- Associated Press - Sunday, July 30, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - While growing up in Harris County, Jarret Buice was teased because of what cerebral palsy prevented him from doing. Now this 33-year-old Fortson resident motivates able-bodied folks because of what he does despite the congenital brain abnormality that impairs his movement and muscle control.

Thanks to his decade-long dedication to an exercise routine and the support he receives from the staff and members at the YMCA of Metropolitan Columbus, Buice grew strong enough to become “Boosie the Clown,” entertaining children at birthday parties and other events, such as the Uptown Columbus outdoor concerts on Friday nights.

While making balloon animals for kids at Summerville Baptist Church in Phenix City during a school-supply giveaway and carnival the night of July 19, Buice saw the smiles he created and gushed, “It just makes my heart light up.”

The teasing he received in elementary school prompted Buice to leave at home his leg braces, called ankle-foot orthoses. When he was 12 or 13 years old, he had surgery on his legs to strengthen his ligaments, “but I didn’t go through my physical therapy like I was supposed to, and that threw my balance off real bad,” he said.

Approximately 10 years ago, Buice committed to working out at the YMCA. Since then, he has progressed in the following ways:

? From needing help to go from machine to machine to making the transitions mostly on his own.

? From relying solely on a walker or a wheelchair to sometimes walking with crutches and standing unaided. He walks with his crutches approximately a quarter-mile on the YMCA’s indoor track.

? From not being able to do one pull-up to doing 10 without stopping.

? From not being able to leg press 5 pounds to leg pressing 20-25 pounds.

Buice used to bench press as much as 175 pounds, but back pain prompted him to focus on more reps with lighter weight. So he bench presses 40-50 pounds now.

“I don’t let nothing hold me back,” he said.

Buice exercises at the John P. Thayer YMCA for one or two hours five or six days per week. Doctors have told him, he said, “If I wasn’t doing that, I wouldn’t be walking today.”

Andie Blanchard, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the YMCA, called Buice “one of our special members. We love Jarret. They don’t get any better than Jarret.”

Then she explained why.

“Jarret is the definition of perseverance,” Blanchard said. “I’ve never heard him complain. He’s humble, but he comes in here and works himself ragged. So it’s hard for other people to complain when they see Jarret pushing as hard as he pushes.”

To develop perseverance, Buice said, “Just don’t never give up in life, and always look up to the Lord and always say your prayers. . I’ve been down the road of giving up a few times, but I told myself, ‘I’m not going to never get nowhere in life by giving up, so I’ve got to always stay positive and stay focused.”

About three years ago, retired Russell County teacher John Donohue was walking on the YMCA’s indoor track when he saw Buice “take a nose dive” while using a railing to stand. Donohue ran over to him, but Buice declined his help and pulled himself up.

“A lot of people have a can-do attitude… but even when he knows, physically, ‘I can’t do this,’ his attitude is, ‘I will do it,’ ” said Donohue, a Phenix City Board of Education member.

Donohue said he is among “dozens” of YMCA members who are motivated by Buice’s soaring spirit. Charles Adams is another one.

Adams, a retired Russell County tax commissioner and former Alabama state legislator, got Buice the gig at Summerville Baptist Church after befriending him at the YMCA.

“His attitude is just so upbeat,” Adams said. “He’s so positive and pleasant. It could get most folks down, but it hasn’t him.”

Soaking in the scene at the church, Adams gestured toward the line of children waiting to interact with Buice and said, “You can see what a hit he is. The kids, when they came in the door, they didn’t look at any of these games that are set up. They just went straight over to him.”

The “Boosie the Clown” name comes from Buice’s nickname, which the 2003 graduate of Harris County High School received as a child because friends mispronounced his last name. Around the time he started exercising a decade ago, Buice dressed as a scary clown for a Halloween party at a buddy’s house. For fun, he rode around the neighborhood in a motorized wheelchair to scare kids. Somebody handed him a chain saw to elevate the horror level.

The next morning, he woke up with a bad feeling about that night. He realized, “I could put that clown outfit on and make them kids smile instead. . It was a message from God.”

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