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Push To Walk Blog

Paul and Nancy Sutor, PTW Anniversary Gala Co-Chairs, recognize PTW Service to Paralysis Community

Paul and Nancy Sutor, PTW Anniversary Gala Co-Chairs, recognize PTW Service to Paralysis Community

Creativity. Commitment. Professional Excellence. According to Paul and Nancy Sutor, longtime supporters of Push to Walk (PTW), these are the characteristics of the PTW trainers and administrative team who have contributed to the organization’s growth and sustainability.

As PTW celebrates its 15th anniversary supporting the paralysis community, Paul and Nancy, who are co- chairing PTW’s Anniversary Gala event on September 29th along with founders John and Cynthia Templeton, reflect on the significance of this milestone.

"This anniversary is really about celebrating PTW clients and the strides they have been able to make in their lives as a result of working out at PTW, a nonprofit gym that caters to those with neurological and mobility impairments", emphasizes Paul.

Serving a Growing Population

"When PTW was first founded, it focused on providing an exercise and training facility for individuals with spinal cord injuries. Many of our clients were those injured as a result of accidents," explains Nancy.

"Today, PTW serves a broad range of clients with neurological impairments and mobility issues, including those who have traumatic brain injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. We also help individuals who are recovering from strokes and other conditions that limit one’s mobility," she adds.

This population – and the need for PTW – is growing.

The facility, with its specialized equipment and certified trainers, fills a void in the lives of many of these people. When insurance-covered physical therapy ends, they often have no place to turn to work out and build the strength necessary to perform every-day tasks.

"PTW fills this void thanks to our donors," states Paul. "We provide customized training to each client at a highly reduced rate. Every hour a client works out is made possible through donor gifts."
"We hope that the Gala, while celebrating the journeys of our clients, increases awareness of how we help the paralysis community and provide these individuals with hope for a better life," emphasizes Paul.

All in the Family

Paul and Nancy first became involved in PTW a decade ago after learning about the organization from their son, Tommy. In 2011, Tommy, who recently received a PhD in Rehabilitative Science from the University of Florida, was a trainer and Program Director at PTW. He shared his enthusiasm about how the organization helps the often-forgotten paralysis community and gives them hope for a better life.

"He told us countless stories about how clients developed the strength and dexterity to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, grooming themselves and even driving. He admired their workout ethic and was inspired by the smiles on the clients’ faces when they re-learned how to pedal a bicycle or took a few steps," stated Nancy.

"We heard these stories and began to participate in the fundraisers, volunteering where we could."
"I began to attend open houses and watched client workouts. As a speech pathologist, I saw the therapeutic value of the training that the PTW team provide to clients," emphasized Nancy.

Keeping Pace with Change

Paul became a PTW Board member in 2012, first as Treasurer then as Board chair in 2017-2018. During this time, he worked with founder Cynthia Templeton in managing PTW’s expansion.

Outgrowing its facility in Riverdale, NJ in 2016, Paul helped to oversee its move into its current facility in Oakland, NJ, which allowed PTW to hire more professional trainers and help more individuals with paralysis. At the same time, PTW hired its first Executive Director, increasing outreach to donors and the related organizations that support paralyzed individuals.

When the pandemic hit, PTW closed for a few months, but the doors reopened to increased demand from individuals who had missed the opportunity to work out in the specially equipped gym and the camaraderie they had built with the trainers and other clients.

A Look Ahead

PTW is a place that not only builds physical strength, but also builds the spirits of the individuals who walk through their doors.

"The trainers are exceptional," states Nancy. "They are creative, compassionate, and well educated on addressing the challenges endured by the paralysis community. "

"In addition to management leadership, they have been a driving force in PTW’s growth and will remain so in the years ahead," adds Nancy.

"PTW recognizes the difficulties faced by paralyzed and disabled individuals. The PTW team constantly monitors new research and investigates new equipment to see what can best help their clients," states Paul.

Recognizing the financial challenges many of these individuals face, PTW strives to provide customized and economical workout options and offers an increasingly robust scholarship program, supported by donors.

"We have been honored to work with PTW and to co-chair this Gala event with such a professional staff team, "states Nancy, adding, "We urge anyone who is experiencing paralysis or knows of individuals who are struggling with mobility issues to visit PTW and attend an open house."

"It is an extraordinarily special place. There is no facility like it in central or northern New Jersey or the New York tristate area."

To attend the Gala event or make a donation, please go to:
15th Anniversary Gala Celebrate the Journey (qgiv.com)

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Life as a Push to Walk Trainer

Life as a Push to Walk Trainer
By: Deanna Pepe

Being a trainer at Push to Walk means being creative, constantly learning, serving spectacular clients, and working alongside amazing coworkers.

Hi, I’m Deanna! I am the newest member of the PTW training team! After graduating with my master’s degree in Exercise Science, my job hunt led me to PTW and luckily, this community welcomed me with open arms. As a new trainer, Push to Walk provides hands-on training and resources such as a spinal cord injury and trainer manual. We are then tested on that material before we can work alone with clients. After I completed my training and testing in April, I started my journey as a PTW trainer.

Creative and Customized Workouts

Being a trainer challenges my creativity and cultivates my problem-solving skills. No spinal cord injury is the same and each client needs a well thought out and customized workout. Trainers are required to be at PTW a half hour before our first client. We use that time to review the accommodating yet challenging workout program we have created. Getting ideas for exercises isn’t always easy, but sometimes my most unique exercise ideas pop into my head when I’m driving, listening to music, or even trying to fall asleep. I also do research online and of course, ask my coworkers for advice.

Being a trainer means thinking outside the box and constantly looking for ways to support and strengthen our clients.

Our Clients

As a trainer we see four to seven clients throughout the day working with each of them for one to two hours. I value this time with clients because not only are we exercising, but we also have the best conversations. PTW clients are strong and resilient, and I appreciate the time and energy they give to me while in the gym working out. Each client teaches me something different about the spinal cord community and about living life to the fullest.

The PTW Training Team

Along with my hardworking clients, I have the best coworkers. The trainers and aides at Push to Walk have mountains of knowledge and are an openhearted group of people. During my first week, I was extremely nervous working with a new population, but my coworkers reassured me and helped me see my worth and potential in this space. Learning from each of them has been invaluable and they’ve helped shape me into the trainer I am today. Being able to come to my fellow trainers with questions really allows me to grow and better serve this community.

Lastly, being a trainer at PTW feels like being a part of not only of a community, but of a big family. One thing that touched my heart was seeing the bonds of clients and coworkers alike. Everyone knows each other and will extend a helping hand if needed. Clients motivate clients. Trainer and clients learn from each other. Camaraderie is ever present.

There is no place I would rather work.

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Introducing Push to Walk’s New Executive Director

Introducing Push to Walk’s New Executive Director

Oakland, NJ - June 1, 2022 - Push to Walk, an Oakland, NJ non-profit providing specialized workouts for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis, is excited to announce the promotion of Kate Wolfe to the role of Executive Director. Kate will be replacing Vivian Kiggins, who will be retiring after more than four years as Push to Walk’s Executive Director and over 30 years in the nonprofit sector. During this transition, we are pleased to report that Vivian will still be writing grants for Push to Walk on a part-time basis. During Vivian’s semi-retirement, she hopes to spend more time with her grandchildren, especially the new grandchild due this summer.

Kate is excited to start her new journey as the Executive Director at Push to Walk beginning June 1, 2022. Joining PTW in 2016, Kate has already worn several hats, starting with her role as a part-time Administrative Assistant, which evolved into her becoming the Client and Event Coordinator in January 2020. Kate attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she received a bachelor's degree in Business Management. She then worked as an event planner for various organizations such as Meeting Partners, planning corporate special events. She has been an active volunteer in the school community since 2006. Kate’s new role as the Executive Director will focus on leadership, fundraising, outreach, and partnerships while continuing to build important relationships with our clients.

"We are thrilled that Push to Walk will continue to benefit from Kate's experience and deep knowledge of Push to Walk’s operations, combined with her immense compassion for our clients as she takes over this important role" - Julia Swajger

(Communications & Development Assistant)

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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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