Common interest in physical activity and sport plants goal-setting seed
Lisa Bailey

For a few times a week every week for 19 years, one-on-one life skills worker Mark Walser and Ken have been spending time together.

They “laugh all the time” and enjoy each other’s company while sharing a common interest in sport and physical activity, as well as watching movies, going to the beach and participating in other activities.

In the gym especially they’ve bonded, and Mark has seen Ken gain confidence and self-esteem as he sets and accomplishes various goals.

“Ken is probably my best friend,” he says.

“I’ve been with Ken for so long and spent so much time with him and with what’s developed from that, I would say he and I are best friends.”

Like any friend, Mark says he likes “to see Ken’s success and see Ken happy.”

Mark and Ken were a good match when Mark entered Ken’s life to be a positive male influence following the death of Ken’s father.

Mark’s interest in body building had him in the gym. Ken, who skated and enjoyed all types of sports, wanted to hit the gym with Mark.

Today, Ken is “the strongest guy in our gym,” Mark says, adding his friend can bench press 425 pounds.

“He and I are driven to succeed,” Mark says.

“This love for physical fitness has really made us very strongly connected. We both love what we do.”

Achieving greater physical fitness and strength has inspired Ken, along with the friendships he’s made with community members.

“It’s a win-win. He sees all of these successful people that succeed in the gym and all of their accomplishments and he wants to be part of that, he is a part of that,” Mark says.

“He sees his own success and he sets new goals for himself all the time and accomplishes those goals.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in Ken is the way he carries himself with the increase in his self-confidence and self-esteem, which has really allowed him to get where he is today and accomplish a lot of things he’s done in both sport and life,” Mark says.

Ken, for example, ramped up his skating training and went on to win the World Special Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

Ken, who never uses the word special, just Olympic, has also won more than 30 B.C. Special Olympic medals in a variety of sports.

Ken also graduated from a college diploma program and has held a long-time job at a restaurant.

“Everything he’s developed in the gym and in our relationship he projects to everything else in life – the way he treats other people, his family,” Mark says.

“He doesn’t have the word ‘no’ in his vocabulary.”

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