MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Here’s a story that will lift you up. It’s about a weightlifter with a background that’s hard to believe.

Sometimes to understand where someone is at, you have to see where they’ve been. Matt Schafly is a buff 23 year old, but physically, he used to have some major barriers.

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“First grade or kindergarten, I realized the kids around me are able to walk, or run, or you know, chase other kids on the playground, and I could not participate,” Schafly said.

He has cerebral palsy, a condition that effects 1 in 345 kids in the United States, and can weaken and cause problems using muscles.

So the Missouri kid came to Minnesota to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, a place known for working with kids with CP. Schafly had brain procedures performed by pediatric surgeon Dr. Den Quanbeck.

“He had three orthopedic surgeries after that, with probably literally hundreds of episodes of therapy following those, and he just has such an amazing work ethic and a hopeful attitude,” Quanbeck said.

Matt Schafly (credit: CBS)

Schafly says Dr. Quanbeck was very encouraging, but there were times he felt overwhelmed.

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“I felt so powerless my whole life. It was a train wreck, and I just kind of wanted to take more control,” Schafly said. “So I knew I could control my body in a healthy way.”

At just 9 years old, he started lifting weights. At 23, he’s now made a career of it, as he runs a personal training business at a St. Louis gym.

“I have really high standards for myself, and I would like to get my clients to have that ability to be like, ‘OK, I’m never complete,’” Schafly said.

Dr. Quanbeck says she’s inspired by her patient.

“He’s a beast,” she said.

Schafly shows that a disorder that causes weakness does not have to affect your strength.

“I think I was put on this earth to inspire people who have my disability, who don’t have my disability, who want to learn how to work out who want to look like me or just be better,” he said.

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Schafly will always have cerebral palsy, as it’s a lifelong condition. He says he has pain in his body during workouts, but always pushes through.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield