Moving With Hope’s operation grows in new Shelton home

Photo of Brian Gioiele

Every day another person is diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition, such as a brain or spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, MS or neuropathy — and Tad Duni wants to help them all.

Duni, who has worked in the field of physical disability for more than 35 years, began his quest a decade ago when he founded Moving With Hope, Inc., a nonprofit agency located in a nondescript space on Center Street in downtown Shelton.

It was in this less than attractive location, according to Duni, that dreams come alive for people suffering from brain and spinal cord injuries through a cost-effective, personalized regimen designed to put them on their feet again. Now his chances of helping more people have grown as his space has expanded.

Last month, Duni’s Moving With Hope relocated to a newly renovated, 6,000-square-foot space at 30 Controls Drive, in which the company has doubled in size and added the newest technology to best serve the surrounding communities with particular interest in those folks with moderate to severe neurological impairment and orthopedic pain and weakness.

“Our mission is to provide year-round access at an affordable price in the community for those people recovering from moderate to severe neurological conditions,” said Duni, who opened the business in 2010. “This is critical because other programs like this are only research oriented. No one provides what we do.

“An angel has been guiding us on the right path, and we’ve accomplished some amazing things,” added Duni. “We have a goal here … a mission. Our goal to help people, and if you don’t have that, you don’t belong in this business.”

The new facility features dedicated offices for physical and occupational therapy, massage and craniosacral therapy, yoga and private personal training sessions. It also features indoor wheelchair cycling, two roll up functional stimulation bikes (MyoCyles) for the paralytic community and active/passive/assist upper and lower body exercisers. Moving With Hope has a full rehab gym, a large roll-in shower with changing table and a standard sized handicapped accessible shower.

Joining the staff is Duni’s wife, Joanne Duni, who has been an orthopedic physical therapist for more than 30 years, practicing in Shelton and surrounding towns from Wallingford to Westport. Duni has also hired an occupational therapist with more than 35 years of experience in neuro-rehabilitation and expanded its overall staff to 14.

In the old location, Duni said staff was forced to do more with less, all while the appearance of the space left much to be desired and had employees and clients less than excited about coming each day.

“I was able to design the facility to accommodate more people more fluidly,” said Duni. “We’re very happy here. This is truly an impressive space, with room to expend in the future.”

Duni said his operation provides financial assistance to all families in need of long-term recovery that have limited resources. Moving With Hope offers year-round post-acute outpatient physical, occupational, speech and cognitive therapies for people with complicated neuroendocrine and orthopedic diseases.

“Every minute spent with these people is precious,” said Duni.

Moving With Hope works with some 50 people a year, ages 20 to 86. During the past year, Duni’s team of three full-time and eight part-time employees provided more than 24,000 hours of direct client services, which aided in the clients’ functional independence dramatically improving, he said.

Earlier this year, Duni said Moving With Hope expanded its services to include skilled occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology. These additional services will complete Duni’s community-based model goal of providing the best possible opportunity for people to realize optimal recovery, health, wellness and independence.

Staff work with people of varying degrees of injury. Some enter truly unable to walk on their own, and staff members use on-site equipment to aid in strengthening their core, then slowly moving them to a standing position, finally to a point where they assist the individual as they walk. This process takes a couple hours a day, weeks or months before true progress comes to light.

For those with brain injuries, staff use writing prompts and repetition to aid in helping the individuals develop a routine, through which the brain is stimulated and they become able to perform simple, yet regular tasks.

And these work sessions are intensive but successful, according to Duni, who has seen countless people come into his facility barely able to move or use cognitive thought, then leave with improvement in all areas — ready to enter a world that had become foreign to them after their injury. And once in the world, Duni said Moving With Hope remains a constant resource, always affordable, so they stay on the path of physical and ultimately emotional improvement.

“After decades of working with hundreds of people with moderate to severe physical disabilities,” said Duni, “I identified a massive void in their continuum of health and wellness: regular movement. Most health clubs cannot accommodate their unique needs and the high out-of-pocket cost for extra physical therapy is a major barrier. As a result, this population’s physical movement and independence continue to decline.”

Duni said that national health care reports show that this same population represents about 15 percent of the total population and consistently spend nearly 85 percent of all annual health care dollars.

“I felt that something had to be done,” said Duni.

Once moving, Duni said these individuals need skilled occupational, physical and speech therapy, and the expansion of the operation will put a focus on that those people need from the skill perspective.

“We’re putting people over money,” said Duni, adding that other similar operations charge $150 to $200 an hour, while Moving With Hope charges $55, with many people not charged at all, thanks to fundraising used to aid those in desperate financial straits. “This is the formula … it is affordable. I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. Some people have nothing, and that money is found from donations and grants. Our mission is not about money, it is about helping people.”

The clinical facility is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, and the gym, massage therapy, yoga and personal training services are open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Monday through Friday) and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday). For more information, visit