Lifting through adversity: 21-year-old with cystic fibrosis inspires with weight training

Not many people go to the gym to 'gain' weight, Jared Wells is the exception. The 21-year-old isn't letting cystic fibrosis stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a bodybuilder.

Posted: Mar. 28, 2018 10:52 PM
Updated: Mar. 28, 2018 10:53 PM

Jared Wells was born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease, but over the last five years he started to get really sick.

"I would say about five years ago I started to get really bad," said Jared. "For some reason, when I was doing my medications nothing was healing right. I just kept getting sicker and sicker. I got really close a couple of times that I was not even sure I was going to bounce back and after that it seemed really tough to get out of it but eventually I made my way though and I'm here now."

Dealing with the disease at such a young age has been tough. "It's quite frightening and I never thought I would have to deal with it at that young of age because usually they say it's not until your 40's or 50's that it happens and for me I was dealing with it at about 18, 19. I was truly scared because I wanted to do a lot more."

Jared has a great support system that has been with him every step of the way.

"Thank you to my mom for being in my corner since day one and never giving up on me."

"You know you don't have a lot of really good people in your life, and Jared is one of them," said Vinny Donnelly.

Jared and Vinny became friends through school. They were roommates before Jared got really sick and had to be admitted to the hospital in Syracuse.

"Me and my Honda Civic used to go up and see him after work everyday. We almost lost him once or twice," added Vinny. 

"Vinny and I have known each other for quite some time now," said Jared. "To be honest, he's been a huge inspiration to me. He's definitely pushed me to be a better person every time and it means a lot. Mr. Donnelly and his family have always been supportive and have been so nice and generous to me."

Jared won his battle and eventually went home. He's doing so well his doctor cleared him to workout.

"A couple of months ago, Jared came and moved back in with me," said Vinny. "His doctors cleared him to workout and since then he's been non-stop and we're all really excited about."

"I was originally like, I just sit in my bed all day and play video games, and have nothing to do," said Wells. No real outlet. When he said I could start working out, I immediately told Vinny. He's like all right, you want to go to the gym at six in the morning? And I'm like yeah, yeah why not."

And those around Jared can already see an improvement in his health and his body.

"Oh it changed his whole life," said Vinny. "Jared has more energy throughout the day now. He breathes a lot better which is huge."

Jared started at about 120 pounds and in just a few weeks has gained five, six lbs.

"We started working together a couple of weeks ago. We'll see if we can fatten him up and get him bigger," said Bob Donnelly. Bob is Vinny's dad and the owner of Body Alive Fitness Center on Oneida Street in Utica.

"Every morning now we have an extra 30-40 people in the gym just to watch Jared workout. The kid is growing in the mirror. Everyday he makes progress because he has such low body fat. You can see all his muscles move."

Jared is dreaming big: "I would like to become a bodybuilder maybe compete. But as of right now just it's for myself."

As some of us have experienced, the first couple of gym sessions can be painful.

"I would say about the first 10 days, I was really sore but my body is getting used to it, it's not as bad you know," said Jared. "I'm able to go to bed and not be like owww."

With the help of social media, his story is touching millions of lives.

"If he doesn't have any excuse to hit the gym than I don't think anybody else could have one."

Jared is a little surprised by all the attention.

"I honestly didn't see that going anywhere and the next thing I knew there was 3 million views, 4 million and just going up. And I really do appreciate all the motivation and support that everyone is given me it's definitely getting me to get out of bed because I know a lot of people are looking to see the journey and I'm glad I can inspire a lot of people while doing it."

Vinny made a GoFundMe page to help Jared's fight. The money raised so far has been used to buy vitamins and protein shakes.

And if you thought this guy was inspiring already, there's more. Before his afternoon gym session, Jared also donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love.

"That was kinda tough. I was attached to my hair. I've been growing it out for a little bit and it got to a certain length, and I said you know what 'let me do something good with this.' I donated 4 ponytails worth to Locks of Love."

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