NEWS

Vision loss doesn’t stop massage therapist from helping people

By EMMA BARTLETT and FRANKLIN PAULINO
Posted 4/12/22

Cheryl D’Itri, owner of It’s Your Body’s Symphony has worked with interns. So, when she received a call from Rogelio Maldonado Jr. – a student studying massage therapy at the …

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NEWS

Vision loss doesn’t stop massage therapist from helping people

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Cheryl D’Itri, owner of It’s Your Body’s Symphony has worked with interns. So, when she received a call from Rogelio Maldonado Jr. – a student studying massage therapy at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts – she was open to talking about a potential internship.

Cheryl had also attended Bancroft and contacted Greg Hurd, who works as the director of career development, to learn more about Rogelio – who goes by JR. 

It was through Greg that Cheryl learned JR was visually impaired. Cheryl said she was initially shocked, saying she hadn’t worked with someone with a loss of sight.

JR was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and moved to Rhode Island with his family during his teens. He discovered that he had a genetic condition called Retinitis pigmentosa  that affects the back of the eye and, through time, sight begins to deteriorate. During his senior year at Hope High School, JR noticed his vision was becoming increasingly worse; at age 34, he currently has some sight light perception left.

After high school, JR went on to study at Lincoln Tech, but did not feel like it was the right fit. With the encouragement of his then girlfriend (and now wife), he enrolled in a 13-month massage therapy program at Bancroft that eventually led him to Cheryl’s Cranston business.

JR, who now lives on Federal Hill in Providence, noted that he doesn’t lead conversations with employers about being visually impaired. However, before meeting with an employer, he mentions his condition so the individual isn’t surprised. 

“Everyone received and accepted him with open arms,” said Cheryl, once JR came to intern in August of 2021.

JR interned with Cheryl three to four days a week and would practice what he had learned on her. His specialty is deep tissue massage therapy which helps work out any physical ailments – such as a tight lower back or assisting with a past injury. JR said he wants to bring people back to their best health.

“I was impressed with JR’s work and that he quickly adapted to his surroundings,” Cheryl said.

After his internship, JR went on to pass the state board exam with flying colors and is now registered to practice massage therapy in Rhode Island. JR noted that he has studied over 200 muscles, ligaments and tendons within the body.

“I’m really happy to be giving back to the community,” said JR. “People go through pain and anxiety…and I want to help in all capacities.”

JR now works at It’s Your Body’s Symphony and his next goal is to build a client base so he has a full schedule. Cheryl is advertising JR’s spring special – which is a 90 minute hot stone massage for $90 that runs now through May 30 – but grant opportunities will allow her to build a marketing platform so she can reach more customers; this way, the business can market itself to the city of Cranston and beyond. Cheryl is already familiar with Cranston’s grant programs after applying for a Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) grant during Covid where she received up to $1,000 in coverage of PPE supplies. Through the city’s Economic Development Department, Cranston is going to assist JR with the Small Business Development Center and CommerceRI to help create a business plan and get a small business consultant that specialize in marketing so JR can expand his business and build a digital marketing platform so he fill his agenda with appointments.

JR now has his own massage therapy room and, while it is on the smaller end, JR said it is beneficial for him because he knows where everything is within the room. With peaceful music and low lighting, it is a calming and welcoming space for those receiving massages. Cheryl is still setting up the room and plans to add a vinyl mural for decorations on the wall. 

Additionally, there is research being conducted to help restore sight for those with Retinitis pigmentosa, JR said he is okay with not seeing again. 

“I’m happy where I’m at now in life,” JR said, noting his beautiful family and his four-month-old daughter named Violet.

JR said he is up for any challenge and is confident in his skills. He noted that if he needed to consult with anyone, he would go to Cheryl – the guru.

Cheryl has been in business for 26 years and started out in Johnston. Due to the pandemic, she relocated to Cranston and she has been there for just over a year. Along with Mason, her therapy dog, and calming music and incense throughout the building, individuals walking in experience a state of Zen; there are five massage therapists working at It’s Your Body’s Symphony – including JR. She said some of her clients have been with her since the very beginning of her business.

It’s Your Body’s Symphony is located at 14 Hayward St., Cranston, and provides an assortment of services including therapeutic massages (such as deep tissue, Swedish, la stone therapy/hot stone, CBD oil massage and manual therapy), reflexology, facials and body treatments (basic facial, back facial, European herbal facial and more) and hair removal (back, brows, upper lip, sideburns, lower lip and chin). For more information, visit https://www.itsyourbodyssymphony.com or call 401-464-6100. The company is available for on-site corporate work, events and chair massage. 

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