STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - Fitness can change more than someone's physical appearance; it can bring a whole new outlook on life. That's what an extraordinary gym in Macomb County has done for children and adults, who have disabilities or special needs.
Danny grew up one of seven kids. He was born with cerebral palsy, causing severe mental and physical challenges. His life has been a constant struggle to communicate and move. As he got older, it got worse. His loved ones were anticipating he'd soon be in a wheelchair.
But everything changed when they discovered Inclusively Fit, a gym in Sterling Heights that caters to kids and adults with disabilities and special needs.
Danny struggled to walk through their front door and now, a year and a half later, he's running! It's exactly what gym owner Mark Ralko had dreamed of.
"When Dan first came here he was using his walker, and then after he was done using his walker he was using his cane, and then after the cane he was able to go on his own and run," Ralko says. On top of the added mobility, Danny has lost over 60 pounds.
Often Danny crosses paths at the gym with 9-year-old Elijah Gardner. He's on the autism spectrum and struggles socially but here, at the gym, he has blossomed. He considers his trainer Bryan his best friend.
"I mean they talk; they even talk outside of the gym. He texts him, checks in on him, FaceTime each other, so it is like his big brother," says Michelle Gardener.
For both Danny and Elijah, their accomplishments have gone way beyond the gym. Elijah was picked to participate in the Macomb County Special Olympics.
"I was in tears all day. I love how he interacted with other children his age and even older, going up and speaking. It was awesome," Gardener says.
And Danny, on a rainy day in May, surrounded by family and friends, for the first time in his life competed in a race! You can see video in the video player above that shows the joy on his face after he completed his one-mile journey.
"It was one of the best experiences in my personal and professional life," Ralko says. "Just to see Dan smile and flex his muscles after he was done with his race that was the best part about it. Having his whole family there coming in from all over the country to see that race, it was a tremendous experience. And for me personally it was very touching and that is what Inclusively Fit is all about. Everyone is fully included here that is what we are all about."
Inclusively Fit is a 5,000 square foot gym that focuses on the physical, the social and the psychological benefits of fitness. For more information on the gym, visit www.inclusivelyfit.com. You can also call at 586-850-5004 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.