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Local gym specializes in helping people with disabilities move

Posted at 12:01 AM, Jul 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 12:48:26-04

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Inside the Motion Project in Cheektowaga, 24 year-old Dawson Broad is strapped into a $700,000 adaptable walking pad, exercising his legs.

“I was pretty active before,” he said, referring to an accident on July 4, 2021.

Broad says he was celebrating his birthday at a friend’s pool, when he dove in and hit his head. The 24 year-old suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and has been rehabbing his body ever since.

“From where we started, not being able to get out of bed on my own, to being able to crawl on my own—and we’re only just so far,” he said of his progress. “I’m going to walk again.”

Broad is one of the many clients who come to the Motion Project on Genesee Street. It’s an adaptable gym for people with disabilities, a dream of owner Natalie Barnhard.

“Praying about it, where my life should go, I felt like God just gave me the passion to do this,” she said.

In 2004, Barnhard was injured while working as a physical therapy assistant when a 600 pound machine fell on top of her.

Since then, she’s spent years recovering, but found herself having to move away from Buffalo to get the continued care she needed after physical therapy ended.

“Often physical therapy will end well before we’re ready to be done. Insurance kind cuts you off and says ‘that’s it, that’s all you’re going to get.’ When I was told I was done I couldn’t even touch by face, I couldn’t eat. Now I can do my makeup and push my manual wheelchair.”

She says people with disabilities need to move and exercise muscle groups constantly, and feel empowered-but until now, had no where to go that offered this specialized state-of-the-art equipment so close to home.

“We have all these gyms on each and every corner for able bodied people,” she said. “But where does somebody with a disability get lifelong health and wellness? Here, we want people to move.”

It was Barnhard’s experience and story that drove her to build the Motion Project. The adaptable gym with special equipment provides a place for people with disabilities to move and sweat. Clients range from those with spinal cord injuries, to traumatic brain injuries, to stroke patients and those suffering from MS.

“It just feels good to get back into life,” Broad said.

The gym has several trainers who work with customers on different specialized machines.

Barnhard says her journey has come full circle- from being a therapist, to being a patient, now to helping others heal.

“I always say I’m recovered because I’m living life, and I think that’s just what we want for people, to live their best life.”

You can find out more about the Motion Project by clicking here.