Darren graduated from Kinnelon High School in June, 2004 and was headed to Bentley College in Massachusetts to study finance. The summer was going to very busy working to save some money and getting ready for the move to college. Instead, one month later, Darren was airlifted to Atlantic City Medical Center after diving into shallow water and breaking his neck at C5. All plans, big and small, were on hold. Darren and his family were brutally thrust into the world of spinal cord injuries.
Within 24 hours of his arrival at Atlantic City Medical Center, Darren was transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia where he underwent surgery the next day. After 10 days in Philadelphia he was then transferred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he began the grueling task of rehabilitation. After completing almost 3 months as an in-patient and an additional 3 weeks as out-patient in their Day Program, Darren returned home to Kinnelon.
Life would not be the same, but with the support of family and friends, Darren maintained a positive attitude. With the addition of a new bedroom and bathroom and other modifications, the house he grew up in was now accessible for him and his wheelchair. His friends rallied around him, including him in everything they were doing. The chair never seemed to get in the way with them; they just did whatever needed to be done so Darren could do whatever they were doing. Coaching youth hockey kept him involved in a sport he loved, and poker games became a routine activity!
Sports and working out were always important to Darren. He began playing ice hockey and ski racing from a very young age. He continued those sports as well as tennis through high school. When he finished out-patient rehab, he looked for and found a personal trainer. This led to visiting Project Walk in California and the eventual foundation of Push to Walk.
Darren started driving one year after his injury and commuted to Ramapo College his freshman year. Having learned to successfully navigate his way around campus, Darren decided to move to school and lived there the next three years. He graduated in May 2009 and currently attends Rutgers University in Newark, NJ in the MBA program. School is very important to Darren and he enjoys being involved in the MBA clubs and activities.
Continuing his love for sports, Darren joined a rugby team, formerly the Jets, now the Warriors. He has also been skydiving twice since his injury, has tried adaptive skiing and uses a hand cycle; all in addition to his weekly workouts at Push to Walk.
Being independent and able to take care of himself have always been important to Darren since his injury. The therapists at Shepherd set him on that path, and that has been his motivation ever since. Every small achievement makes him want to try and do something better. Accomplishing tasks like getting in and out of bed by himself, or taking care of his personal needs were among his first goals upon returning home. Accomplishing these things motivate him further because these are things he was told he would not be able to do.
Regular workouts have kept Darren healthy and strong. He feels that he has made good progress and easily feels the difference when he hasn’t worked out in awhile. He enjoys the camaraderie between the clients and trainers at Push to Walk and is involved with organizing sports and social events for those who want to participate. He knows that the more he does, the more he’ll be able to do. He is able to stay motivated and positive with the support of his trainers, family and friends.