Man with cerebral palsy inspires others to give back

First Posted: 5/11/2015

Spend just a few moments with Matt Marcinek and you will quickly learn this his abilities far outweigh his disabilities.

When Matt, who has cerebral palsy, was born 31 years ago, a neurosurgeon told his parents that would be nonfunctional. He wouldn’t walk, talk or feed himself. It would be best if they placed him in a facility and not look back.

Myron and Renee Marcinek, of Peckville, disagreed.

Today Matt is an Eagle Scout, a competitive athlete and a teacher. He is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and a first degree brown belt in Judo. He is a coach and instructor at Scranton Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). He is a trainer and manager at his brother’s gym, NEPA Fit Club. He also works as a motivational speaker.

“I wear a lot of hats,” Matt said.

“My childhood was a lot like everybody else’s. I was very independent, but my teachers were afraid to let me do normal things, like go outside for recess. One time they called my parents in a panic, saying that I was on the floor. My parents asked them what I was doing and they said I was picking up a pencil. I was fine.

“Growing up, I actually found myself doing a lot of educating to help other people understand cerebral palsy.”

Cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular disorder that affects people in many different ways. For Matt, it affects his lower body and his left arm. But that didn’t stop him from becoming strong and athletic.

“My dad played football and my brother played baseball and football. I wrestled for Valley View my senior year, using my upper body strength to compensate for my lower body,” Matt said. “My brother and I were a little overweight as kids. Part of getting into athletics was to get fit. As we progressed, we used athletics as a tool to get into good shape.”

Matt’s brother, Mike, 32, is the owner of NEPA Fit Club on Business Route 6, Scranton-Carbondale Highway in Blakely. Both brothers attended Marywood University. Mike studied nutrition and dietetics and went on to earn a master’s degree in sports nutrition and exercise science.

“The more he got into strength training and cardio, that really became his passion,” Matt explained.

NEPA Fit Club will sponsor the fifth annual Fit Stock for a Cause. All proceeds from an entire weekend of fun events will benefit United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Children’s Early Intervention and Lekotek programs. Lekotek is a learning center and toy lending library serving children with special needs. The center offers techniques to enhance the child’s development and family relationships. Specially-adapted toys are used both at the center and at home, and playgroups are offered where parents can find support and children can feel included.

“Part of our mission statement is to give back to NEPA,” Mike said. “The concept of raising money for United Cerebral Palsy came because one of our staff here is a musician. First, we were going to do a workout outside with live music. Then we decided to make it an event and donate the money to charity. Because of Matt having cerebral palsy, giving all the proceeds to the local NEPA chapter of United Cerebral Palsy was the perfect fit.”

Last year, NEPA Fit Club’s Fit Stock for a Cause raised $8,207 for United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“We have clients that come into our gym with various disabilities,” Mike explained. “We work with young people from the ARC (for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities) and from St. Joseph’s Center. Some of our clients have cerebral palsy. Matt and I work with them on strengthening, on their gait, and to improve their balance, posture and range of motion.”

The fundraising will kick off with a pre-registration party at 5:30 p.m. on Friday May 29 at NEPA Fit Club. Nina’s Food Truck will be there, along with basket raffles and a dunk tank for the Fit Club’s coaches.

Next is the workout on Saturday, May 30 at Blakely Borough’s Recreation Field (formerly Mellow Park). Registration starts at 11 a.m. and the workout takes place at noon. It is a Metabolic Burn class that can meet the needs of anyone, from athlete to beginner.

The third phase of the weekend takes place at The Caverna, 602 Church St. in Jessup. There will be food, drinks and live music by the Jonny D. Band starting at 6 p.m.

The cost is $15 for either the workout or the party at The Caverna or $30 for both. Participants may register at the free Friday night open house or at either event on Saturday.

“It’s a great event,” said Scott Marion, long-time friend of Mike and Matt. “People don’t want to miss it.” Marion and his fiancé, Megan Hillebrand, both of Waverly, are members of NEPA Fit Club. “The challenges Matt has faced in his life have made him even more determined to succeed. He is an inspiration.”

“Cerebral palsy is an underfunded disease,” Matt said. “It’s not in the forefront of most people’s minds. We want to take it and bring it to the forefront, even if only for a few days.”

Those interested can call NEPA Fit Club at 570-840-2586 or email

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