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Push To Walk Blog

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
commitment.

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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Push To Walk: 15 Years Strong

Push To Walk: 15 Years Strong

Seventeen years ago, Darren, a college-bound high school hockey player and ski racer, dove off a boat into shallow water at the New Jersey shore. That dive resulted in a C5 spinal cord injury and Darren’s subsequent paralysis. It also inspired Darren and his mother, Cynthia Templeton, to establish a dedicated exercise facility for the paralysis community.

 

This month, they are celebrating the achievement of that vision -- the 15th anniversary of Push to Walk, a specially equipped nonprofit gym in Oakland that offers individualized workouts and resources to people with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis.
A motivating environment

"Fifteen years ago, I never imagined the widespread need for places like Push to Walk,” emphasized Cynthia during a recent discussion about the history of the nonprofit.

"Since then, I have discovered that there are many people like Darren who experienced a traumatic injury and were in search of supportive environments where they could build their strength and work towards their personal goals -- whether it’s standing up, taking that first step, handling household tasks, or developing the confidence to become as independent as possible."

Expanding paralysis community

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Statistical Center there are about 18,000 new spinal cord injuries a year and the Center for Disease Control reports that another 1.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. As a result of these injuries and the increasing number of people with other diseases that result in mobility impairments, the paralysis community in America is expanding.

"We need to recognize that these are people who could be your neighbors, your child’s classmate, or someone’s mom, dad or grandparent. They deserve our support,” Cynthia pointed out, adding, “At Push to Walk, we are dedicated to helping these individuals improve the quality of their lives.”
Personalized, compassionate training

Since opening its doors on January 15, 2007, PTW has provided personal training to hundreds of individuals who have SCIs, TBIs or paralysis as a result of a traumatic incident, stroke, or chronic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy.

I’ve met the PTW trainers and seen them in action and can tell you that they have extraordinary skill and heart. So, too, does the PTW leadership. Cynthia has personally counseled hundreds of family members when someone they loved became paralyzed, and Executive Director Vivian Kiggins continues to strengthen PTW services by seeking the funding to ensure that clients have access to the equipment and resources they need to reach their goals.

Building communities, fostering wellness

Anniversaries are not simply about looking back, but about looking forward. So, what’s ahead for PTW in 2022? The nonprofit, under Vivian’s direction, will strive to --
Promote fitness and wellness within the paralysis and SCI communities;
Share stories and achievements of paralyzed and mobility-challenged individuals;
Raise funds to help subsidize the cost of training at PTW for financially challenged individuals;
Collaborate with other organizations to better serve SCI and TBI communities and others who are mobility impaired.

"If there is anything I have learned over the past 15 years, it is that you can’t be a one-person team," Cynthia emphasized to me, adding “Both Darren and I have benefitted enormously from the support and counsel of others who sustained SCIs, their families and the medical professionals who worked with them, particularly the leaders and staff at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, Helen Hayes Hospital in Haverstraw and the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains. We plan to continue our close working relationship with these organizations during the anniversary year."

Fifteen years since its founding, Push to Walk continues to push ahead its outreach and service to the paralysis community. It is remarkably unwavering in its commitment. That in itself is worth celebrating.

Contributed by Helene Kennedy, former PTW Board Member and Chair of its Marketing and Communications Committee

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Push to Walk Marks 15 Years of Service to Paralysis Community

Push to Walk Marks 15 Years of Service to Paralysis Community

(Oakland, NJ January 6, 2022) - On Saturday, January 15, Push to Walk, a 7,400 sq. ft. exercise facility in Oakland, New Jersey designed for individuals with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other forms of paralysis, will kick off its 15th anniversary celebration with a week of special activities. The nonprofit facility was founded by Cynthia Templeton and her son Darren in 2007 after Darren sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.

"Fifteen years ago, there were virtually no options in northern New Jersey for individuals like Darren to work out. Physicians urged him to lead a healthy life and stay fit, but once he had completed his physical therapy, we were left with figuring out the best way to do this. Darren, a high school athlete at the time, wanted to work out in a gym with other people like himself – people who faced similar challenges and would motivate one another,” explains Templeton. “We had seen models of such gyms in other states and our dream was to open a facility in New Jersey."

"We are excited that our dream not only became a reality but has resulted in the creation of a thriving facility serving an expanding group of individuals whose unique training needs are often overlooked," adds Templeton. “We are steadfast in our commitment to help these individuals optimize their current quality of life and prepare for future medical advancements.”

PTW offers training and camaraderie

Fifteen years ago on opening day, a handful of people used the new gym. Today, over 70 people train at the gym each month, taking advantage of the specialized equipment and benefitting from the expertise of certified trainers and experienced aides. And Push to Walk has become more than a gym for its clients– it is a resource center for paralyzed individuals and their families, a place to share stories of successes and setbacks, a place to set and achieve new goals, and a place to acquire information on everything from managing daily household tasks to participating in adaptive sports.

One of the most important messages Ms. Templeton wants to communicate throughout the year to the paralysis and spinal cord injury communities is “You are not alone.”

Clients pay an hourly fee for training sessions. Scholarships are available for those with demonstrated financial need.

PTW open houses

During the anniversary year, PTW has scheduled monthly open houses. The next open houses are January 18, February 17, and March 15. Individuals can register to attend an open house or schedule an individual tour by calling the PTW offices at 201-644-7567. The complete schedule for open houses is available on the PTW website (www.pushtowalk.org)

In addition, PTW will be holding client and family events, including a "family fun day” in August for PTW current and past clients, staff members, board members, and donors. An Anniversary Gala will be held September 29 at the Indian Trail Club in Franklin Lakes to recognize the many people who have contributed to making PTW a thriving community.

Redefining Possibilities for the Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Community. Located in Bergen County, NJ. Specializing in neuro-activity based exercise for individuals with Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Paralysis and More.

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Give Yourself the Gift of Self-Care

With the holidays coming up and the COVID-19 numbers on the rise, we could all use a breather. So, courtesy of Olga Phoenix here’s 88 ways to do just that. The wheel is separated into 6 categories: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, personal, and professional. We can all benefit greatly by balancing each of these 6 categories in our everyday life, especially in times like this.

As a place to start, here’s a short list of our favorites here at Push to Walk:

  • Eat Healthy and Exercise (Physical)
  • Think About Your Positive Qualities (Psychological)
  • Let Yourself Cry and Laugh (Emotional)
  • Spend Time in Nature (Spiritual)
  • Spend Time with Family and Friends (Personal)
  • Leave Work at Work (Professional)

We hope this helped you get through these tough times; and no matter where you are in your mental health journey, you have our support!

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