Twelve years ago, on January 15, 2007, Push to Walk opened its doors for the first time. I can remember the day like it was yesterday: our small space in Bloomingdale, three clients (2 of whom I hadn’t even met!), two trainers and much anticipation and anxiousness. How would this go? Would anyone come? Would we survive? The question “what am I doing???” would cross my mind for quite a while after opening.
Survive we did, for that first year, and I remember my Mom bringing in a homemade cake for our first anniversary. We were learning every day, figuring things out as we went, and started to realize there was definitely a need for our services. As our tiny gym got more crowded with new equipment, more clients, their wheelchairs and caregivers/transportation providers, I knew Push to Walk needed more space.
After a considerable search we found space in Riverdale. It wasn’t ideal – more like an office space we made work as a gym – but it was there we found our footing and expanded our gym space to the maximum amount possible. After eight and half years, we knew the things we wanted, and that our clients needed, and it was time to move again.
In Oakland, we found a space that is a true gym. A place with lots of open space for walking, enough equipment (is there ever enough equipment?!), offices and a conference room. But now Push to Walk is so much more than a physical space. It is about people coming together who share common stories and common goals. It is a place to work hard and be challenged, yes. It is also a place to learn from others: clients learning from clients, family members sharing information and helping each other. A place where social interactions and camaraderie are fostered and grow.
In California I witnessed this type of setting when Darren and I spent time at a specialized gym there multiple times. I am so proud that Push to Walk has not only reached that level, but exceeded it in so many ways. This is attributed to the entire staff and the team of volunteers who work behind the scenes to make sure we thrive and not merely survive. It is due to our clients and their family members who put their trust in us. It is the generosity of our donors that enable us to help our clients reach their goals.
Push to Walk’s success is the combination of a WHOLE LOT of people who CARED and continue to care, from a year before opening to today. So while this month of January marks our anniversary on the calendar, there is much to celebrate each and every day as our clients with paralysis work hard, challenge themselves and reach for the stars. How proud I am to be on this journey with everyone who is a part of Push to Walk!
Cynthia Templeton, Push to Walk Founder & Community Partnerships Coordinator