Good Samaritan who lost his leg opens a special gym in Draper

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DRAPER — Something happened on I-80 that changed Alec McMorris's life forever.

"I looked up and saw it coming at me," he said.

The roads were icy that October day four years ago. McMorris was driving up I-80 East in Parleys Canyon when his cousin in the car in front of him, hit a guardrail.

McMorris stopped to help. He was attempting to move a tire from oncoming traffic to prevent another accident.

"It was just laying right in the middle of the road, and I was just trying to slide it to the shoulder," he said.

A driver in a white pick-up truck didn't see him in time. McMorris jumped, but his leg caught the truck's bumper.

"The next thing I remember is being in the grass, in the median," he said.

In the hospital, doctors worked to save his mangled leg. His body ravaged with infection, McMorris made the agonizing decision to amputate. As he struggled through the long days of recovery, McMorris saw glimpses of a new purpose.

"I believe I was saved for a reason," he said.

While learning to navigate life on one leg, McMorris discovered a need.

"You finish physical therapy and you're just kind of thrown back into the world rather than given somewhere where you can go to stay on top of your physical health and your mental health," he said.

Last June, McMorris founded Lionheart Health & Wellness for people like him who have adaptive needs and disabilities. His mission is to create a place where survivors can see what's possible and then give them the tools to achieve their dreams.

"I definitely went through a phase of, 'This is hard, I don't want to do anything.' And there are a lot of people who feel that way, they kind of feel like they've been forgotten about," McMorris said.

Lions are known for courage and strength. Lionheart Health & Wellness founder Alec McMorris is helping people discover those qualities within themselves with his gym in Draper. (Photo: KSL TV)
Lions are known for courage and strength. Lionheart Health & Wellness founder Alec McMorris is helping people discover those qualities within themselves with his gym in Draper. (Photo: KSL TV)

Lionheart is more than a gym; it's a community. Trainers work with clients on physical fitness goals, health and nutrition, as well as professional aspirations. They'll soon have support groups, too.

"When you're learning how to walk again for the first time in 21 years, that's tough on its own, and then you're trying to figure out your life after that," McMorris said.

It's $29.99 a month, the same as a typical gym membership. McMorris found during his search that the few other gyms like it, which are rare, charge thousands.

"Everybody's got their own struggle," he said.

McMorris' journey began several years before his accident. At West Jordan High School, he was a football star.

"I was decent, yes," he said. But he struggled academically.

When the scholarship offers didn't come, McMorris started down a self-destructive path of alcoholism. He said the day that could have ended him saved him.

I believe I was saved for a reason.

–Alec McMorris

After the accident, McMorris turned his life around, getting off alcohol and finding his purpose. "Losing my leg did save my life," he said.

Kyle Marchant is one of his first clients. His spine is twisted because of spina bifida, and he can't use his legs. McMorris and Lionheart are helping him achieve new heights. Marchant said, "(I'm) realizing I can do a lot of things in my life that I didn't think I could do before."

Like wheelchair motocross, a sport Marchant never dreamed possible.

McMorris is finding new goals back on the football field. Last fall, he coached Grantsville High to the second round of the football playoff.

Though McMorris' good Samaritan moment turned tragic, it led to a life mission. Now, he's lifting others with the strength of Lionheart.

"It's turned into something that has been so positive," he said. "I definitely had those dark placed like we talked about, but it pulled me out of that as well."

Lionheart Health & Wellness is open Monday and Wednesday evenings in Draper at 656 E. 11400 South. The staff does fundraising to cover costs for clients who can't afford to pay the monthly fee.


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Heather Simonsen
Heather Simonsen is a five-time Emmy Award-winning enterprise reporter for KSL-TV. Her expertise is in health and medicine, drug addiction, science and research, family, human interest and social issues. She is the host and producer of KSL-TV’s Positively 50+ initiative.


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