Steve Ferreira never gives up.
He’s a motivational speaker and executive director of the non-profit he founded called Beyond Disabilities.
He’s also a beast in the gym, slamming 25-pound battle ropes on the ground and pulling 140 pounds on a weight sled.
Not bad when you’re 5’2”, 120 lbs., and use a wheelchair.
Steve’s workouts inspire everyone at the gym.
“It gives you no excuse,” said Dennis Ha, Steve’s friend and frequent workout partner. “If Steve can do it, I can do it.”
Michael Kelley saw that determination too and offered to lend a hand.
“I saw Steve at the gym and I said hi. I said, do you need help, and I helped him,” said Michael, matter-of-factly.
Michael soon became Steve’s unlikely trainer - unlikely, because Michael’s not a trainer at all. He spent 28 years at Associated Grocers loading and unloading trucks, but arthritis forced him into retirement.
“Your body’s going to tell you what you can do and what you can’t do,” he said.
And that’s why he understands Steve.
“He’s trying to push himself as hard as he can go and do it safely,” said Michael.
Michael and Steve are now in the gym together at 8 a.m. every morning, Monday through Friday. Michael doesn’t get paid a penny.
“He doesn’t go easy at all," said Steve. "He knows how hard I work out and he knows what my potential goals are for the future. He just wants the best for me.”
Steve’s mom, Mary Ann, is grateful.
“Steve’s been so lucky to have so many mentors in his life, and Michael’s now one of them,” she said.
She adopted Steve and his twin sister from Taiwan right after they were born. But she started noticing when he was 3 months old that he wasn’t moving the way his twin sister was.
“He seemed to be more stiff,” she said.
The diagnosis: Cerebral Palsy.
“It’s scary,” said Mary Ann. “You don’t know what it means and how you’re going to deal with it.”
Other kids bullied him.
“Growing up was different,” said Steve, “because people tend to view my appearance as weak, and people then pick on me. When people view me as weak, I use that as motivation and I prove them wrong.”
That proof now hangs around his neck. Steve won four gold medals this year. Two golds at the US Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, two at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix Desert Challenge Games, both in shotput, and another track and field event called Club. He also broke two records and had to take a drug test!
Now he’s aiming to qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Michael won’t take credit, but he does take pride in Steve’s achievements.
“It makes me feel good,” Michael said. “He calls me up and tells me, I just got two gold medals! And I might be having a crappy day, and oooh, that’s wonderful! That’s what I’m talking about! And I’ve got a smile on my face and I get to show people 'cause he’ll send me a picture. That’s what I’m talking about!”
That’s why he puts in the work.
“For Michael, who has some health issues, for him to be able to help someone else, I think it fills him up," said Steve’s mom, Mary Ann.
It turns out, Steve’s not the only one with the big heart.
Michael’s got one heart too.
But they’re stronger together.