The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Steve Keyser & Josh Garrison

Making Great Strides after Stroke


When Steve Keyser met Y personal trainer Josh Garrison, he couldn’t get around without using his wheelchair. After working with Josh for the past two years, the results have been amazing. Steve no longer totally depends on his wheelchair. He uses his cane more and takes numerous steps alone.


“The doctors can’t help me with my physical fitness; I have to help myself,” says Steve, who had a serious stroke in early 2014. “That’s why I came to the YMCA; Josh has been extremely helpful.” Following his stroke, Steve underwent three brain surgeries. He spent more than three months in a nursing home and worked with physical therapists, before going home.


Today Steve’s wife Jeanne and caregiver Kassandra Bennett marvel at Steve, walking confidently on the Y track. They’re impressed with his improved posture and endurance. They credit Josh, a Y trainer for 13 years, for his professionalism and ability to motivate Steve. “We’re very proud of Steve and very grateful for Josh and the YMCA,” says Jeanne. She and Steve have been married for 27 years; they have two grown sons.  


Steve remains very diligent and willing, despite the pain and intense effort, to follow Josh’s individualized workout plans each session. Twice a week for an hour, Josh coaches Steve to strengthen his body, using various weight lifting exercises. “It’s all hard work,” Steve says. As they look around the Wellness Center, Steve proudly says, “There’s nothing I haven’t tried.”


Steve and Josh have made clear progress together. “The first time I had Steve do the leg press machine, I had to hold his foot,” Josh says. “Now he can use the leg press on his own.” Another important milestone is Steve has gained back enough strength to lift himself up from the floor level. That’s vital for Steve’s safety, in case he would lose his balance and fall. After his workout in the Wellness Center, Steve insists on using the stairs, rather than the elevator, another example of his improved physical fitness. “Without Josh and the YMCA, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Steve says.


In addition to two days of personal training, Steve visits the Y four other days a week to complete cardio exercises. He found that his relationship with Josh was the beginning of other friendships at the Y. “The fun part for me is the people,” Steve says. “Everyone, including the staff, is so friendly.” Socialization is as important for Steve’s mental and physical health as his exercises. He’s made many new friends and often sees his old friends at the Y, including those from his career as a retired railroad conductor. Steve also points out that his 1-year-old dog Riley has been a great companion for him since they brought him into their family about six months ago.


Steve has been well-known for his love of antique cars. One of Steve’s goals working with Josh is to drive a car again. “I miss being what I was before the stroke, but I’m working with Josh to get as close as I can to what I could do,” Steve says. “I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get better.”

– by Kim Seidel, writer/editor, Seidel Ink LLC