Push To Walk Blog

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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Collaborating For Impact

Collaborating For Impact

You may see the word “collaboration” and roll your eyes – another blog post about yet another “buzz
word.” But I am writing to tell you how and why partnering with others really does work!

When Push to Walk opened in January 2007, our goal was to provide a specialized exercise program for our son after he sustained a spinal cord injury in 2004. We thought that if he was interested in this, perhaps others were, too. We focused our efforts and budget on getting the right equipment and hiringqualified staff to train the spinal cord injury and paralysis community. We did not have money to spend on marketing and advertising. Consequently, we knew we had to network and get our message outthrough other avenues. We discovered that collaborating with others gave our messages momentumand increased our understanding of the paralysis community.

 The Path to Collaboration

Our path to collaboration was not easy or quick. As with everything else in life, teaming up with others requires patience, persistence and a give-and-take attitude. It takes initiating, developing and
maintaining relationships. The efforts take time, but the results, as the saying goes, could be “priceless!”

Community groups

Initially, we reached out to any and all community groups in our area – local, county and state – to
spread the word about our specialized gym and our dedication to supporting individuals who had
paralysis or other motor impairments.

We used community directories and online resources to find local Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Optimists Clubs, and others. We called and emailed to arrange for presentations at their monthly meetings (long before COVID thank goodness). Today, virtual meetings are good and efficient options if in-person meetings are not held. The point is to make communications and outreach a priority.

My belief has always been that you never know who might hear your message. It may not be the person answering the phone or reading the initial email, but the person they tell, or the person that person tells who finds our message relevant and is motivated to forge a stronger connection with Push to Walk, to explore our services or to make a donation. You have to take a “long view” of what outreach and presentations can accomplish. From experience, I can tell you it is worth the investment of time.

National organizations

It is also critical to identify larger, national organizations specific to your field. Do your research and be prepared to suggest a collaborative idea that is mutually beneficial. For Push to Walk, a few of the organizations we initially contacted included United Spinal Association, The Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation and Unite 2 Fight Paralysis (U2FP). Fifteen years later, we continue to partner with these organizations.

We work with the United Spinal Association to provide every new client with a backpack with relevant information on paralysis and resources, as well as information on PTW’s services. With the Reeve Foundation, we are included in the list of resources they provide to people calling them for help and guidance. And with U2FP, we stay connected to the world of spinal cord injury research and have joined with them and their partners in collecting data for relevant research projects. The collaborations each look and feel very different depending on who and why you are partnering with them.

Medical professionals

A major focus of our outreach has been to the medical community. At the outset, we contacted local
hospitals and specialized rehab centers. These are the places where our potential clients were receiving services. And it’s not just the doctors we wanted to reach, but the nurses, therapists, case managers and social workers. It takes a team of medical professionals to treat a patient with a catastrophic brain or spinal cord injury or diagnosis successfully. Those professionals are interested in knowing how to help their patients. They are always on the lookout for new information. We made it a priority to help them add to their repertoire of resources.

Locally, we have spoken to a variety of medical professionals at Atlantic Health System and Morristown Medical Center. They have connected us with other resources, made client referrals and helped us spread awareness about our unique gym, specialized equipment, and certified trainers for the paralysis community.

Rehabilitation centers

Working with three specialized rehab hospitals in our area- Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in West
Orange NJ, Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw NY and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White
Plains NY – over the past decade Push to Walk has made presentations to medical professionals, case managers and support groups. These partnerships have been invaluable and helped us to engage in a wide range of activities, including adaptive sports activities, new product trials, pharmacology treatments, and research initiatives.

Building Reputations

Non-profits, especially smaller ones like Push to Walk, benefit greatly from developing the right
partnerships. This strengthens all parties involved, enhances their reputations, and can help expand their impact. When multiple voices combine to form one, there is more power and greater influence. The word spreads about the quality of services we offer, and ultimately, our communities and mutual client populations are enhanced and improved.

So go ahead, jump onto the collaboration bandwagon and make things happen by joining efforts with others. The end result could be “priceless!”

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For PTW Clients with Spinal Cord Injuries, Fitness is a Lifelong Commitment

For PTW Clients with Spinal Cord Injuries, Fitness is a Lifelong Commitment

Exercising and getting physically fit are typically at the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions
for many people I know. But for people who come to Push to Walk (PTW), a gym for individuals
with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis, it is more than a resolution– it is a lifelong

Since I began working at PTW a few months ago, I have already witnessed how our clients
embrace the challenge of improving their overall fitness and health. I had the chance to catch up
with two PTW clients to find out what inspires their workout. Here is what I learned…

PTW Physical Fitness and Therapy

Taking the Leap

Marge has Transverse Myelitis which is inflammation of the spinal cord and nervous system.
She came to PTW in July 2016 after a close friend, who is also a PTW client, introduced her to
the organization. Marge was hesitant at first since working out had “never been her thing,” but
eventually decided that she could not get any stronger without it. To Marge’s surprise (and
relief), PTW workouts were so much more than she expected: “Even when I am unmotivated, I
always leave knowing I’ve accomplished something.”

Ed, another long-term PTW client, sustained a spinal cord injury after a biking accident. He
joined PTW in December of 2014 after spending time in an outpatient physical therapy program.
Although he was getting stronger in his outpatient program, nothing compared to being in a real
gym, something that had always been important to him. He discovered PTW when our founder,
Cynthia Templeton, came to one of his support groups and talked about how PTW focuses on
the unique needs and goals of individuals with spinal cord injuries. Ed knew this sounded
perfect for him and he has not looked back.

PTW Energy is Contagious

Push to Walk (PTW) clients all share the same aspiration of gaining strength and mobility.
However, since our clients vary in age and abilities, our trainers work diligently to provide the
best customized workout to help each individual reach their unique goal.
Something incredibly special and unique to PTW is the energy and positivity that stems from the
trainers and aides. Marge and I discussed how beneficial it is for clients to receive one-on-one
training with both a trainer and an aide.

As Marge mentioned, and I can attest, the trainers have a positive approach and remain upbeat
throughout their workout sessions. Marge emphasized that PTW has “lived up to the hype.” Ed
agreed that his trainers’ and aides’ contagious energy gets him through his weekly sessions: “I
love getting to work with young, energetic trainers and aides who obviously love their work.”

Customized Workouts Exceed Expectations

Both Marge and Ed came to PTW with the expectation that they would get stronger. Each had
distinct reasons for coming but both attest that PTW has helped them exceed their individual
goals. In addition to receiving their individualized workouts since starting, they have also built
relationships with other clients and staff members and have been driven to achieve their highest
level of physical fitness. They leave feeling motivated and stronger after every session!

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