The satisfaction of helping others inspires Joanne DeLuca, of Darien.

Her journey has taken her from the cerebral intensity of corporate law to the demanding but joy-filled physical challenges of exercise instruction and emergency medical technician training.

A native of South Africa, DeLuca came to the United States 18 years ago to attend law school and get a master's degree in international banking. Before long, she found herself practicing corporate law in Boston, then later in New York City.

"My husband was one of my clients when I was practicing law in New York," she said. "That's the only way you can meet someone when you're working seven days a week."

And after refusing to date him, she eventually married Jon DeLuca in 2002. The two have a son, Alex, 7, and a daughter, Julia, 10.

DeLuca found that family life didn't sync well with the corporate lifestyle. She tapered off her law work over time, but ultimately found she wanted something to replace that void. Further, around that time the sickness and subsequent death of her father left her feeling very low.

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What she found was Zumba -- the Latin-based dance exercise discipline that became popular over the past decade. Her sincere love of Zumba is readily apparent when she discusses its impact on the modern workout.

"It has really revolutionized the fitness industry," she said. "It has taken so many people that would never, ever have gone to work out ... and it has sort of created a form of exercise that people just love.

"It really just lifted my spirits. I wasn't very fit at all at the time, (but) I was taking more interest in my body and my health. ... People kept saying to me, `Why don't you just go and teach?' " she said.

DeLuca did, and with great success. For the past year-and-a-half, she's found a home at Flair Fitness in Darien, where she's one of the most popular instructors, teaching five classes a week.

"There's something really rewarding about knowing that people are coming to work out because they love your class," she said.

"Joanne DeLuca is an amazing Zumba instructor," said Michelle Gedney, of Darien, who's taken classes with her for more than a year. "She has found a way to ensure her students get an incredible workout while truly having a blast.

"There is so much positive energy flowing in her classes," she said. "You can't help but feel empowered and full of happiness by the time you are finished."

DeLuca said part of her success involves "tweaking" the pace of the class to make it have higher impact. "The women around here all wanted a very high-intensity class, so I sort of took it and modified it to tailor the needs of the people," she said.

"I keep a very, very high intensity form of the class," she said. "It is not an easy workout. It's not for the light-hearted, but it is incredibly fun."

Having transformed her own body and health to a great extent, DeLuca decided to take her interest in the physical form to the next level. Three years ago, she began volunteering at Post 53 as an EMT.

"I just took the class," she said, finding it "very difficult and a lot of work." But the more she learned in the areas of health and emergency treatment, the more interested she became.

"It's amazing," she said of the group, which is primarily staffed by high school students. "These kids work so hard and they are so unbelievably dedicated."

"She's got a lot of energy," said Ron Hammer, director of Post 53. "She is very dedicated and interested in the program."

Along with bringing her intuitive skills as a parent along to interact with the younger volunteers, Hammer said DeLuca continues to show what he sees as a long-term interest in the post.

"She has a sense of wanting to develop over the years with the organization," he said. "She's building a very strong sense of service and I think she'll be a member for a long time."

DeLuca downplays her work there, saying a lot of it involves "hand holding" for people in distress, many of whom are seniors.

"A lot of going to an emergency call is about providing emotional support," she said. "People are scared and feel uncomfortable and awkward about having called 9-1-1."

Of her commitment to help, DeLuca said, "You've got to give back. I'm in a fortunate position now where I don't have to work full time."

Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.