Charlestown People: Dan Scalia

By Tracy Iannelli

How did Dan Scalia make the leap from college football at Columbia University to running the ever-evolving Movement Lab at 14 Green St. in Charlestown?  It was a journey of over 20 years, leading back to a college connection.

Dan grew up in Needham, the youngest of three. His Mother was from Sturbridge, and his Dad was second generation Sicilian from Waltham. His father instilled in him a love of sales, his gift for listening to people, and the ability to provide them with solutions.  His Mom was a teacher and encouraged curiosity, an open mind, and innovative ideas.

Dan Scalia and Sensei Michelle
Marques with her gold medals in Judo and Jujitsu.
Vietnam Memorial on the grounds of Memorial Hall on 14 Green Street is a somber place for reflection.

Growing up, Dan played soccer, basketball, and baseball, and was an all-around high school jock. Retaining his love of sport while studying to be a history major at Columbia, he and Jon Sproul met while playing football. Jon was the captain and defensive tackle, while Dan was a tight end. They were two Massachusetts guys in a New York school, and upon graduation they could have said goodbye and good luck. But they did not. They kept in touch.

Their friendship would be renewed later in life.  Dan began to build his career, first in finance, then in sales, technology, Silicon Valley startups, and winding up at Oracle in their major East coast hub in Burlington. He’s lived in Charlestown since 2006. 

After two tenures at Oracle, leaving in 2015, back for a short stint in 2021-2023, Dan felt the need to re-assess. What began as a single mental health day turned into a full-blown career change. In short, it was time for Dan to take a break from corporate America.

Meanwhile, Jon Sproul, his former football teammate, moved to Charlestown in 2009. With broad experience spanning public schools,  nonprofit management, and coaching youth sports, among others, Jon’s vision was to craft a shared space fitness model with top, independent instructors in a highly adaptable setting.

In 2022, he launched the Movement Lab as a tax-exempt nonprofit. The concept was both simple and creative: “A community space-basically a clean slate– where people gather to grow, move, connect, and express themselves through programming…for youth and adults.” 

He envisioned a safe, diverse, and welcoming space that engages expert partners to promote health and well- being in the Charlestown community. Enter Dan as the next driver of Jon’s dream.

The current Movement Lab team includes Ippon Sports, owned and operated by a dual black belt champion in Jujitsu and Judo–Michelle Marques. In addition,  you’ll find Jon Kabshura,  a PhD degree’d occupational therapist/personal trainer, the North End Music and Performing Arts Center or NEMPAC, “Namaste Sober” the practice of yoga for support, and  gymnastics expertise by GymnastX.

What excites Dan are all the additional opportunities to expand the menu of services and instruction.  It is those “opportunities for more” that invite  community involvement and input.

Dan’s plan is for equal parts  youth and adult programs. On any given day you can see a sampling of activities being enjoyed from the “Kids Club”, where children socialize and interact, to a serene  adult yoga class—which has been held outdoors near the Bunker Hill monument  on occasion. Children’s participation begins at 4 years of age. Their parents have a spot to chat and oversee the activities. The vibe is inclusive and fun.

You’ll find the Movement Lab on the second floor of 14 Green St., a beautiful old landmark building (circa 1791-1800).  The building, known as ‘Memorial Hall,’ has a long and noble history, as it was originally the Dexter mansion. Samuel Dexter was a member of President John Adams’ cabinet. The mansion changed hands several times over the years.

In 1887 it was sold for the 4th time to  the Abraham Lincoln Post 11, G.A.R. and in 1932 was deeded to Memorial Hall, Inc. for the benefit of all Charlestown veterans. 

From 1932 to the 90s the building slowly slipped into disrepair, narrowly avoiding demolition during the urban renewal frenzy of the ‘60s.  In the mid 1990s, a small group of veterans committed themselves to the building’s revitalization and the development of programs to assist veterans regardless of service or residence. 

There is a steadfast crew restoring this building with a history all their own. Much of the work is being done by the North Bennet School in the North End, being steered by the Friends of the Memorial Hall.

You will immediately note the care and expertise employed in the exterior restoration. The grounds, while not spacious, are home to a reverent  monument honoring six Charlestown heroes who gave their lives in Vietnam. A POW flag flies in the yard. It is a beautiful and somber space of reflection, lovingly revitalized to this next chapter.

The officers and members of the Abraham Lincoln Post are aligned with the upstairs Movement Lab, constructing Memorial Hall as home for the veterans’ organization, and a future center of community activity. These two passion projects  co-exist and complement each other   There’s “Lacrosse and Learning”  on the main floor, where kids enjoy reading and become better at it.  Next door are the offices of Memorial Hall, and the Veterans Outreach Program.

Under the enthusiastic. spirited management of Dan Scalia, progress at the Movement Lab  happens on a daily basis. His infectious smile, enthusiastic conversation, and voice that could deejay with ease, helps him run the show and wear a lot of hats. He likes that.  Whether it is social media, stopping neighbors on the street for a conversation, or keeping the schedule varied, Dan keeps the Movement Lab moving ahead.  “Think of it as an incubator and start-up”  with the community as the client, and the expert partners as the board.

Dan honors history and is eager to provide the community with the services they need.  The young and growing families of Charlestown have found a multi-faceted community center with top of the line instructors,  a no-nonsense approach, and reasonable cost. Added bonus? No need to fight traffic to exit the town.

             Dan’s biggest challenge is focusing on the most important things first, and his “to do” list is lengthy and ambitious. But all the work has one objective: to engage non- profit partners to deliver opportunities that strengthen the collective community. The objective is to have the Movement Lab ready with additional programs in late September. New partnerships are ongoing, in this “We Work” model for healthy living, play, and the arts. Check their website for updates.

As the renovations for both concepts near completion, the Hall can be rented for community events, and the Movement lab’s programming expanded for anyone who needs meeting space. The future possibilities are endless: clubs, film societies, other sports activities like pickle ball instruction, even dancing in the former dance hall.

If only the walls at 14 Green St. could talk. In a way they can. Dan, Jon, and the Friends of Memorial Hall are speaking for them. As Dan says, “Charlestown needs this building to come back to life.”

Well said, Dan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.