Former boxer opens adaptive gym for people living with paralysis

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Former boxing champion and Rhode Island native Gary “Tiger” Balletto opened the doors Tuesday to the state’s first adaptive gym designed for those struggling with paralysis.

Balletto, who became paralyzed from the waist down in 2013 while training for America Ninja Warrior in his backyard, said the gym is designed to help people suffering from spinal cord injuries, strokes, traumatic brain injuries and other neurological diseases.

“I was extremely fortunate to have the financial resources and support to remain fit and healthy after my accident,” Balletto said. “Others are not so lucky. The ‘Y’ opened up my eyes to a population of beautiful people who need help. People who want to be in shape and healthy, just like those who are fully able-bodied.”

Following his life-changing injury, Balletto founded “The Gary Tiger Balletto Foundation” which raises awareness and provides resources to those with paralysis. He said the gym was designed and funded by his foundation.

The gym is located in the main exercise space in the Cranston YMCA. Specially trained staff members will be on hand five days a week to assist anyone utilizing the gym and its equipment.

Balletto said the gym includes two functional electrical stimulation bikes and six additional pieces of equipment including standing frames, adaptive cardio and strength machines, and a Galileo tilt table.

“Through this programming, we are able to meet the health and fitness needs for a segment of our population that is often overlooked,” Greater Providence YMCA CEO Steven O’Donnell said. “There are close to 20,000 people in the state living with some form of paralysis and thanks to Gary’s inspirational work, and that of the Gary Tiger Balletto Foundation, the ‘Y’ can continue to live its mission in helping everyone in our community.”

Anyone interested in using the adaptive gym just needs to pay for a YMCA membership fee.

by: Sarah Doiron, Morey Hershgordon

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