July 29, 2019by GPYMCA
NBC 10

Cranston, RI: The Greater Providence YMCA – Cranston Branch along with The Gary Tiger Balletto Foundation is proud to announce the opening of Rhode Island’s first adaptive gym program within a traditional fitness facility setting. The program will help those with spinal cord injuries, stroke, traumatic brain injuries and other neurological diseases.

The adaptive gym is situated within the Cranston YMCA’s main exercise space, where dedicated, specially-trained YMCA staff are available to assist clients so they can safely and effectively use the equipment. This setup inside the Y gym is intentional – it is rare for people with spinal cord injuries, and other types of paralysis, to have affordable access to gym equipment which they can use, and even more unusual to find it within an able-bodied gym. This allows people of all abilities to be surrounded by friends, family, and peers, in a context where all can interact, assist, and enjoy working out together.

The adaptive gym is equipped with two Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Bikes, and six additional pieces of high-end exercise equipment.

The gym was founded by Gary “Tiger” Balletto who, unfortunately, knows firsthand about the challenges faced by people with spinal cord injuries. In 2013, after retiring from a 10-year career as a professional boxer, Gary was injured in his backyard while training for American Ninja Warrior. Paralyzed from the chest down, he spent the next 18 months rehabilitating and adapting to his new reality. In the hope that a ‘cure’ would be developed within his lifetime, he has committed to staying healthy and maintaining his muscles, so they are ready – when that time comes. Family and friends helped Gary buy a $20,000 Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Bike- which he kept at the Cranston Y.

The GBF bought an additional FES Bike, and the additional equipment was purchased with grants from the thanks to grants from the Rhode Island Foundation and the June Rockwell Levy Foundation.

“I was extremely fortunate to have the financial resources and support to remain fit and healthy after my accident,” said Balletto. “Others are not so lucky; the Y opened up my eyes to a population of beautiful people who need help. People who want to be in shape and healthy, just like those who are fully able-bodied.”

“Through this programming we are able to meet the health and fitness needs for a segment of our population that is often overlooked,” said Steven O’Donnell, Greater Providence YMCA CEO “There are close to close to 20,000 people in the state living with some form of paralysis and thanks to Gary’s inspirational work, and that of the Gary Tiger Balletto Foundation- the Y can continue to live its mission in helping everyone in our community.”

Working with highly trained staff, this adaptive gym will offer:

  • Individualized Fitness Plans
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)
  • Standing Frames
  • Adaptive Cardio Equipment
  • Adaptive Strength Machines
  • Galileo Tilt Table
  • Personal Training

“The Cranston Y is thrilled to be a partner in this endeavor, working with Gary and the Gary Tiger Balletto Foundation to see the adaptive gym come to fruition. Individuals with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis can access a professionally-equipped and staffed gym, close to home for a reasonable cost,” said Andrea Champagne, Executive Director, Cranston YMCA. “This is unheard of – a comparable service through a physical or occupational therapy office is financially out of reach for many people, and insurance in most cases does not cover “maintenance-type” health and fitness programs for more than a few months after an acute injury.”

According to Gary, this is only the beginning. “We’re just going to keep ramping this thing up, and improving our approach, and see where it leads. This concept has been a long time coming, and we have a lot of work ahead of us, which we are looking forward to.”