LivAbility Magazine

Edition 14 | Fall 2018

A man has a grey mustache and brown hair that is just beginning to follow the mustache’s lead in turning color. The man is wearing a black t-shirt and charcoal-colored swim trunks. He is sitting on a white lifeguard stand that is covered by a navy blue umbrella. In his lap sits an iconic, red lifeguard buoy. Below him, sky blue water sparkles as the ripples catch the day’s sunlight. Behind him, a steel fence can be seen. Vines have grown up the fence, giving the pool an almost tropical feel.

Story by Matt Lively
Photo by Christian Guerithault

Michael Stewart has seen miracles.

“Don’t ask me how, but I’ve watched people walk who have never walked,” he said.

Stewart is a lifeguard at Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center, and he watches over the therapy pool a mere yards away from his lifeguard chair. Stewart has been around for more than three years. He came to 360 for recreational physical therapy and never left.  “I’ve watched people walk after accidents,” he said. “With therapy and the right conditions here, it is a great place.”

Stewart served in the United States Marines from 1976 to 1980. The VA recommended Ability360 to him as a way to get out of the house. He went from being a member, to a volunteer, to an employee.

“I loved it,” he said. “Once you come here, you feel like you are part of being normal. Everyone here is nice. You’re accepted to be here.”

Stewart has followed the path of a few other employees. Gus Lazear, the vice president and general manager of the Sports & Fitness Center, makes it a point to hire volunteers.

“Starting as member and becoming staff is a great transition,” he said. “The ownership and passion they have for the department is beyond evident. They also have firsthand knowledge before their first day and also have great ideas for continuous improvement.”

By offering a discounted rate for their gym, Ability360 has been able to keep veterans involved in many sports and recreation activities.

“If every disabled vet could come here, they need to come here,” he said. “Once you’re here, you’ll always come back. It’s one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever been to.”

At the end of the day, Stewart has ultimately stuck around Ability360 because of the people. Between the miracles he has watched with his own two eyes and the daily conversation he gets to have with his new and regular swimmers, it’s all worth it for him.

Matt Lively

Matt Lively
Writer / Videographer

Matt Lively is a Senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Originally from South Florida, he has lived in the Valley for three years. His first love is sports and aspires to be a sports broadcaster and story teller in the future.

Read more by Matt Lively.

Portrait of Christian Guerithault

Christian Guerithault 
Photographer / Videographer 

Christian Guerithault is a Senior at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. He majors in Sports and Media Studies through ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Christian is a native of Phoenix, Arizona and has two older brothers. He loves the NBA, NFL, soccer, and the UFC. Christian hopes to one day work in the front office of a professional sports team.

See more by Christian Guerithault.