Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weekend (at least for my friends in NJ!). I hope it was nice wherever you were!

I recently came across a beautiful pillow in Darren’s closet that was made to commemorate a wonderful event. A group of 18 dedicated, caring and loving women participated in the MORE marathon, and team half marathon on April 10, 2005. Some of these women I knew better than others; some I did not know at all. Some were runners, some were walkers and ALL were “doing it for Darren.” Not only did they become part of the group to raise funds (which they did and was MUCH appreciated) but they provided motivation and support that they might not have even realized. After the event, they gathered at our house with their aches, pains, blisters, smiles and medals. They had accomplished their goals and we were all so proud of them and their efforts to support us.

Darren’s spinal cord injury had only happened 9 months before. Our emotions were raw, our world was turned upside down, and our uncertainty was ever-present. But here were these women who decided to support us. Through their efforts and commitment, they showed us what “community” was all about. They showed us love, support and companionship. They also showed me the power of running.

It had been many, many years since I had run for any reason. But I am so thankful to my friend Liz Schecter, who organized this group, and later encouraged me to get back into running. Since a fateful conversation on New Year’s Day in 2007 (I am not 100% sure of the date, but I think it’s correct!), I have completed two full marathons and two half marathons. In just 6 days I will run my third half marathon.

Thank you to Liz, Maryann, Terry, Kelly, Trish, Meg, Christine, Cyndy, Diane, Lisa, Laura, Linda, Denise, Lynette, Teresa, Pam, Tammy and Erica for what you gave us 10 years ago and how your gift has provided me with a way to focus on goals, deal with a life-changing event, challenge myself and SO MUCH MORE. I am forever grateful…………

If you would like to help me in my own version of “Do It For Darren” and for all of our Push to Walk clients, please click here to donate, or come to Long Branch this Sunday, April 26 and cheer on Team Push to Walk!

Thank you, Cynthia


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Summer Boot Camp Week Progressing!

Happy Summer! Of course, now everyone is complaining about the heat, but it doesn’t seem so long ago that the complaints were about the cold and rain…………I hope you are enjoying the warm weather, and staying cool when needed!

Summer Camp started off on Sunday with a fun Ice Cream Social and guest speaker, our very own “Push Girl” Christan Zaccagnino. We are very grateful to Curly’s in Riverdale for donating their delicious chocolate and vanilla ice cream for all to enjoy. I’d like to thank so many our staff members, clients, friends and family members for coming out!

Monday evening was devoted to art and yoga, and I’d like to thank Laurie Kammer and David McCauley from Rise Up Gallery for donating materials and providing inspiration for the art workshop, as well as Nancy Witters and Kula for Karma for providing a great yoga experience.

Our first Open House this week brought several vendors, visitors and prospective clients to Push to Walk on Tuesday. The place was busy! With demos of the Re-Walk, and the Standing Company wheelchair, we learned a lot about these products, and also had the Morph Wheel, Coloplast and Drivemaster here with samples and information. Lunch and sno-cones topped off the day!

A Wheelchair Rugby exhibition was held on Tuesday evening at the Wayne YMCA, and a few members from the Warriors Rugby Team demonstrated the game to clients and staff members. Many thanks to the YMCA for allowing us to use their gym!

Tonight, Wednesday, lots of people have already signed up to meet at Hooters in Wayne for Trivia Night. We have a large group, and last year was so much fun, I am looking forward to a great night tonight!


Thursday is our second Open House and will be held from 9:30 am – 3 pm. We’ll have more demos, including Matt Courson and the Restorative Therapies RT-200, an exciting new piece of “hybrid” equipment that combines an arm and leg workout in a seated elliptical machine.  Come and visit us! Invite others who might want to check us out!

On Thursday evening, we will be traveling to The W.M. Keck Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick to hear Dr. Wise Young speak about the SCI Clinical Trials and results coming from China, and his plans for U.S. clinical trials. Other speakers and vendors will be present as well. Tours of the Lab start at 5 pm and the presentations start at 6 pm. Please call or e-mail Stephanie for more info: 862-200-5848 or slajam@pushtowalknj.org.

Join us for a Sled Hockey demonstration put on by the New Jersey Freeze at Floyd Hall Arena from 10:30 am until 12 noon.  The Arena is located on the campus of Montclair University and their GPS address is 28 Clove Road, Little Falls, NJ.

While we are all busy enjoying the Summer Camp activities, I’d like to recognize Stephanie Lajam, our Communications and Special Events Coordinator for doing an OUTSTANDING job of arranging the week’s events. She has secured lunch donations for the whole week, scheduled many vendors, and worked out all venue details. THANK YOU, Stephanie, for all of your hard work!! Thanks also to our staff members for participating in so many activities, especially after putting in long days and many hours of training. A special shout out to Tommy Sutor, our Program Director, for managing the client schedules this week.

Thanks to our clients and family members for joining us; I hope everyone has enjoyed the week so far!

REMINDER – We do have Macy’s 25% coupons for sale for $5.00 each, good at any Macy’s store on Saturday, August 24. Buy some today!!! Share with family, friends and co-workers!!

Thanks for reading! Cynthia

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I can’t say it’s my favorite holiday as I also really love Christmas, but it is a very close second! Lots of food, family, friends and all in the name of giving THANKS for what we have, who we are, and what we do. I am grateful for all these things and more, every day, but with a day to celebrate thanks, it is that much more special.

I am a big believer in things being “relative.” Yes, there are things in my life that are not perfect – I think we can all say that to some extent. But whatever I have going on may be worse than some, but not so bad compared to others. When people complain about “little things” I really, really try to see things from their point of view. Sometimes their complaints are valid, and present real difficulties. But other times I just want to say “really? REALLY???” Oh, they just have no idea………..

And I’m not just talking about my world as related to spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, MS and other neurological conditions. I see friends struggling with major illnesses, children with severe problems, catastrophic losses from Hurricane Sandy – the list goes on and on. Those are the REAL problems.

So this Thanksgiving, I’d like to express my gratitude to all those in my life who contribute to who I am, what I do and what I have.  I am so thankful for my family, friends, co-workers and everyone in my Push to Walk family, far and wide. Thank you for being part of my life!

I wish all of you and your loved ones a wonderful, thankful Thanksgiving holiday! May it be a day of joy and celebration, but also recognize  others who are struggling and may need our help and support. I hope this holiday brings out the best in all of us, and that we help each other.

Love Cynthia

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Is it an anniversary? A second birthday? A day to celebrate life or mourn loss? For me, it’s all of these things and so much more. July 23, 2004 was the day our lives changed forever. Most notably my son Darren’s, when he sustained his spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. It affected his whole family, his friends and an entire community. Now, 8 years later, I’d also like to think it has changed the spinal cord injury community as well, at least locally, with Push to Walk.

But the personal side of the story is now a part of our lives. I can’t even begin to imagine the thoughts in Darren’s head as this date comes around each year. On the outside, I see a strong, motivated, determined young man who lives life to the fullest. He’s accomplished so much and has much more he strives to do. He sets goals for himself and works toward them with a calculated plan. I admire him every minute of every day.

Even eight years later, tears are always just beneath the surface and a thought, a word, or a vision brings all the raw emotions to the surface. And I am not the person living this life, but observing it one step away. How Darren and all the others with SCI I’ve met do it, I can’t completely comprehend.  As I write through my tears at this keyboard, I recall the many wonderful memories of life before SCI and there are many. And in these 8 years, there are also many good and happy memories. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss our “old life.” The spontaneity, the freedom, the ability to do whatever one pleases without the challenges that must be faced at every turn.

But here I find myself, immersed daily in the lives of people with SCI, and I am grateful I am where I am, doing what I am doing. Sure, some days I’d rather stay in bed and keep the covers over my head, but what would that accomplish? I’ve said for a very long time “if Darren can keep going, then so can I.” So I wake up each morning and face the day, having a hopeful, optimistic plan for something good to happen today. To work toward some goal that will help someone, do something that will make someone’s life a little better, a little easier, or a little happier. This is what keeps me going.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us in some way during this journey. There are way too many people to name, but my family, friends, neighbors know who they are. To countless others who have been there for us in the past and continue to support us – thank you. While I would not have chosen this path for myself (and certainly not for Darren), I am trying to at least have a positive impact on those around me.

Here’s to LIFE – the good, the bad and the ugly. Thanks to those around me for helping me to focus on the good, not dwell on the bad and to laugh at the ugly…………..we are all in this together and I treasure your love, friendship and support.

Love Cynthia

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Today is my birthday! I love celebrating my birthday and enjoying the day with family and friends. I even made cupcakes yesterday, but it was so I could eat the cake batter, not the cupcakes! There’s no calories in cake until it’s cooked, right?! I love getting cards, e-mails and reading Facebook posts. Every single one brings a smile and warm thoughts about the person who was so thoughtful to not only remember, but to send a greeting of some sort.

I love the American Cancer Society’s slogan – The Official Sponsor of Birthdays. Whoever came up with that is a genius! While some people I know don’t like to acknowledge or admit their age, don’t like to celebrate birthdays and get depressed when yet “another” one rolls around, I am just the opposite. Not that getting old is so great, but living certainly beats dying by a very wide margin. Even at age 53, there is so much more I want to do, want to learn, want to see. I want more birthdays!!!

Three years ago, I ran my first full marathon 6 days before my 50th birthday. It had been an important goal for me, and I accomplished it with a lot of dedication and commitment. My family and friends were with me all the way and were there to catch me at the finish line. It was an emotional scene that still brings tears to my eyes. Even my long runs in my current training schedule get me choked up, imagining the finish line I will be crossing on May 1st at the NJ Marathon in Long Branch. Running is therapy for me: time to sort out my thoughts and think through ideas. Time for myself, dedicated to myself. And, as you know by now, to our Push to Walk clients.

I’d like to think that the American Cancer Society doesn’t own that slogan all by themselves. If we all live life to the fullest, help ourselves and others celebrate life, we can all be sponsors of birthdays. I’d like to think that Push to Walk can sponsor birthdays as well – helping people with spinal cord injuries stay healthy, live full and productive lives, and live longer lives. I sure hope we do!

Here’s to birthdays! And to celebrating life! May you enjoy your day today as much as I am enjoying mine!


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My run on Saturday was for 8 miles, which I estimated would take just under an hour and a half. I felt good as I was running, and realized that I had run continuously with no breaks for more than an hour. Perhaps it was because my mind was very focused. I had been thinking of the clients who previously came to Push to Walk but stopped coming for a variety of reasons. I had also been thinking about lots of people who had called or e-mailed but never became clients. Both groups of people made my heart sad for one reason or another.

First, the people we’ve met and gotten to know as a result of being a client – I miss them! In most cases, I met one or more family members and formed relationships with them. I learned about their family, their interests, their personal story. Every new story never fails to break my heart – there is never a “good” story about a spinal cord injury. There is always heartache and grief, which hopefully leads to acceptance on some level or at least adaptation in some sense. Everyone finds their own way of dealing with this cruel twist of fate that left them or their loved ones paralyzed.

I think of Luigi, Robert, Cindy, Walter, Matt, Lucas and Ikiyan. I think of Anthony, Heather and Carmen. I think of people who have visited us from out of town: Patrick, Shane, Brittany and Mike because they live too far away to come on a regular basis. People that I know benefitted from Push to Walk’s program, but financial concerns, or transportation or other challenges just made it too difficult for them to keep coming. I try to keep in touch with each of them as best I can, but admit that is tough to do. I don’t want to make it seem like I am “selling” Push to Walk’s program to them. I just want to know how they’re doing. I hope they are all doing well, and finding their way in this world of spinal cord injury.

There are other people I’ve spoken to on the phone, e-mailed back and forth with, and maybe even met. But they or their loved ones never came to Push to Walk. Why? There are as many reasons as there are stories and injuries. Oftentimes, it is the money, there’s no doubt about that. How I wish we could charge less for our services, then so many more people could come. If we could make our hourly fees more affordable, that would make such a difference for so many people. But until we find an angel, or substantial grant money, or win the lottery, we must charge our current fees. Even that amount of money isn’t enough to cover our operating expenses; our fund raising events are critical in making up the difference.

But I feel like I know these people I’ve never met. I know their stories, what they’re dealing with, the challenges they face. I know how many other children are in the family, how they renovated their houses, how their jobs have been adjusted, or even lost, how their spouses are coping (or not) – they have allowed me access into their personal life hoping I can help them. And as much as I do help them, I feel it is never enough. Their stories tug at my heart strings while I try to give them factual information to make their daily lives easier – home modifications, standing frames, other equipment they will need, medical supplies, insurance coverage, government benefits and more. While they may never actually come for services, I try to help whenever and wherever I can. Oftentimes, the phone conversations are lengthy, sometimes at night or on the weekends. When I give my cell phone number out, it might ring at anytime, and I try to make myself available as much as possible.

When a person calls again after some period of time has passed, I can usually recall names, where they live, date and level of injury – all without referring to my notes. Why? Why can I remember these details so vividly for people I’ve never met? I guess because we have the connection of a spinal cord injury; the common understanding of the challenges we need to face; and the need to talk to someone who understands. These people I’ve never met are part of our family now, even though they have yet to come through our doors. Some never do; some do eventually, when the time is right.

These thoughts kept me running for 8 miles, and a good run it was. As I get closer to the date of May 1st when I run a full 26.2 miles in the NJ Marathon in Long Branch, I will think of all these people, near and dear to my heart, some of whom I’ve never met, but think of nonetheless. I will be thinking of them and running for them. With all of these people behind me, I am confident I will make the distance!


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My real topic is about my friends today, but I couldn’t start writing without acknowledging all those affected by the terrible flooding in the last several days. Many friends, homes and businesses are dealing with astronomical problems as a result of the rains and floods, and I wish them all well. In addition to the local problems, my heart goes out to the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

Back to running – I was lucky enough to see my daughter for a few hours Friday night/Saturday morning. She was home briefly before flying out to Colorado for her spring break ski trip. As I was talking to her Friday night about my run the next morning, we were talking about listening to music while running. I don’t listen to music for a couple of reasons. First, I hate having anything in my ears; second, I don’t own an iPod; and third, I don’t need yet another thing to worry about while I run! So it’s me, myself and I out there on the roads, with the thoughts in my head and an occasional song that I sing to myself. I do my best thinking – creative, problem solving, etc. while I am running. Sometimes I think about the last few minutes, and realize I have been thinking about absolutely nothing. I guess that’s good, too!

With a 3 hour run ahead of me (16 miles) I decided to think about all the friends who came to our aid when Darren was first injured. Now it is inevitable that I will leave someone out, and I truly apologize if I do. There were just SO many people who did SO much. And of course there were people doing things that I never even knew about. Some I was told about long after the fact; some I’m sure I never found out. Saturday’s run was for all our friends. As I write this, I am thinking this might have to be in 2 or 3 parts. Otherwise, my post will be like a whole book instead of a blog entry!

The minute word got out about Darren’s accident, people mobilized like I have never experienced before. As I have mentioned before, my sister and her family and my Mother, were with us as much as possible and doing things for us every minute. Our dear friends, Ralph and Lucille, immediately made us hotel arrangements, went to our house and packed clothes for us. Their daughter and her husband drove through the night to go to Atlantic City Medical Center to review Darren’s x-rays, MRI’s, etc. and started making phone calls to get the best medical care available. Carol G. started spreading the news in an organized fashion to try and reduce the number of phone calls and questions we were getting. The poor woman couldn’t go anywhere without being bombarded with questions and well wishes. Her e-mail distribution list was an amazing help, and she maintained it for months before turning it over to Medora to continue. (All of my e-mails during that time can be found on the Push to Walk website: www.pushtowalknj.org/familycorner)  Shelley and Bernie were helping to take care of our house and pool, and our shore house was looked after by Ken and Cindy. Do you know what perishable food looks and smells like when no one goes there for a while? Ken and Cindy made sure that didn’t happen, along with lots of other stuff that needed to be done there in our absence. And that’s while they were traveling back and forth to see us in Philly as frequently as possible.

Friends came to Atlantic City and Philadelphia right away. They brought food, gifts and lots of hugs. There were lots of tears and more hugs. Wow, that waiting room was quite a scene if I remember correctly. My friends Betty and Rick met me in Atlantic City almost as soon as the Medivac helicopter landed. Our friends on the boat with us that day, Joe and Gail, came as soon as they could.

Visitors included my dear friend Charlene, Darren’s friend Greg, Bob and Rob Alessandro, Bernie, Lori and others. I know I am leaving out some. The thing is that people dropped whatever they were doing to help in whatever way they could. The support was incredible and overwhelming.

When I came home for one day during Darren’s time in Philly, Carol arranged a wonderful gathering at her house for our closest friends. Not only did she make sure I ate, but that I got to see everyone at one time, eliminating multiple visits that I didn’t have the luxury of time for. She also did some shopping for things I needed to bring back with me for Darren.

The people in my husband’s office were fantastic. With their help, the business never missed a beat. They kept things running smoothly and without a hitch. John didn’t have to worry that things were being taken care of. He could concentrate on Darren and not think of the office. What a relief.

Meanwhile, at home, the Kinnelon High School Principal was taking care of things for Arianne. She was entering her junior year of high school and there were still a lot of details to be decided upon for her schedule, activities, etc. Sharon took care of everything she could. Doris Z. was planning a church service, and people started sending us things to cheer us up, feed us, and brighten Darren’s room. Friends Kathy and Berdj, and Chris and Cheryl were on the phone, offering to help, doing what they could

The timeline seems a little muddled in my mind – what happened in Philly? What didn’t happen until Atlanta? It really doesn’t matter, but it is a strange feeling in trying to recall certain events. After arriving in Atlanta, friends were pulling strings to have Devils memorabilia signed and sent to us. Not only that, but Shelley arranged a call from Lou Lamoriello, the CEO/Pres/GM of the New Jersey Devils to Darren personally. It was a call I’ll never forget, and one we still joke about to this day. It went something like this: “Hello, can I please speak to Darren?” Me – “Who is this?” “This is Lou Lamoriello.” Me – “Really? Stop joking around. Tell me who this really is.” Lou says “Really, it’s me, Lou Lamoriello, and I’d like to speak with Darren.” It was AWESOME! The man was genuinely interested in speaking with Darren and wishing him well. It was the beginning of a special relationship that brings tears to my eyes and continues to this day. While that phone call started something I could write a whole ‘nother blog entry on, suffice it to say here that Lou took a special interest in Darren, and he would call periodically to check up on him. He gave me his personal cell phone number, and told me to call him if Darren ever needed anything, including a kick in the ass to keep him focused on working hard. He is quite a guy.  

Ski friends had our favorite clam chowder from Gilbert’s in Portland, Maine sent to us special delivery. Even with the decent food we were eating, that clam chowder was WONDERFUL! It also brought back great memories of ski races and road trips. Darren’s hockey team signed a giant card and sent it to him. Cards and letters and presents were coming from far and wide.

Visitors were arranged for weekends while at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, and included Darren’s best buddies Arek and Eli, Kevin and Ricky and their Mom Judy, HS Hockey Coach Spiller, Charlene, Betty, Grandma and Uncle Tim. One weekend, I had my sister Michele, Ari and Medora visit together. We had another friend’s Jeep (thanks Julie and Mark, for the car, the visits and the burgers!) and decided to go out and about – with Darren. What adventures we had that weekend! Lots of laughs and fun times!

Oh, I could go on and on, and will continue this in a future blog. As I’ve written this, I’ve laughed and cried with the memories. But the feeling is one of such warmth and gratitude. THANK YOU, my dear friends, for being there in body and spirit, for doing all that have you have done and continue to do, even though it is more than 6 years later. You have not abandoned us nor forgotten about us. You continue to help in so many ways. Our bonds are stronger than ever, and I will be forever grateful for your love and friendship.

With these thoughts, I completed 16 miles yesterday. While my body was exhausted, my mind was energized! I couldn’t wait to start writing, and recalling all these wonderful moments. While the circumstances surrounding a new  spinal cord injury are scary and catastrophic, and the fear of the unknown overwhelming at every turn, the friendship and love helps us through each and every day.

Thank you dear friends,


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