By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

The bulletin board in Charmane Kandt's "office" is filled with thank-you letters and mementos she has kept from the many people she's worked with through the years.

Her office actually is a physical therapy lab on the campus of Fort Hays State University. With the help of FHSU students, Kandt has been helping people with chronic health conditions regain mobility for more than a decade.

"It's just nice to see people who wouldn't ordinarily get to move that much, get to move," Kandt said. "And to see the smile on their faces from getting some activity."

Her clients aren't the only ones with smiles on their faces. With four people exercising in the wellness center one afternoon earlier this month, Kandt scurried from person to person, offering pointers and encouragement. A grin never left her face.

"Absolutely," she said when asked if she enjoys her work.

Kandt, an exercise physiologist, has been working at the Fort Hays State University Neuromuscular Wellness Center since 2001. The clinic specializes in working with people with some type of neuromuscular disorder, such as Parkinson's disease, damage from a stroke or multiple sclerosis.

"We try to keep it to neuromuscular disorders, because there seems to be a greater need there," she said.

Demand for the clinic's services has been high. Though the wellness center is open only part-time, more than 20 people typically are signed up for services at any given time. Patients come from throughout northwest Kansas, and even some from Nebraska, she said.

Hays resident Marilyn Thyfault has been coming to the wellness center nearly every day for the past three years. She's battled cardiac issues since undergoing a quadruple bypass 21 years ago, she said.

"Charmane has saved my life," Thyfault said. "It's amazing. When I spend 30 minutes on the (exercise machine), I feel better."

That's what makes her job so rewarding, Kandt said, noting exercise has proven beneficial to many of her regular clients.

"We don't perform miracles," she said. "But we do really diminish the Parkinson's gait. We have been able to accomplish that a lot."

Kandt, who has a doctorate degree, teaches FHSU classes part-time. She also trains and mentors students majoring in health-related professions who receive hands-on experience at the wellness center.

The center originally was launched as a physical therapy clinic in the late 1990s and focused primarily on stroke patients.

Organizers saw a need for a similar service and continued the wellness center when initial grant funding for the project expired.

"It's just that there was a need, and we just stepped in," she said.