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