Kettering man expresses his artistic side at fitness center. “I love coordinating colors and ideas … it really nurtures me.”

Everyone knows that life has its so-called ups and downs. We all face struggles — occasionally significant obstacles — and it can feel like the “downs” are winning sometimes.

Overcoming personal challenge and finding joy is an individual process, often aided by support from family and friends, or through religious or spiritual faith.

At times, though, joy emanates from unexpected circumstances … a baby’s gentle laugh in a crowded waiting room, a shimmering rainbow breaking through dark clouds, or a chance encounter with someone who lifts your heart and inspires happiness.

For some folks in the Kettering area, they have been fortunate to experience someone just like that. A true happiness-booster!

Meet Jey Ellis. While known for his expertise as an associate partner and Realtor at Coldwell Banker, and as a dedicated, compassionate volunteer for the Humane Society of Greater Dayton, there is yet a third inspiring role that Ellis, 59, only recently discovered.

In 2019, Ellis was surprisingly struck by a fanciful idea. While preparing to go for a daily work out at Kettering Fitness and Wellness Center, Ellis hesitantly decided to wear a color-coordinated outfit from head to toe.

A self-described introvert, Ellis noted, “I knew it would be challenging to draw attention to myself, and yet I knew it was something I needed to try.” And so it began. What started off as what now seems a bit subdued — bright colors on a matching hat, shirt, shorts and shoes — has evolved into a full-blown walking art museum of sorts. Over time, Ellis expanded his creative palate, and began wearing special “theme” outfits he curated himself. Ellis said, “I dress conservatively at work, so having the freedom to express myself outside of my professional role is great. I have always been artistic. I love coordinating colors and ideas … it really nurtures me.”

Now four years later, there are literally hundreds of themes. Ellis notes a few “fan favorites” include: caution tape, goldfish, Golden Girls, Candy Land, graffiti, John Deere, Academy Awards, Wizard of Oz, Dolly Parton, Pink Panther, popcorn, and so many more.

Ellis shared he owns over 200 pairs of themed shoes. If you think that is impressive, he also noted, “I have enough outfits to wear one every day to the gym for over a year and a half — and would never have to repeat!” With so much to organize, it could quickly become overwhelming. Ellis said, “I have everything separated in categories: colors, food, entertainment, hobbies, holidays, animals and more” in one room. “It’s the only way to find what I need quickly.”

Many folks contribute to the next new outfit theme, whether through suggestions at the gym from fellow patrons, or with gifts of new clothes from family and friends. Ellis tries hard to never disappoint, often spending several hours researching and creating new outfits from head to toe.

It takes a small team of folks to keep Ellis in top fashion performance. First, of course, there is Ellis himself, spending upward of five hours a week coordinating outfits for the coming days. Ellis noted, “I am blessed to have a strong network of friends I have met at my gym. They are my biggest fans, often inspiring me with fresh ideas.” Ellis relies on his dear friend, Mary Rahimi, an expert seamstress, to adorn hats and clothing with specialty items. Finally, Ellis’ best friend, Paige Henry, stages photos of Ellis that are posted daily to Instagram (@jeyellis) and Facebook, and thoroughly enjoyed by Ellis’ growing fan base.

When asked about any insight gained from his themed dressing, Ellis noted, “I’ve definitely learned that you don’t have to be afraid to be different.” In addition, Ellis shared that his endeavors have repeatedly resulted in a surprising and very rewarding side effect — connecting with others. Sometimes it’s just a smile, a laugh, or a comment of admiration. Other times, deeper moments develop. “I’ve had many people share how a particular outfit theme reminds them of a fond memory, and they will share a personal story with me,” Ellis noted. “It is really wonderful. I love to see that sort of happiness on another person’s face.”

Discussing plans to continue his thematic dressing, Ellis said, “After people started telling me how cheerful my outfits make them, I cannot imagine not continuing. Of course, I must keep coming up with original ways to repurpose what I have now, and stretch my imagination to create new themes.” Ellis then chuckled, “I have been told many times I need a sponsor. If you know someone, please tell me!”

If any doubt remains about how Ellis has positively touched the lives of others, just ponder a few comments from gym acquaintances. “Jey makes everyone so happy here with his fantastic outfits.” Or, “On days it’s hard to find motivation to work out, just knowing Jey will be at the gym gets me there!” And this one, “It is not just the astonishing themes, it’s Jey himself. A beautiful soul who exudes beauty.”

So, if life has you sensing you just need a little burst of happiness, head over to the Kettering Fitness and Wellness Center, most any morning. You can be sure that Ellis will be there, fashionably coordinated beyond belief, sharing a great deal of joy.

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