AURORA | As a disabled kid looking for something to do, Seb Holiday didn’t want to swim. He wanted more.
Thanks to the determined Aurora teenager, area disabled and abled residents will have options at the teen’s namesake recreation center.
Seb, 16, came up with the idea for a recreation center for disabled people four years ago after finding out there was no option for him when he went to a rec center where his father, Keithan Holiday, was teaching classes. Sebian, who goes by Seb, was diagnosed with myotonic muscle disorder when he was about 3 years old, which has caused severe scoliosis in his body which prevents him from moving on his own. When doctors made that diagnosis, they have Seb at most six years to live.
Seb, now a sophomore at Vista PEAK Preparatory, said it was more than just frustrating that he couldn’t participate in any activities besides swimming at the place his father worked.
“It was unfair. There should be a recreation center for disabled people just like there is for able-bodied people. And four years later, we have this,” Seb said. “It’s kind of crazy that this happened. A lot people people gave helped make this happen.”
When Seb told his father his frustration, it set off a four-year journey for Keithan of countless hours of work to make sure the vision Seb had for a rec center for all would be a reality.
Keithan has been working to raise money with the help of outside groups including Aurora Frontier P-8, where Seb attended, and Vista PEAK. And for the past nine months, he’s been the source of almost all the work that’s gone into making the corner space in a shopping center at South Buckley Road and East Mexico Avenue into a fully functional rec center. And all of that while working a full-time job as a fitness instructor.
While the center‘s doors are open and it is stocked with video games in a media room, activities like arts and crafts, and services like aromatherapy, it is still in need of exercise equipment that is capable of serving both disabled and able-bodied clients. Keithan Holiday said he wants to purchase all five of the planned pieces of equipment at the same time to get a discount on the purchase. But the cost will still be around $15,000.
So in the meantime, the center is opening up to help create buzz and raise money to help with the purchases.
While almost all of the construction in the rec center was done by Keithan, he’s had to find help to get through city requirements for construction and permitting. And with a limited budget, Keithan said he believed this project is blessed because everytime they hit a wall, he would meet someone who could help him navigate an issue without breaking the project’s budget.
“This has been on God’s time that this has happened. Anytime it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen, I was blessed to meet the people I needed to to make this come together,” Keithan said. “(I kept going) because of my son. Hearing his diagnosis and knowing he’s not going to be around longer than me, that’s not supposed to happen. No one wants to see their kids leave before them. I wanted to have something that would be important for my son to be a part of while he’s here. I wanted people to be encouraged by him. He’s deteriorating everyday and his will is just amazing, he does it with a smile.”
Every time his hands would hurt, the blisters on his feet would start acting up or the lack of sleep would get to him, Keithan said all he had to do was think of his son and the attitude when he attacked each day. Even when he was sick to his stomach and throwing up, Seb would refuse not to go to school. It was what he loved doing and he wasn’t going to be stopped from doing it. And so neither was Keithan.
Seb said he hoped this center would be such a success that the model could be copied in different cities, states and countries. While a building might have a ramp or a elevator to help disabled people get in and out, too often the needs of disabled people are never thought of when people are planning things.
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the disabled. They don’t see them,” Seb said. “(The rec center) is really important because disabled people should be treated equally. They shouldn’t have to worry about being different. And when they come here they can meet people and see other people like them.”
To find out more about the rec center visit www.sebsrec.org. To learn more about the fundraising efforts to help furnish it with equipment, visit www.gofundme.com/sebsequipment.