GARDEN CITY, Mich. (WXYZ) — Jumping on the treadmill or riding a bike might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but for people with special needs and physical challenges, it can be a major feat, especially with off the assembly-line equipment.
Aaron Alexander isn’t even out of high school yet but when it comes to caring for his older sister Iyonna, he takes things really seriously. When he noticed the big gap in what was available to her for simple things like exercise, he knew he needed to do something.
“In the long run, I’m hoping to open up a gym,” Aaron said.
He wants to open a gym filled with adaptive equipment made especially for people like Iyonna, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 4 and suffers from epilepsy.
At 15, a brain tumor required major surgery and her mobility has never been the same.
“I had to become her big brother and help her around the house, take her up the stairs,” Aaron said.
Before Aaron’s long-term dream comes to fruition, he’s taking an important first step alongside his older sister.
In January, he and his family launched the IMAJ Foundation, which was inspired by Iyonna to raise money for new or gently used exercise equipment designed with physical challenges in mind.
“She can’t use a treadmill, so she could have like safety rails or something she could hold on to while she’s walking,” Aaron said.
Their first fundraiser was Sunday at Garden City Park. The event had bounce houses, live music and local vendors who donated their time to help support the family’s mission of making their own community a little more inclusive, so that people like Iyonna have more options aside from at-home care and physical therapy.
Both of which can be expensive, and during COVID-19 became that much harder to access, said Aaron and Iyonna’s mom Letif Alexander-Brown said.
“I was just so encouraged of how he does put forth the effort and wanted to do things for individuals with special needs,” Letif said.
The IMAJ Foundation has also collected mobility equipment that they donate to families who aren’t able to get their own.
Exercise is important for this family. Aaron’s headed off to the university of Massachusetts next year to play football. Staying active is something he and Iyonna frequently do together.
“He’s like her right hand man,” the kids’ mother said.
The IMAJ Foundation is working with local volunteers to help them reach their goals. They hope to make this fundraiser an annual event, so that people like Iyonna can keep moving forward.