By Push to Walk staff

Push to Walk (PTW) was founded in 2007 by a family who had been directly impacted by paralysis. That family understands the physical, psychological, emotional, and financial effects it can have on those who experience such trauma.

Our founder, Darren Templeton, sustained a C5 spinal cord injury after diving into shallow water in July 2004. He was 18 years old at the time. Upon completing traditional in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation therapy, he was looking for a way to improve and increase his abilities. Both his work with a personal trainer and participation in an intensive exercise program in California inspired him to create a similar program in New Jersey.

The mission of PTW is to provide individualized workouts and resources to people with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis to optimize their current quality of life and to prepare them for future medical advancements. Our vision is that all members of the paralysis community achieve their highest level of physical fitness.

Americans living with paralysis are among the most underserved populations in our society, particularly after they complete traditional rehabilitation therapy. When that ends, they must find other means to continue physical exercise on their own and at their own cost. Traditional gyms typically lack sufficient accessible space, specialized equipment and trainers who are experienced in working with individuals who have various forms of paralysis. PTW has been filling this void since 2007.

Our services help our clients with their mobility issues and enable them to develop the strength, flexibility and skills needed to perform everyday tasks most of us take for granted—from brushing one’s teeth, to dressing independently, to driving a car, to grocery shopping, and even caring for children. As the number of individuals with paralysis continues to increase because of traumatic injuries and conditions such as strokes and multiple sclerosis, more and more individuals are in need of exercise and wellness programs that are targeted to their unique needs.

Since our beginning, PTW has established itself as a highly regarded option for people with paralysis to exercise and regain strength, function, and independence. We have grown steadily and are housed in a state-of-the-art facility in Oakland, New Jersey that is accessible, inviting, upbeat and challenging. PTW is proud to describe itself as offering the highest quality specialized exercise program in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania region.

Our program staff meet stringent educational and professional requirements and continually learn new and novel techniques in order the help the clients reach their personal goals. Administrative staff support the program through grant writing, fundraising events, marketing activities and human resources. The entire board and staff support and carryout the mission of PTW every day.

There is pride and confidence in how the organization is run, and it is important that others view us having those qualities. Clients and their families trust us to treat them safely, kindly and with dignity. High expectations are set for all staff members; program quality is never compromised. The atmosphere is one that encourages hard work, challenges and determination. Positive attitudes are obvious in every area of the gym.

PTW, like many smaller nonprofits struggled during the pandemic. We have not only survived but have flourished. We are currently serving more than 85 clients and have served over 750 individuals, their family members and caregivers since opening in 2007. A year celebrating our 15th Anniversary is planned for 2022.

Darren Templeton continues to work out at PTW twice a week. After sustaining his spinal cord injury one month after his high school graduation, Darren attended Ramapo College for his undergraduate degree in finance and continued at Rutgers Newark for his MBA in Supply Chain Management. After working at Ashland Chemical for several years, he has been working with the family business, now running operations for Millennium Technologies.

Darren is married, owns his own home, is an avid sports fan and plays wheelchair rugby. He enjoys traveling with his wife, Keirsten, time with his dog, Steve, and swimming in his pool. Darren believes that regular exercise has helped him stay strong and healthy, enabling him to work full time, drive independently and live a full and happy life. Darren’s story is a common one for PTW clients, and he is always available to speak with other people who have experienced similar injuries to help them on their journeys.

Every year, NJEA selects an official NJEA Convention charity. This year, Push to Walk is that charity. You’ll find them on the Exhibit Hall floor at Booth 826.

If you wish to make a donation to Push to Walk, visit pushtowalknj.org. Push to Walk is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

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