Darren Templeton can’t walk. So others will do it for him.
The Kinnelon-Butler Optimist Club is sponsoring a 5K run/walk for Templeton, who injured his spinal cord in an auto accident in 2004, and has been paralyzed since.
The Run for Darren will take place Saturday, beginning at Kinnelon High School. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. and the event at 9 a.m.
Cynthia Templeton, along with Annie Kline and Diane McIntee, helped build support from the community and organize the event for her 20-year-old son. The family needs help paying for physical therapy sessions and modifications to the house and cars so that Darren can live a “normal” life.
“Normal” is something Templeton strives for. He has learned to drive and is in his second year at Ramapo College — the first actually living on campus. Now, his eyes are set on walking.
For more information on the Run for Darren, visit raceforum.com. We sat down recently with Templeton to talk about his challenges:
Q. What has been the biggest challenge of the last two years?
I guess just getting back to being independent and on my own. Being able to take care of myself and lead a normal 20-year-old’s life.
Q. How do you define normal?
Just doing what all my friends are doing — hanging out, going to class and trying to go places.
Q. How have you coped with the shock?
I guess just accepting it for what it is and not getting down or too depressed … just keep on doing whatever I can to make my life as good as it can be. And getting advice and support from family and friends; my support has been really good, from the whole community. It’s been awesome.
Q. Who has been your support base?
Just my best friends from high school because it happened between high school and college, so I didn’t know anybody else really. So being able to hang out with them is real good.
Q. How difficult has it been to adapt?
It was a shock in the beginning to my whole family. But it gets easier especially as I’m slowly recovering, and hopefully I won’t have to be in a chair anymore eventually.
Q. What or who has been your biggest inspiration in getting back to a normal life?
Other people in my situation that have been doing it for a long time.
Q. Have you had a lot of interaction with those people?
I play on a [wheelchair] rugby team in the fall and spring in Hackensack. I’m one of the youngest guys there, but all the older guys have been injured for a longer amount of time. They’re just the kinds of people who are independent and do a lot for themselves, the kind of people I look up to.
Q. Tell me about your training?
We try to not get too routine by doing different things each day, that involves leg exercises and then trunk or core stuff, that’s all stuff below my injury. And leg exercises to get control over each muscle in my lower body, so I can eventually take coordinated steps. That’s the goal.
Q. How has this affected the family as a whole?
It’s a strain on the family, in the beginning especially because it’s a big change that none of us had foreseen. But it also forces us to deal with each other and interact and figure out our problems.
Q. Have you ever wanted to give up?
There’s a lot of doubt that goes through your head. There are bad days. There are definitely times when it’s harder, but as long as there are more good days than bad.
Q. What’s a good day?
A good training day, doing exercises well that day. Or just having a day that went as planned, no problems or complication or falls.
Q. Has this affected your social life?
Luckily my friends still want to hang out and do all the things we used to. I just can’t do a lot of the stuff like play golf. Just be able to do athletic activities, I can’t go play football. I’ll still go and hang out with my friends. Stuff like boating or going on a lake. It just limits my options. That’s something that motivates me. … I want to be able to do it again.
Q. Are you excited about the walk?
Definitely. I’ll just be talking to people, hanging out, watching the action. It’s going to be good to make people feel like they’re doing something, because I think a lot of people want to help but don’t know how to. And they’ll be able to ask me how I’m doing. I think it’ll just be a good day.
By ADRIAN RAMOS