YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo

For Youth Development®
For Healthy Living
For Social Responsibility


Capital Campaign Phase I - Ross's Story

New Locker Room at Portage - For All!

"I want people to know that everything that everyone does to help me be independent is very, very appreciated." - Ross Kestler

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Pictured: Ross Kestler and Benjamin Schimmel

It's Mission Based

Meet Ross Kestler. Ross will tell you that he's been a regular at the Y way before the new accommodations were built (he's been working on self-improvement for quite a while), but it pleases him greatly to see the new locker room designed for people with physical limitations. The way he sees it, the barrier-free environment will inspire others like him to work toward their personal goals.

Ross was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a baby. He gets around in his wheelchair with assistance from his friend, Benjamin Schimmel. Together they do community volunteering, visit the library, meet new people and work out. Ross comes to the Y for a very specific reason: To literally build up his strength so that his body will allow him to live on his own.

At 35 years old, Ross tells of his own self-determination and hard work. Referring to the Y as his third home (his second is the WMU sports arena where he religiously follows the women's volleyball team) he makes the Y part of his daily, physical exercise routine so that someday soon, he will hopefully have met his goals:

  • to walk with a walker for a long period of time
  • to have a strong upper body so he can maneuver his chair alone (when he's not using the walker)
  • to have complete control of his foot, so he can drive
  • to build up his endurance so that he can live out his dream of being the head usher at his church (without getting tired)
  • and ultimately, to act on his growing confidence so he can move to Texas and be his own guy

"I want people to know that I have goals, and I am working hard toward them," Ross says. "I want people to know that all things are possible when you have faith - when you believe in yourself and you surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed.

"I want people to know that everything that everyone does to help me be independent is very, very appreciated.

And I can't wait to get to Texas!"