Marty Sheedy is a 26-year-old Wyandotte resident who wants to change lives for the better.
Upon meeting someone, he will offer a hug and explain that he is just a normal guy who likes to spend time with his family and close friends, despite a congenital condition that has caused him to walk cross-legged.
He is working on being the center of a film, running a campaign and heading a foundation to help other people with disabilities.
If you ask him what his everyday challenges are, he will say he can’t reach things in high cabinets and then laugh.
His boastful laugh is surprising and contagious. It’s unsuspecting that a man who stands under 5 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds can release such a boastful chuckle.
“It’s OK to laugh at yourself,” he will say. His hands move a lot when he talks.
Sheedy’s condition, arthrogryposis, is the reason he walks his own walk and also his motivation to inspire everyone to conquer challenges.
His upbeat personality and positive outlook on life has spiraled into a personal quest for Sheedy: to become a motivational speaker and inspire others.
“The way you look at your life is how your life looks,” said Sheedy, with a smile as per usual.
Sheedy doesn’t remember every place his parents took him as a child to try and get a diagnosis, but he knows there were a lot.
“I was young, really little,” Sheedy explained. “Doctors were telling my mom and dad that I would never walk, but they didn’t accept that and finally found somewhere that could help me.”
The Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago diagnosed young Sheedy with arthrogryposis, prune belly syndrome and scoliosis.
Arthrogryposis is a neuro-muscular skeletal disorder that is marked by stiffness and contractures of bones that occurs in about one in every 3,000 live births. Because of the condition, Sheedy’s hips are dislocated, which explains the ease of walking with his legs crossed.
“Arthrogryposis is a condition in the joints and mucles that affects everyone differently,” Sheedy explained.
“Some have mobility and some don’t. I’m so fortunate with my mobility.”
Prune belly syndrome is a birth defect that leads to poor development of the abdominal muscles, causing the skin of the stomach-area to wrinkle like a prune. It affects about one in every 40,000 births.
Sheedy has had multiple surgeries on his feet, stomach and spine. He uses a walker when he will be walking for a long time.
He graduated from Edsel Ford High School in 2005. His friend, Nolan, carried him on his back across the stage.
Sheedy won't complain about his childhood, but instead will brag about his great friends and family members who helped him get where he is today.
Walking His Own Walk
Sheedy’s crossed-legged walk is known as “scissors gait.” It’s how he keeps his balance and keeps up with others.
When he tries to walk with his legs straight, his movements are short and slow him down.
Because of his fondness of scissors gait, Sheedy named his foundation the Project Scissors Gait Foundation.
Sheedy also launched a campaign recently called “Walk the Walk” to raise money to do a documentary film that he hopes will help others with disabilities.
“Marty has a really great attitude and a lot of motivation,” said Bill Mealbach, family friend and local filmmaker who will be doing the documentary of Sheedy.
“He never takes things too personally and has one of the absolute best attitudes I’ve ever seen,” Mealbach said.
“He doesn’t get upset about being different. He embraces his walk and wants to help others, not just others with arthrogryposis, but others in general.”
Sheedy said the campaign is dear to him.
“It’s a campaign called ‘Walk the Walk.’ It’s literally how I live my life,” he said.
Marty the Puppet
When Sheedy was about 7-years-old, he was out with his mom when a younger child spotted him.
“The little kid pointed at me and then said, ‘Look Mom, it’s a puppet,’” Sheedy explained.
“I looked at my mom and laughed and said, ‘Mom, that kid called me a puppet!’”
Sheedy said the puppet image has stuck with him and is now an icebreaker for when he gives speeches or is talking with people.
He has already begun his journey of becoming a motivational speaker. Before taking the stage recently, Sheedy went to a makeup studio in Howell to be done-up as a wooden puppet.
“I went out on stage and told the story. The crowd was pretty quiet until I told them it was OK to laugh, and then they all laughed. We all laughed together,” Sheedy said, chuckling.
“It was great. We just decided that if I was going to include that in the speech, it was be cool to turn me into a puppet. And we did it and they loved it,” he said.
Since the campaign launched, Sheedy’s friends – and some people he doesn’t know – have started taking pictures with signs that read “Please help Marty Walk the Walk.”
He has pictures of his friends and celebrities he has met holding the signs on the Facebook page he created to track the film.
One of his favorites, Sheedy said, is a picture from a soldier in Afghanistan who sent of a picture of himself holding up a large ‘Walk the Walk’ sign.
Marty’s Future: Friends, Family, Filming
“My family support is the real reason I am like I am today,” Sheedy said.
“My friends and family have provided major support. They are my backbone,” he added.
Sheedy doesn’t like watching much television.
“I would rather be out with people than sitting at home. I like to spend time with people. I go out to events with friends or watch movies with friends. I love spending time with my friends. I have gotten a lot of help and support from them,” he said.
Sheedy said his big focus right now is raising funds for the documentary.
They have shot a few scenes of it, including the puppet speech.
Mealbach said he thinks Sheedy’s story will touch millions of hearts. His daughter, Meghann, went to preschool with Sheedy. She is directing the film.
The Mealbachs did a short film on Sheedy when he was in high school called “What It’s Like to be ME.”
“Marty and I recently met up and we decided to do a new film called Walk the Walk: The Motivational Life of Marty Sheedy, which will follow Marty on his journey to become a motivational speaker,” Bill Mealbach said.
“We started the campaign online to raise funds for the movie and to kick-start Project Scissors Gait Foundation,” he explained.
Fifty-percent of the funds donated to the campaign will be used for the Scissors Gait Foundation, while the rest will be used for the documentary.
“I want the film to get out there and send a message,” Sheedy said.
“I want it to help change lives. I want it to win an award because of the level of impact it has. I want it to be big.
“I want to be a spokesperson for arthrogryposis and get my story out there, I want to raise money for the foundation and I want people to be impacted,” he added.
Sheedy said he has been getting his name out there in many ways so that more people know about his cause.
He recently finished filming scenes of the movie Orion with Hollywood actor David Arquette.
Sheedy has Facebook pages and websites dedicated to his causes, which he updates regularly.
He said he has already made a lot of new friends in the last few months since launching the campaign.
“I never thought I would get what I have right now,” Sheedy said shaking his head in disbelief.
“I always hoped for something like this; for a feeling like I could do more, like in the film. You just never know what will come your way,” he said.
“I’m fortunate for this and I hope that it all works out and the film can be created and reach people. I believe it will. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I know my purpose. I know I’m utilizing this to be the light that shines. It’s like I say in my speeches, the way you look at your life is how your life looks.”