It’s a late-winter morning, quiet and dreary, when a Fox Fitness member busts through the silence and hustles up the stairs that curl toward the upper level of the Vaughan Athletic Center.

Clearly in a rush, Betsy Cortes never breaks stride when she waves and shouts to a staff member: “Good morning! I’m late and I forgot my I.D. badge!


This 10-second snapshot represents life as Betsy prefers it:

On the go.

“I don’t know what it is to relax,” Betsy says. “I don’t know how. I can’t sit still.”

So it makes perfect sense that the class Betsy was scurrying to was the calorie-burning bash otherwise known as Zumba® – a dance party in the middle of the fitness center.

“I promote it as that!” says Charity Browne, a licensed group exercise instructor at Vaughan who specializes in Zumba. “I encourage everyone to check their problems at the door. I just really want people having a good time. Just keep moving, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting it right.

“The only rule I have in my classroom is that you have to smile. We bring the sunshine.”

Just keep moving? While smiling?

Easy boxes to check for Betsy – a peppy, 50-year-old mom and grandma with busy work and family schedules. Along with having two adult children, Betsy and husband Sergio adopted their son’s two daughters, ages 7 and 9, who are active at school and have been involved in Fox Valley Park District programs, such as basketball and swimming. Daughter Krystal (inset photo, in gray) is a senior softball player at nationally-ranked NCAA Division III Concordia University-Wisconsin, where she studies exercise physiology and pre-physical therapy, her knowledge often tapped by Mom.

“She’s always asking me questions,” Krystal says of Betsy. “She likes to lift weights sometimes when she’s not doing her Zumba classes, so I try to help her as much I can to keep her motivated. And she keeps me motivated because she’s my mom – if she can do it, I can do it!

“We definitely hold each other accountable and talk about what we can do to reach our goals.”

Aside from the responsibilities bestowed on parents raising a second generation, and dutifully reporting to Zumba class a couple times per week, Betsy works overnight hours mainly on weekends. Her job as a slot attendant at an Elgin Casino, where she’s been employed for 28 years, frees up daytime to spend with the girls and “gets me 15,000-17,000 steps when I’m at work!” Betsy says.

But Betsy really hit the jackpot with Zumba, which was created in the 90s by a dancer, choreographer and aerobics instructor in Colombia. By 2018, more than 15 million people across nearly 200 countries had immersed themselves in Zumba – a whole-body workout that burns calories through dancing to a fusion of Latin and international music.

In other words, Betsy’s kind of party.

“Just the people who come here, we’re all different ages,” she says. “And the motivation we give each other, it’s like a second family. It’s important to stay healthy because I want to be able to see my grandkids take off to college and get their lives established.

“I might be 50, but I’ll always keep going.”

For more information about Fox Fitness, Zumba classes or the Vaughan Athletic Center, call 630-907-9600 or visit