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Ellisville martial arts class for Down syndrome athletes makes impact

"I've been saying this for the last 10 or 12 years, I see more hugs on the night that these guys do class than I do the rest of the week combined."

ELLISVILLE, Mo. — Once a week at the St. Louis Family Martial Arts Academy in Ellisville, 30 to 40 teens and adults with Down syndrome get to escape into a world with no constraints— just fun.

Dwight Trower is the teacher and owner, and he originally wanted to spend his life working on cars. Instead, he's impacting lives.

"I've been saying this for the last 10 or 12 years, I see more hugs on the night that these guys do class than I do the rest of the week combined," Trower said.

But these classes are no breeze, and these athletes are serious about their craft.

"He works us as a dog. He makes us sweat every time," student Joseph Neimeyer said.

"Really the challenge with our students with Down syndrome is getting them to make contact. Because they're so nice and so gentle that they don't want to hurt each other," Trower said.

Some of these athletes have been doing this for decades, and their dedication and good attitudes have made an impact on their teacher, too.

"In the English language we use superlatives all the time. We say something is 'amazing' or 'awesome'. I get to see something almost every class with these guys that really is awe-inspiring. It's really heartwarming to see some of the stuff these students can do. And I just think we should all do something to make a difference," Trower said.

But at the end of the day, it's all about having fun.

"I'm off on Wednesdays, so I just come here and compete every time. I love it here. It's fun. It keeps me energetic. It gets me tired at night, but it is so worth it," Neimeyer said.

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