Physical challenges can’t stop man from making his push for YMCA

MARYSVILLE — Push, push, push. About once per second, Quinton Morris gripped the top of his wheelchair’s push rims with gloved hands. He powerfully propelled himself forward, moving more than his own weight and that of his manual chair. Behind him, chained to the wheelchair frame, was a 15-pound wooden box. Inside the box were two 5-pound dumbbells.

Push, push, push. Morris went around and around the gym’s perimeter Wednesday at the YMCA’s Marysville Family Branch. He smiled but stayed focused as he passed people gathered along one wall to cheer his effort.

Morris was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination. He has other disabilities, including vision problems. None of that stopped the 25-year-old Stanwood man from raising money for Y programs through his Draggin’ Dumbbells for Disabilities fundraiser.

He kept up his strenuous effort for about an hour Wednesday. Even before he started, about $800 had been raised for adaptive fitness programs at the Marysville Y. And more was being raised with every lap.

“It’s hard. There’s no coasting. If I do that, my shoulders hurt,” said Scott Ballenger, an adaptive fitness trainer at the Marysville Y who works with Morris. Ballenger, 57, also uses a wheelchair. A quadriplegic, Ballenger was 15 when he broke his neck diving into shallow water.

Money from the fundraiser will support adaptive swimming, dance and fitness programs at the Marysville Y, Ballenger said. “Our adaptive fitness training is inclusive. We’re alongside all the other Y members,” he said.

Morris lives in a Stanwood group home and takes Dial-A-Ride Transportation to the Marysville Y about four times a week. A graduate of special education programs in Stanwood, he has a job at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and has volunteered at a nursing home.

His Draggin’ Dumbbells for Disabilities event coincided with this week’s launch of the YMCA of Snohomish County’s annual community support fund-raising campaign, said Colleen Temple, the organization’s director of marketing and communications.

“The Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause,” campaign chairwoman Kelly Shepherd said in a statement released by the Y on Monday. “As a charity, we’re dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving our community’s health and well-being, and giving back and providing support to our neighbors,” said Shepherd, principal of Everett’s Sequoia High School.

The Y’s 2015 campaign goal is $1,381,000. That goal includes fund-raising efforts by the YMCA Board of Trustees, five local YMCA branches (Everett, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe/Sky Valley and Mukilteo), the Stanwood-Camano YMCA initiative office, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate.

Mary Bredereck, executive director of the Marysville branch, said her facility’s goal is $180,000.

Last year, the YMCA of Snohomish County’s financial assistance program, supported by contributions to its annual campaign and United Way of Snohomish County, provided $1,895,420 in direct financial assistance to 9,925 people. In addition, nearly $3,985,232 was provided in YMCA program subsidies.

JJ Frank, the Marysville Y’s associate executive director, was watching Morris pull the weighted box, which had carpet on its bottom to keep from scratching the gym floor.

“What I’m most proud about Quinton, he is making a difference in his community,” Frank said.

Before starting Wednesday’s effort, Morris said the Y helps him stay positive. “I realize I do have friends who have disabilities, and also that I can help them,” he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

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