A charity bicycle ride that begins and ends in Shelton’s Veterans Memorial Park will raise money to provide year-round access to programs for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.
The Bike for Hope will take place Saturday, May 23, with bicyclists able to go on routes of 10, 25 or 50 miles. The longest ride will take cyclists to Woodbury and back.
For those going shorter distances, the event includes a memorial walk and ride of one to six miles in Veterans Park or on the Derby Greenway.
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“I’m a blue collar guy, and we’re trying to reach middle-class families who need year-round affordability,” said event organizer Thatcher “Tad” Duni.
The beneficiary is Moving with HOPE, a Shelton-based nonprofit that helps the ReAbility Center offer a low-cost fee structure so clients can get continuous help. People with chronic illnesses and disabilities gain access to physical activity, post-therapy assistance, nutritional help, and socialization.
The ReAbility Center in downtown Shelton serves only 60 clients, due to the intensive one-on-one work offered people and space limitations.
Many clients are from the Lower Naugatuck Valley, but others come from all over the state for the services. “People will travel long distances,” Duni said.
He said insurance often limits the frequency and length of physical therapy people can get elsewhere, and Moving with HOPE seeks to compensate for that by offering the extended services truly needed by most people.
HOPE is an acronym of the organization’s name; its official name is Moving with Health-Oriented Physical Education.
Clients have been injured in motorcycle and car accidents, in falls off ladders or cliffs (when mountain climbing or hiking), and by gun incidents. Others may have had strokes or brain cancer, or been impacted by genetic diseases.
Many clients, when first injured, are men under age 30, because they tend to participate more often in the activities that cause such injuries — from extreme sports to riding motorcycles.
More people are having strokes, with rates increasing in particular for women, he said. Strokes can lead to TBI. Last year, 400,000 people had strokes in the United States, he said.
Much of the equipment used by the ReAbility Center is expensive to purchase and maintain due to the special needs aspect, according to Duni. This doesn’t just include physical therapy items, but also computers with special harnesses for clients with certain disabilities.
The ReAbility Center employs four people, including three who are partners in the business.
Duni and his wife own B&B Batting Cages in the Conti Building, which is a for-profit business. The ReAbility Center may expand into the batting cages area of the building in the future so it can offer more services.
He originally worked in construction, which comes in handy when overseeing an operation such as the ReAbility Center. “I can build anything,” Duni said.
In the 1970s he ran fitness centers for corporations, and later opened a physical therapy center on Howe Avenue with the help of the Matto family.
Duni has a master’s degree in movement science from Columbia University, and describes himself as an applied physiologist.
Last year’s inaugural Bike for Hope attracted almost 100 cyclists with less-than-ideal weather, and Duni is hoping to attract more participants this year.
He said Veterans Memorial Park is a great venue, because of the Rotary Club Pavilion and nearby Derby Greenway, which is a good location for hand-cyclists.
The event is aided by volunteers from Shelton High School, a Valley church, and local TD Bank branches.
Bike for Hope registration costs $35, and riders are asked to raise another $50 in donations. Learn more about the event at www.ctbikeforhope.org or 203-513-8424.