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Push To Walk Blog

Gene Murphy, Push to Walk Board Chair and Entrepreneur, Highlights Push to Walk’s Service to NJ Paralysis Community

Gene Murphy, Push to Walk Board Chair and Entrepreneur,
Highlights Push to Walk’s Service to NJ Paralysis Community

"Leaders and organizations that lead with their hearts are more successful and drive
better results than those that don’t," writes Tommy Spaulding in The Heart Led Leader. Gene
Murphy, the current chair of Push to Walk's (PTW) Board of Trustees, is such a leader.
He has been a Push to Walk Board member for five years and an advocate for, and
supporter of, the spinal cord injury and paralysis community for over a decade. An
entrepreneur, Gene founded and led a technology company for 25 years. He has brought that
entrepreneurial spirit along with his passion for serving the paralysis community to PTW as he
leads the organization during its milestone 15th anniversary year.

I first met Gene in 2017 at a Push to Walk Board meeting when marketing and client
service were at the top of the agenda. Not long after the meeting started, Gene was suggesting
new ways to engage clients and increase awareness of how PTW, with its specialized gym and
certified trainers, can help the spinal cord injury and paralysis community gain more
independence and improve the quality of their lives.

Since then, he has supported founder Cynthia Templeton, Executive Director Vivian
Kiggins and the entire Push to Walk team with fundraising, special events and other initiatives.
His dedication, collaborative spirit and compassion for others make him a leader among
leaders, particularly among those who struggle with mobility issues.

Gene understands well the needs of the paralysis community. In 1995, he received a
diagnosis that he had tumors on his thoracic spinal cord. Over the course of the next 15 years,
he underwent numerous procedures including three spinal cord operations. In 2008, he
became completely paralyzed from the waist down. After completing a course of physical
therapy at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, he searched for an exercise facility that had
the trained professionals and specialized equipment necessary to help him build his strength
and become more mobile. He discovered Push to Walk, which his physical therapist agreed was
the right next step.

As a Push to Walk client, Gene became an inspiration to other clients and to the PTW
team. In the gym, his commitment was encouraging to new clients, including those with recent
spinal cord injuries. In the board room, his volunteerism and collaborative spirit showcased his
leadership ability.

In a recent interview, Gene discussed PTW’s unique role, its growth and sustainability,
and how the organization can help others who face paralysis and mobility issues.

Who can most benefit from going to Push to Walk?

Anyone with a paralysis issue can clearly gain from the training at Push to Walk. Their program is
specifically designed to address the needs of individuals with paralysis, especially those with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. It is the only gym in northern New Jersey completely dedicated to these individuals.

What makes Push to Walk unique?

This is a gym with a staff who understands how to deal with people with paralysis and spinal cord
injuries. Their approach is personal and customized to my physical needs and goals. For example, I
wanted to learn how to transfer from my wheelchair to any other surface, such as a regular chair. I
accomplished this and more. They have specialized equipment, such as stationary bicycles with FES (functional electrical stimulation) technology. This equipment enabled me to work out more than I ever did before.

Are there other benefits of going to PTW?

Yes. In fact, I gained some unexpected benefits. Going to a gym where everybody was afflicted with
some type of paralysis made me aware that others shared my challenges. The camaraderie among the
clients was phenomenal. We shared stories and tips to help each other make our lives better on a day-
to-day basis. I no longer felt alone in the world.

What is significant about PTW's 15 th Anniversary?

It is a tremendous milestone for any small business or nonprofit to remain in business for 15 years.
Many don’t reach the 10 year-mark. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this milestone is representative of the hundreds of individuals and their families who have seen their lives improve through Push to Walk services. The dedication of the individuals who work out at PTW cannot be overstated. The anniversary is a tribute to their commitment and strength.

What contributed to PTW’s sustainability?

Push to Walk's leadership, including the founders, board, and executive director, have been strategic
and financially disciplined. The pandemic reinforced the importance of nonprofits and businesses having
a stable financial foundation with adequate reserves when possible. This helped PTW to weather the
pandemic.

Additionally, PTW leaders listen well and put clients’ needs first. PTW continually requests client
feedback to identify their needs, acquire appropriate exercise equipment and implement programs to
address client needs.

What has been PTW’s greatest accomplishments to date?

Push to Walk provides paralyzed individuals with hope for a better life and a better future. There is no better accomplishment than inspiring this hope.

As the PTW Chair, what would you like to see PTW accomplish this year?

I would like to see us continue to strengthen our financial position and obtain donations and grants so
that we can make PTW’s training program available to everybody who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay. Many of our clients have numerous other health-related expenses. We rely on donations to offset the cost of client workouts at Push to Walk. We also have a robust "scholarship" program that makes training at our gym available to some individuals who have a demonstrated financial need. Keeping the scholarship funded is a personal priority for me.

With respect to potential donors, why should they support PTW? How does donating benefit
individuals and the greater good?

We account for every dollar that is donated and use it in the most productive way possible for our
clients. Many of our clients have a trainer and an aide. We need to pay for the costs of both individuals. In addition, donations help us maintain our equipment and acquire new machines and technology that our clients need.

It is also important to keep in mind that the organization is local (serving people in Bergen, Morris,
Passaic and Union counties, among other counties). Though our network is national in scope. Supporting
Push to Walk can mean you are helping your neighbor. Also, PTW not only helps the individual, but also supports the whole family.

What is the best advice you can give to someone with a spinal cord injury?

The best advice I can give to someone who is newly paralyzed is to focus on what you can do in life and
not what you can’t do. I would tell them to exercise as much as possible and to join a support group.
Being in a wheelchair is challenging and frustrating, but that does not mean you can’t live a full,
productive life. You have a choice.

Are there any key messages you would like to communicate to individuals who have had spinal
cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries? What words of encouragement can you offer to them?

The message to anyone who is dealing with paralysis is to not give up on yourself. You are not alone.
You can do this, and you can make a life for yourself. Your life can be as rich and rewarding as you allow it to be.

"Push To Walk has helped me by allowing me to understand that my disability does not
define me and that anything is possible as long as I am willing to work at it both physically and
mentally," Gene told me.

During PTW's 15th anniversary year, Gene plans to spread this sentiment to others and
open up a world of possibilities to individuals who are paralyzed or have traumatic brain
injuries.

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PTW Showcases its Program at the 2022 Abilities Expo

PTW Showcases its Program at the 2022 Abilities Expo
Connects with Others Serving the Paralysis Community

Last week I attended my first-ever Abilities Expo at the NJ Convention Center with several of my Push to Walk colleagues. The Abilities Expo presents attendees with new game-changing technology, products, services, and education for individuals in the paralysis community and their families. As a newer member of the Push to Walk team and a novice to the trade show and conference world, I had heard a lot about this expo and was excited to “take it all in.” To say it was a great learning experience is an understatement. It was so much more than that.

Abilities Expo 2022

Here are just a few of the highlights:

Growing our Community

So many inspiring people stopped by our booth - many of whom were in wheelchairs, all with unique and personal stories and diagnoses. Family members and friends also came by looking for ways to help their loved ones live a better quality of life. There were lots of engaging conversations about the specialized equipment, trainers, and programs that PTW offers for individuals who are paralyzed, recovering from a stroke, MS, Cerebral Palsy and other conditions that impact their mobility. Some potential clients stopped by with medical diagnoses that we currently do not serve at PTW, like Spina Bifida. But with the help of the Spina Bifida Association of Northeastern New York, who was exhibiting a few booths down, we hope we can work with these clients in the future.

Gathering Resources

We also met representatives of some extraordinary organizations that will assuredly help us expand our resources and knowledge. As a result, we have some exciting opportunities to better serve our clients. We have arranged for individuals from "Help Hope Live" to come tour Push to Walk and explain how their organization can help our clients pay for medical expenses currently not covered by insurance. During the expo we also met the founders of Velo Chair, who let us try out the chair and take it for a spin around the convention center. They will be bringing one to PTW for our clients to experience in the beautiful summer months ahead.

Abilities Expo 2022

Discovering New Technology

I was amazed at the level of technology and innovation highlighted at the expo. I witnessed so much that can help our clients, such as the Foldable Scooters. These Scooters are high-tech and easily folded for transport. For our clients that are interested in new ways to participate in sports, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports offers a variety of programs and specialized equipment to get everyone out on the slopes! Additionally, the Zeen specialized wheelchair helps keep the user's center of gravity like a wheelchair but keeps you active like a rollator would and is easy to compact.

A Common Goal

Everyone we met at the expo from the attendees and their families to the different organizations and vendors shared the same goal: to identify resources to ensure that individuals in the paralysis community have the best opportunities to live a better quality of life. I look forward to applying this knowledge and bringing it back to PTW and our clients.

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PTW Recognizes MS Awareness Month With a Client Spotlight

PTW Recognizes MS Awareness Month With a Client Spotlight

In honor of MS awareness month, we're shining a spotlight on PTW’s specialized workout plans for Multiple Sclerosis patients featuring one of our former (and favorite) clients, Debby. Debby learned about Push to Walk from her physical therapist and neurologist and became an active client member for five years before moving from the area. PTW continues to hold a special place in her heart. She told us why in a recent interview.

Push to Walk has been working with individuals with MS, as well as individuals with other mobility challenges, for over a decade. We understand that each person’s experience and challenges are different. Some people with MS have minimal symptoms while others have more significant neurological challenges. However, in every situation, keeping in shape physically is an important priority. New treatment advancements and technologies can help to slow the progression of the disease and being physically fit will ensure that patients are better candidates for these therapies. Debby stated that coming to PTW got her spirit and her muscles “firing”.

Customized Workouts Keep MS Clients Active

“The creativity of the staff is something I’ve always admired. They knew exactly what kind of activities to do for those with neurological disorders while keeping the workouts unique and fun,” Debby emphasized. “I was introduced to exercises I had never done before, such as using a harness to be able to walk on the treadmill.”

Safety was another key reason Debby trained at PTW. She told us she always felt very safe as PTW provides both a trainer and an aide for each workout.

She felt motivated from watching others who were in a similar position work hard and often doing so with a smile on their faces. “It was a very positive environment that I looked forward to each training session,” she told us. “The trainers and aides cheered me on every step of the way during my journey at Push to Walk. As result, I improved my strength and flexibility.”

From Client to Board Member

After spending some time at Push to Walk, Debby became the first client to serve on PTW’s Board of Trustees and gave the board insight into the training needs and concerns of the MS community, among other clients.

She was on the board for six years and was instrumental in developing the PTW Scholarship Committee to help those who may not be able to pay for training sessions on their own.

PTW Brings People Together in More Ways Than One

Debby explained that for her and others with MS, it is very important to keep yourself strong, both physically and mentally. “PTW helped me do this and much more,” stated Debbie. “They challenged me to try new exercises and workouts while understanding my unique limitations.” The result? Debby is regularly involved in sports, participating in adaptive tennis and adaptive sled hockey.

“Push to Walk opened the door to new activities for me that I never thought were possible with MS,” emphasized Debby. “It gave me a positive outlook on life. I try to share this enthusiasm with others who have MS.”

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Push to Walk Cheers on US Hockey Team and NJ Olympian Kenny Agostino

(February15/Oakland) – In the pre-pandemic days of 2019, Kenny Agostino, a Flanders native and professional ice hockey player, visited Push to Walk, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other mobility-related conditions maintain their overall fitness and health. He took the time to meet with individuals working out at PTW to understand their unique challenges and training routines and to show his support. Now PTW is paying it forward as they root for Agostino, a member of the Men’s US Olympic Ice Hockey Team.

“He understood that individuals who are paralyzed or mobility impaired share the same commitment to training to achieve their optimal performance as do professional athletes,” comments Darren Templeton, PTW co-founder and former high school athlete who was paralyzed after a diving accident.

The Olympics -- and inspiration provided by Agostino and so many Push to Walk supporters -- prompted PTW trainers to organize their own “Olympic” events for their clients this week, including wheelchair races and team competitions. There won’t be any Olympic medals for their achievements, but they are hoping that Agostino and the Men’s Ice Hockey Team bring one home.

Agostino, a former forward for the NJ Devils and other NHL teams, now plays in the KHL with Torpedo Nizhny Nogorod. He is currently a forward on the Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team competing in China.

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PTW’s Paralysis Community Continues to Embrace Olympic Spirit

PTW’s Paralysis Community Continues to Embrace Olympic Spirit

It’s been a week since the winter Olympics concluded, but the Olympic spirit of the athletes endures well beyond the competitions on the mountain tops and in the ice rinks. I recently witnessed the Olympic spirit in action at Push to Walk (PTW), a nonprofit exercise facility for paralyzed individuals and others with neurological conditions that impair their mobility.

I had the privilege of a front row seat watching individuals compete in wheelchair races outside the PTW gym in Oakland as part of their own “mini-Olympics,” organized in celebration of this Olympic year and PTW’s 15th anniversary. As in Beijing, there were no rows of spectators, but it didn’t make the races any less exciting. Family members along with PTW staff cheered on the racers until each one crossed the finish line.

Inside the gym, individuals who had traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and other mobility issues, competed with one another using the arm bike and specialized treadmills and bicycles that provide functional electrical stimulation (FES) -- essentially stimulating the muscles of the leg to contract so one can walk or cycle. Still others sweated out pushups and sit-ups to achieve a “medal” for their team. The gym was alive with the spirit of unity, friendship, and sportsmanship.

Over 50 PTW clients participated in the events that were led by PTW trainers certified in working with people who have spinal cord injuries and other neurological mobility impairments. According to Program Director Chris Meola, the Olympics were a source of inspiration for PTW clients who work day in and day out to build their strength and gain greater mobility and independence. Many have trained at PTW two and three times a week for five and ten years. Determination. Dedication. Resilience. It’s something PTW clients know a lot about.

As a long-time supporter of PTW, I continue to be inspired by the PTW community where individuals from all walks of life – teens and senior citizens, mothers and fathers, students, and entrepreneurs – exercise with the ultimate goal of improving their quality of life. The PTW “mini- Olympics” gave them an opportunity not only to compete with others who face the challenge of living with paralysis, but also to applaud each other for their achievements.

Those who crossed the finish line during this special PTW “Olympic” event did so glowing with pride and happiness. There were no losers. Team members received medals for their fortitude, work ethic and commitment to performing their best. I was lucky enough to witness their achievements.

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