2017 ESL Jefferson Award winner: Yana Khashper

March 30, 2018 01:34 PM

Each year, we ask our viewers to nominate people from our community for their volunteerism. The ESL Jefferson Awards are part of the national Jefferson Award Foundation which strives to build a culture of service in communities across the country. Founded in 1972 by well-known public servants including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious honor of its kind.

Yana Khashper never intended to start a non-profit organization for addicts trying to recover. However, when she and her fiancé, Sean Smith started helping themselves stay sober by going outdoors and doing physical activities instead of drugs or alcohol, they found a whole community they could help in the process. It started with a hike on a winter’s day which they posted on Facebook.

Below are statements from interviews where they describe how ROCovery Fitness came to be:

Yana Khashper/Co-Founder of ROCovery Fitness:

Three years ago, I was struggling to even stay clean and sober. I didn't do an athletic thing in my life.  I didn't exercise, I didn't play sports -- none of that. When we started this, we had no intention of starting a program. It really was because we were in a bad place — about to go back to drinking.

We said, “Ok. We're going for a hike. You know something so simple. We posted it on Facebook and the friends just started showing up. It just took off from there!”

Sean Smith/Co-Founder of ROCovery Fitness:

Now, we get together almost every day to do something different for people in recovery. Offering them outdoor adventure, fitness classes. We go to the Adirondacks and we try to get up there once a month to go climb a mountain. We offer it to anyone 48 hours without a drink or a drug.

Kim Sadwick/Participant:

I just love what Yana and Sean are doing. They are great people and this is a really needed thing in our community to help people in recovery.

Yana Khashper:

What I want people to know is that recovery is possible. It's out there and it's within an arms reach. It's fun. There's life after getting clean and sober. There's people all around you that love you and want to support you and help you on this journey.

Sean Smith:

We've been doing everything outdoors up until now. We were gifted an historical firehouse which we have renovated into a gym and a sober club house. This is to offer people a safe place to go and meet new people and make those connections that are so needed in recovery.

Yana Khashper at Clubhouse Grand Opening:

Now we will be on site 24 hours a day to help people who are struggling. We are the first sober active community in the state and as far as we know only the second in the country. It's a simple program with great outcomes, great results.

I never imagined I would be of any use to anyone outside of my little bubble once I got clean and sober. The power of recovery. I think it fuels me every day. These things don't happen on their own. It's not just me. It's all these people around me that have helped me grow and encourage me and now they've turned to me for some of those supports as well.

It doesn't even feel real on most days. From where I was, to being here--it's like I'm living a dream, every day.  


Note:  If you would like to find out about ROCovery Fitness activities, click here.

On May 12th, all 5 local ESL Jefferson Award winners and their family/friends were invited to a luncheon at Locust Hill Country Club. They each received medals and spoke to the crowd.  It was announced that Yana Khashper from ROCovery Fitness will head to Washington next month to be considered for the National Jefferson Award.  She will be among local recipients from all over the country.  We will follow her trip to the nation’s capitol and let you know what happens at the next level.

You can watch all five of the stories from the 2017 ESL Jefferson Award winners here.


Rebecca Leclair

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