History was made on Tuesday afternoon at the Cranston YMCA, as The Gary “Tiger” Balletto Foundation opened Rhode Island’s first adaptive gym program within a traditional fitness facility setting.
The Balletto Foundation, along with the help of the YMCA, geared this new program toward those who suffer from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and neurological diseases. The gym is located in the YMCA’s main exercise space, and will provide a specially-trained staff to guide those who are using the equipment to ensure a safe, efficient environment.
Balletto, a Providence native and former professional boxer, suffered a spinal cord injury in his backyard after his career was finished while training for American Ninja Warrior. Since that day in 2013, he and his foundation have been dedicated to helping those with similar injuries, and helping doctors get closer to finding a cure for paralysis.
“It made perfect sense to partner with the YMCA, where I’ve been a member for the past 20 years, I’ve always felt at home here. I think it’s the perfect partnership, I couldn’t have done it without the YMCA,” said Balletto in front of friends, family and locals on Tuesday afternoon at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Fitness has been a major part of Balletto’s life, before and after he sustained his injury. Balletto hopes that there will be a cure during his lifetime, and has been determined to maintain his health for when that day comes. Balletto also wanted to establish a local location where people with similar injuries could exercise conveniently, and more affordably than most adaptive gyms.
“I wanted to build a gym so that people with spinal cord injuries like myself could have a place to go, since there was no place (in RI) for them to go to exercise and stay fit. Once you finish physical therapy, there is no place to go after that, and that didn’t sit right with me,” said Balletto. “We all have to exercise, and it’s not fair for somebody with a spinal cord injury to have to pay extra, it’s not fair to have to pay 200 dollars to go work out for the day. It’s just not fair. I wanted to even the playing field for people with spinal cord injuries.”
“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, in a statement, “We are inspired by Gary and pleased to be working with the Gary “Tiger” Balletto Foundation as we continue to live our mission to help everyone.”
The Cranston YMCA is open to all in Rhode Island and is located at 1225 Park Ave in Cranston. There are currently 20,000 people in the state that suffer from some form of paralysis.