KUSA - In a place where he wasn't supposed to be, Maceo Thomas never wants to leave.
"Oh, I found it by accident," Thomas said.
Thomas was looking for a medical supply store in Lakewood when he accidentally went into the Rocky Mountain Karate Association. The owner of the karate school, Hale Hilsabeck, remembers watching Thomas slowly make his way, barely able to move with cane.
"Maceo weighed 318 pounds when he first came in," Hilsabeck said. 'Moving, literally, a few inches about two or three inches at the time."
Thomas is blind in his right eye. He is missing fingers on one hand. He had a very bad back and had been battling complications from diabetes for years.
"And, he said, he always wanted to take karate and so I decided, why not?" Hilsabeck said.
Scott Slama also attended the Rocky Mountain Karate Association. Slama quickly became friends with Thomas and started training with him.
"I couldn't believe someone in his shape wanted to," Slama said.
Slama and Hilsabeck started training Thomas hard.
"I thought I bit off more than I could chew," Thomas said.
Hilsabeck says Thomas' determination surprised him.
"I was enthused because he kept on showing up," Hilsabeck said. "I kinda figured after the first couple or three times that he was there, that he might disappear. But, no."
Five years later, Thomas still comes every week to train with Slama and kickbox with Hilsabeck, all for free.
'Very rare, you find people like that anymore that want to help you," Thomas said.
Thomas has lost dozens of pounds. He can now walk without a cane.
"My coach told me what to do and try to walk without it," Thomas said. "Made up my mind to do it, so I just did it."
His back is strong and he can now shuffle, move, deliver power-packed punches.
"Don't judge people until you know them," Slama said. "I never would've thought five years ago that he'd be in the shape that he is now."
Hilsabeck says he will keep training Thomas as long as he continues to come.
"Desire, effort, and patience are the three things that I think are necessary to achieve anything you want," Hilsabeck said. "Maceo is the epitome of that."
Thomas is happy that he walked into the wrong business that day five years ago.
"Strange things happen for reason, you know, we don't understand," Thomas said. "I'm glad it happened. I'm real glad it happened."
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