly 10 years, and said she enjoys the energy and progress she sees in her students.

'They're fast, they're powerful, they're agile, they're coordinated, their memories are sharper. You can just tell on their faces, they're having fun,' Pearce said. 'They tell me they appreciate me, but I think I appreciate them more.'

Pearce added that while mainstream group exercise participants tend to have big expectations about what the class should look like and how it should be conducted, the seniors are more grateful and their moods are elevated just by coming to class.

Sattler's genuine enthusiasm for the SilverSneakers program and exercising in general is evidenced in everything he does, from earning the nickname 'Roadie' after people who set up equipment for musical acts to sharing a smile and a laugh with each person he gets to know at the Y.

'All I can say is this has been the greatest thing in my life, I just love it,' Sattler said. 'Getting together with all the different people, and socializing with them, and exercising with them, and meeting all the different instructors. I just think it's so great.'

The finalist process for the Swanson Award will close on July 15. Until then, votes for Sattler can be cast each day at silversneakers.swansonaward.com.

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