Meet Jeff Shontz, Boyertown Area 2024 Mentor of the Year


by Lesley Misko,   Lindsey Riegner

It is taking time, and it requires hard work, but Jeff Shontz is a man who is living his dream. In the process of doing so, he is improving the quality of life for countless people in the Boyertown area. To acknowledge his contributions to the community, Jeff has now been named Boyertown Area Mentor of the Year.

“Mayor Lori gave me a call and asked to stop by at the gym. She came over and told me I had been selected. As a Boyertown resident, I knew about the Citizen of the Year recognition and thought it would be cool to one day be nominated or win, so when I found out, I was extremely honored, grateful, happy, humbled. This is a program with 70 years of history. I am so proud to be part of a time-honored tradition,” Jeff shares enthusiastically.

The relatively new owner of Bear’s Den Fitness, 400 E. Second St., Jeff held a managerial position at SEI Investments for 16 years, but he “always loved running and lifting weights and generally living a healthy lifestyle.” Describing himself as “passionate about it,” he acknowledges having a “lifetime dream of being a gym owner,” so when the opportunity arose in 2022, he purchased Bear’s Den and “began the work of rebranding the facility,” while continuing his day job at SEI. Now just a few years later, Bear’s Den membership has quadrupled, and as of January 2024, Jeff has made helping others become more fit, his full-time work.

Bear’s Den utilizes the “Cross -Fit” approach to fitness, offering group classes led by qualified coaches. The classes are designed to enhance participants’ quality of life by teaching them proper techniques for basic movements that support the body’s well-being. Examples of these movements include things like squatting, picking up something from the ground, standing, carrying groceries, etc.

Classes encourage “a community approach,” according to Jeff. He explains, “Interaction with others is encouraged. In a group everyone is doing similar things, but they are modified to individual abilities if and as needed. Everyone is working together, cheering each other’s accomplishments, and encouraging one another.”

Jeff brings a special community focus to children’s fitness. Bear’s Den offers “Cross-Fit for Kids,” a program “that emphasizes the fun of exercise.” Classes are divided into two age groups: K-2 and 3rd-6th grades; each class begins with a warm-up and ends with a game. A positive environment is maintained.

“Healthy Kids Running Series” is another extremely successful program for youth. It was created by a West Chester non-profit, and Shontz and his wife, Jena, serving as community coordinators, brought it to the Boyertown area in 2017. Since then, participation has grown from 75 to over 300 kids per session.

The program spans five weeks and is offered at Douglass Park in Gilbertsville on Sundays in spring and fall. Participants range from two to middle school age, and they run from 50 yards to one mile. Jeff describes the program as “very family friendly” and explains that the goal is “to introduce running as fun. Each week has a different theme, like crazy hair, crazy socks, superheroes, animals.” At the end of the series, children’s earned points are tallied and top point-earners in different categories receive some form of recognition. All participants receive a race shirt. (There is a fee to participate.)

Their commitment to fostering the well-being of children has earned the program accolades such as the Healthy Kids Running Series Presidential Award, recognizing their series as one of the top five in registration and local sponsorship in the nation. Further, they were honored with the Community Partnership Award for Spring 2023 for securing the most sponsorships nationwide and were awarded the Healthy Kids Running Series All-Star Award in Spring 2021.

As a well-known fitness guru in the community, Jeff is a dedicated volunteer. From children to senior citizens, he is always helping others live their best life and get healthy, both by mentorship and leading by example. He wants Bear’s Den Fitness to be a gym for the community. In addition to providing group adult and kids classes, they offer nutritional counseling, free public clinics, and training seminars. Jeff likes to open his facility to the public and provide opportunities for people to learn something new.

Jeff previously served as the president of the non-profit Wellness Council of Boyertown, which has been merged with Multi -Service, and he currently contributes as a committee member. He is also a volunteer for the Boyertown Wellness Fair. His involvement extends to being the race director for the Boyertown Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot for past two years. The race has grown from 200 to over 600 participants. Jeff also shares, “I really do enjoy working with the schools. I want to be associated with them and help with teams. For example, recently the lady’s softball team come for training prior to starting their season.”

Jeff finds fulfillment in witnessing the success of others, particularly the joy of children achieving milestones in fitness and confidence. His dedication to creating welcoming and positive atmospheres within the organizations with which he collaborates, reflects his belief that these spaces should feel like one big family.

It is said that “behind every good man, there is a woman,” and Jeff agrees with that sentiment. “I would love to give a shout out to my wife,” he says, adding, “My wife has been there behind the scenes. She helps me to look good, especially with the Healthy Kids Running Series and the gym. She really helps to put me out there.” Clearly the Shontz family knows the magic for success and happiness, and the Boyertown area is benefitting.

* Lindsey Riegner Mason is a 2001 alum of Boyertown Area Senior High.  Lindsey served as Director of the Boyertown Community Library from 2012-2015 when she became a librarian in the Reading School District. Since 2021, she has held the position of Southern Middle School Librarian in the Wilson School District. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Lindsey was named the 66th Annual Boyertown Area Citizen of the Year.  She lives with her husband, Corey, and has four stepchildren. She is active on the fundraising committee of the Boyertown Community Library and the conference committee for the Pennsylvania School Library Association.

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