Meet the Whitman Family
Writer Amanda Christmann Larson
Photographer Karen Sophia Photography
As any professional athlete can attest to, being fit is not about jumping into a diet or exercise program to see how many pounds can be lost or how much muscle can be put on in a period of days or weeks. Real fitness comes in the small moments that accumulate – the half-hour workouts and the healthy dinners cooked at home – over months and years.
The same can be said for families. It isn’t the big vacations or the expensive holiday gifts that make a house a home; it’s the moments of laughter and the encouraging words and the advice that are lived, not just spoken, that grow over time to be something truly special.
Anthem’s Whitman family knows a lot about both. Don, Julie, and children Bryce, 15, Boston, 13, and Sophie, 11, are into both physical fitness and family for the long haul. Athletics are a big part of their lives, but so is authenticity and creating the values and memories that endure.
Don is a co-owner of Whitman & Jackson, CPAs, a tax and financial advisory firm that services Anthem and surrounding areas; Julie is a fitness trainer with 30 years of experience and currently owns BFIT Athletics. What would be a room filled with furniture to relax on for other homes is a spacious home gym at the Whitman house.
“We have to do pushups on the way to the dinner table,” jokes Don.
While they may not be that extreme, staying in shape physically, mentally and spiritually is a top priority in their household, and they are also happy to share that lifestyle with Julie’s clients, who come to the house to train. Throughout the day, clients come for group and individual sessions. BFIT offers spin, TRX, Tabata and Total Body Conditioning classes.
It’s not just about looking great, Julie says; it’s about being true to the person you were created to be. That’s something the couple is working to instill in their family, as well as in the clients who look to both of them for guidance.
Fitness is a family affair. All three children are involved in sports. Bryce played football on Boulder Creek’s freshman team, filling positions on both offense and defense, and he plays volleyball, too. Boston, who attends Gavilan Peak, is also into football, and is playing this winter season on the Monsters. Sophie, also at Gavilan Peak, likes volleyball and tennis.
That’s no surprise, since fitness is what brought Julie and Don together.
Both of them are originally from New York, Julie from the Rochester area, and Don from Gloversville, which is near Albany. Sunny skies and warmer temperatures brought them to the area, Julie in 1991 and Don a year later. Anthem was not yet on the map at the time, but they both settled in the north Valley. Julie taught fitness classes at the gym where Don worked out, and he wandered into her class one day, not so much for the exercise, but to meet the beautiful instructor.
“I didn’t think much of him at first,” Julie laughs. “He tried to get me to go out with him for a long time. I just wasn’t going for it.”
“I really worked it,” Don smiled. “I left roses on her car and little notes … I tried hard!”
Don’s chivalry eventually paid off, and he won Julie’s heart. Once they started dating, they didn’t want to be apart, and they were engaged five months later. A year after that, on October 15, 1994, they were married.
They bought a house in Tatum Ranch, and Bryce and Boston joined the family. During those early married years, they heard about Anthem and made the trek up I-17 to check it out. They put their name in for the lottery, which is how the first homeowners were chosen. By luck of the draw, they were one of the first homeowners to be picked, so they pioneered the development and claimed one of the first houses as a rental property.
When completion of SR 101 made access to and from Anthem more convenient, moving their young family to the growing neighborhood seemed like a logical step. The park, community center and strong sense of community were a good fit. In 2001, they became part of Anthem, and it became part of them.
“I’ve always seen Anthem as a small city on the outskirts of a big city,” Don explains. “Both of us grew up in places like that, so it felt comfortable for us.”
“I love Anthem because it’s easy to meet people,” adds Julie. “It’s a great place to be with the kids, and I like to get out and be among everyone.” Don laughs, adding that Julie’s friends refer to her as the ‘mayor of Anthem’ because of her busy social life.
Since their move, they’ve had three more additions. Daughter Sophie came along, a sporty feminine mix of Don’s light hair and eyes, and Julie’s pretty features. Then came two solid English bulldogs, Puff, 9, and Pudge, 5, rounding out the family. The dogs’ entertaining personalities and the laughs and love they bring fit perfectly into the mix.
Die-hard Cardinals fans, the Whitmans spend a lot of time in the stadium during football season. “In the past 20 years, Don has maybe missed two games,” says Julie. “The Cardinals are a big deal around here. As Don always says, we’re building memories, we’re building memories!”
Their dedication to the game has trickled down to their sons. Both aspire to play pro ball, although Bryce has a back-up plan of working for the FBI someday. There is no back-up for 13-year-old Boston yet. “He wants to be a professional football player,” Julie says. “He’s said that since he could talk.” Both are off to a good start on their respective teams, Bryce versatile as a wide receiver and corner back, and even as a kick returner, and Boston as a running back and safety.
As good as Anthem has been to the Whitmans, they’ve also contributed considerably to the community. They’ve each built their respective businesses from the ground up. Don gets satisfaction in that his firm, Whitman & Jackson, works hard at enabling clients to obtain peace of mind. Julie’s goals are similar, giving people lasting confidence, only in fitness and spirit instead of finance. They complement each other well.
“Each of us are good friends to people, and I think that’s a gift,” Julie says.
“We’re an open house,” Don adds. “We’re available to our friends and to our families for anything they need, whether it’s for entertainment, or for someone to lean on.”
They find other ways to give back, too. This year, they made a resolution to reach out to others as a family at least once per month. Family members take turns researching and choosing how the family will volunteer time for a needy cause.
Setting the example of giving is nothing new. The couple supports many of the local charities and is very active in the Rotary Club of Anthem and We Care. They’ve touched countless lives through each organization, as well as on a closer level.
“Julie very naturally cares about others,” Don says, a sentiment that many people close to her have shared. Her ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ nature is warm and inviting. “Not everybody is like that. She is very compassionate.”
Julie is visibly moved by her husband’s kindness. “Don is an amazing man,” she responds. “He’s gone through a lot in his life, and he’s just the best dad. The kids and I are blessed to have him. He cares about people and their welfare, and he gives his best, always.”
The strong foundation for this family, they say, is their faith in God, and laughter … lots of laughter. “I don’t think a day has ever gone by that we haven’t laughed,” says Bryce, the family looking at each other with knowing grins. “Some of us may even get out of trouble sometimes by saying funny things.” Julie and Don laugh knowingly.
“We’re the best family!” adds Sophie. “We’re cool!”
Boston, whose wit is sometimes mixed with a touch of playful orneriness, values something else in his family, too. “Thankfully, everyone is also very forgiving,” he says with a wry smile, having taken advantage of that trait a time or two. This time, everyone laughs.
Just as the family makes time for fitness, they take time each day to create a life full of love, lessons and memories. They work hard, they play hard, and they try hard to appreciate the moments, big and small, as they pass.
“Kids grow up too quickly,” Don says seriously.
“As a family, we try to live in the moment,” says Julie. “Yesterday is forgiven, today is a gift and tomorrow is already planned. You have to embrace each day and live it for all its worth, for God, yourself and your family.
“When it comes down to it,” she says, “That’s all that really matters.”