Family: Teen with down syndrome turned away from gym - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Family: Teen with down syndrome turned away from gym

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RIPLEY, TN -

(WMC-TV) - A Mid-South family with two children says they tried to join a fitness center earlier this week but were turned away because the staff was not trained to deal with one of their children, who has Down Syndrome.

"After we purchased our family membership, we could only bring three-quarters of our family," said mother Sherrie Cates.

No matter the day or circumstance, 13-year-old Mollie Cates is a happy young lady.

Her parents said they were shocked at how they were treated when they took Mollie and her older sister to Ripley Family Fitness Center Monday.

"We got turned away because of her," said father Kevin Cates.

Kevin and his wife said it was the first time all four family members had been to the gym together.

"Their brochure says they don't turn anyone away, anyone can come in. But, we were met at the door and they said their staff isn't trained to deal with anyone like Mollie," said Sherrie.

Sherrie said her daughter is in a regular class at school and even participates in physical education. She said there is no reason she should not be able to go to the gym.

"We were never given a chance to say, 'We'll be with her. This is how we can work with her.' We were just told, 'No, there's no one here who can work with her,'" said Sherrie.

The gym is owned and operated by the city of Ripley.  City attorney Steve Crain said the gym has never come in contact with a customer with Down Syndrome.

Crain says they are working now on ways to accommodate Mollie Cates.

"She needs to be strong and healthy just like everyone else. I want her to have that chance," said Kevin.

City Attorney Steve Crain says the Cates family never included Mollie's name on the official application, which also requires a doctor's statement for membership.

Crain calls the whole thing a misunderstanding.

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