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Marion graduate to become Zumba instructor
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · January 25th, 2018

From the incubator to the dance floor, one young man has overcome the odds and is hoping to defy them once again. For what seemed to be an impossible dream for Brett Wheeler, who was born prematurely at 23 weeks, is now becoming a reality, as he anticipates having the distinction of being the only Zumba + Zumba Gold fitness instructor who is blind in the United States, and the second one in the world.

We sat down with this remarkable 2017 Marion High School graduate on Saturday, January 20, for a brief interview before his scheduled 10 a.m. Zumba fitness class at the Helen G. Nassif YMCA facility. Although visually impaired, he showed his competence and confidence as he reached out with a mannerly handshake and friendly smile.

Wheeler told the Times he was born in Seattle, Washington and moved to Iowa seven years ago. Then, three years later, after he began working out at the YMCA, his passion for Zumba dancing was sparked by a chance encounter and cherished song.

Wheeler said he likes Zumba so much because he gets to dance. And, according to his assistant Susan Beck, Wheeler began regular Zumba dance sessions two times a week after being first asked by an instructor at the YMCA to try out a mirrored-ball dancing in the dark Zumba class.

"Well, he walked in," she said. She then turned to Wheeler and asked him, "What music did Alisha play?" Wheeler's face lit up as he explained it was a song by his favorite band, One Direction. Wheeler's GoFundMe page #GetBrettTo1D, explains how details in the band members' lives have helped Wheeler overcome what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles in his own life. And with helpful donations, he was able to attend One Direction in concert; a dream come true, Beck said.

Now, Wheeler would like to instruct others in Zumba dance but is in need of funding for a full-day of Zumba Jumpstart Gold training (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. sessions) in Chicago on March 10, where he is hoping to receive the required certification. Wheeler explained he wants to become a dance instructor because, "I want people to realize, whether you are disabled or not, you can do anything."

According to a previous press release by the Marion Times on January 18, a Zumbathon fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, January 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Helen G. Nassif YMCA in Cedar Rapids.

"The event will have 10 instructors from the Corridor, a DJ, live Jimbe drum player, free Zumba label water bottles, bracelets, and pins for participants. Cost for the fundraiser is $10 at the door and $5 for students and veterans. The theme of the Zumbathon is 'We are all superheroes,' as Wheeler has always said others are his hero -- and the course is about to change for him to be others' hero."

Our short interview session came to an end as class participants began heading to Zumba class. And, Wheeler needed no help in finding his place on the dance floor, where he seemed light on his feet as he easily moved about next to Beck once the lively music began to play.

Besides the fun factor Zumba dancing offers, combining dance and music such as this also includes health benefits. This may also be a contributing factor in Wheeler's love for the activity as well. According to, "Movement is a language, our first language. Nonverbal and movement communication begins in utero and continues throughout the lifespan. Dance/movement therapists believe that nonverbal language is as important as verbal language and use both forms of communication in the therapeutic process."

Additionally, music is also therapeutic for the mind. "When used properly, music can be an incredibly powerful treatment tool. And not just because it's fun, relaxing, and motivating, but because music has a profound impact on our brains and our bodies." [].

Visit and for more information.

* An update was made to the original article as it previously stated the Zumbathon is on Saturday, January 28. The event is on Sunday, January 28.
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