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Roll a day in someone else’s chair
Physical therapy club hosts annual Walk and Roll 5k
By Alexis Rossi and Julianna Coscia
The Quinnipiac Graduate Physical Therapy club hosted the sixth annual Walk and Roll on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Quinnipiac’s North Haven campus. Students, community members and professors joined together to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injuries. Attendees walked and rolled a 5k through the streets around the campus from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“All the proceeds go to the Connecticut chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association,” graduate student and event chairman Sydni Grossman said. “They provide services to support the family members of those who have spinal cord injuries as well as the people who have the spinal cord injuries.”
“I know I rolled in a wheelchair last year, and you can kind of have more of a respect for people who are in a wheelchair,” Grossman said. “We do encourage people to use the chairs to see what it’s like.”
The atmosphere was full of positivity and the participants were eager to speak about the event and promote its message. Those who attended paid $20 for a t-shirt, a barbecue lunch, a tech fair and a raffle. The tech fair was available to promote new advances in the field, and make those affected more aware of their options.
Junior journalism major Sean Patten came with his brothers of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. Patten as well as his brothers emphasized the importance his fraternity places on community service.
“One of the kids in my fraternity, his uncle is a paraplegic. We want to give back as often as we can, and I hope we can do this every year to come,” Patten said.
Many of the community members found the event through its page on Facebook. The page gave information on the walk, and served as a meeting place for the participants. A trivia question was posted weekly leading up to the day of the event.
Adaptive sports program coordinator at the Bristol Community Center Paul Weiymand was one of the vendors in attendance.
“We are a sports fitness and community center specially designed to work with individuals with special needs, older adults and veterans,” Weiymand said. “The primary objective is to have a booth to get information out.”
For many volunteers and participants, this Walk and Roll was not their first. Physical therapy professor Erin Lampron has attended the event for the last four years. This year, she participated with her husband and two daughters.
“I think unfortunately, there’s not a lot of awareness about spinal cord injury and that life doesn’t have to end,” Lampron said. “Seeing these guys come out and be active and participate is a big message to people.”
Participants affected by spinal cord injuries shared their stories. Couple Steve La’Rocca and Sandra Soto spoke about their contrasting experiences. La’Rocca has been in a wheelchair since he was a teen, while Soto has been in one since she was born.
“I had spinal cord tumors, and I had a couple of different surgeries for removal,” La’Rocca said. “After the second surgery, there was too much nerve damage. I made my own decision that I’d rather live my everyday life in a chair than go to physical therapy… braces on, braces off, crutches on, crutches off.”
The two met online and bonded over their shared experiences. La’Rocca and Soto have since moved in together.
Along with those affected by spinal cord injury, students and professors at Quinnipiac came to show support for the cause. Graduate students in the program helped organize and promote the event.
Graduate student Samantha Seratelli is involved in the school’s physical therapy program and has been an active part of promoting the event on Facebook. She spoke about the program’s involvement with patients, some of whom participated in the walk.
“A lot of the guys here are our patients that we work with in class,” Seratelli said. “We can actually teach them how to do things, even though these guys are so advanced and have been coming here for years.”
Adjunct professor Carlos Quiles works as a physical therapy teacher and serves as a patient for the class as well. This was his fourth year attending the event.
“My role here with the physical therapy department is two sided, I’m actually an adjunct and also one of the patients students get to work with and learn new skills,” Quiles said. “This event means a lot of different thing. I mean it’s awareness for anyone in attendance, especially with the vendors here. It’s a great learning experience and a good place to bring everybody together.”
Jillian Harpin, a member of the Bristol adaptive gym, attended for the second year in a row.
Harpin was injured two years prior after falling from a balcony and is now paralyzed from the chest down. She feels that the event is a great place to meet people, and has been able to connect with others who have been affected. Harpin shared her appreciation for the physical therapy program and their enthusiasm for working with and learning about those with spinal cord injuries.
“It’s just a great day for a good cause. I’ve met so many incredible people through all of this,” Harpin said.