Habersham YMCA Car Wash raises money for Spinal Cord Injury Program
You normally don’t associate wheel chairs and walkers with the gym, but at the local YMCA on Habersham in Savannah, wheelchairs and walkers are a daily occurrence and the people who occupy them are some of the favorite people at the gym and are almost always in good spirits, which makes even the able bodied more aware of how attitude affects exercise and how exercise can make a huge difference in flexibility, endurance and strength.
The program at the Y is run by Michael Mahany, who slipped on the dock and became paralyzed. He needed a place to workout and continue therapy and the Habersham Y agreed to support a small group of paraplegics, and continues to support new members who turn to the Y as their main hope for recovering some movement and strength when many doctors predict they will never walk or be able to care for themselves again.
The group has some scholarships provided by grants and also raise money through various local events, including a Boston Butt sale and just recently a car wash which attracted a steady stream of car owners throughout a five hour period.
Many people, who did not need their cars washed, even stopped by the local Y to donate money.
Over the years the group has purchased special equipment to help simulate walking and many are able to use the reclining bikes and a special machine that allows them to pedal with both hands and feet so that they stimulate muscles they would not be able to move otherwise while sitting in a wheelchair all day.
Research has shown that moving muscles mechanically helps many paraplegics to regain muscle strength and partial ability to function; in some cases, even walk again with assistance.
Muscles that are not worked tend to atrophy, so passive movement of muscles on specialized machines can provide circulatory benefits to the body, as well as reduce muscle spasms. Those with partial neural connections to the extremities may also discover greater control over muscle movement and increased cardiovascular health by working out at the gym, but the specialized equipment and the ability to gain access to the machines is costly, so money is always an object that stands in the way of success.
Mahany was able to regain some of the use of his lower body after being told by doctors that he would never walk again and even though he knows he will probably never regain full control over his body, he is making progress and finding some independence through the training opportunity at the Y as is Johnny Bryant, who injured his spine after slipping on an ice cube.
Members of the YMCA are often shocked to see Johnny standing upright in his chair and marvel that he can move from the chair to the machines, even if he does need some assistance.
It impresses people who see him work out at the gym and encourages them to put in more effort themselves, so everyone benefits from the program!
Athletic trainer Michael Jackson works with the crew of about five men and one woman, three times a week. He has taken on stroke patients as well and suffered a stroke himself in 2003, so knows the challenges of returning to physical health and regaining control over one’s body. To look at him, you would never know he ever had issues with paralysis.
The car wash on Friday brought in nearly $1000 in donations, but more money and new equipment is always needed as are volunteers.
The Y provides a number of scholarships to assist those who cannot afford the cost of a personal trainer and welcome any improvements that will help those with spinal cord injuries reach great improvements with more advanced machinery and easier access into the building.
Firefighters and citizens at large helped wash cars and sell baked goods and ideas were exchanged for future fund raisers and desires for specific equipment and even an indoor exercise pool which would benefit anyone with an injury, not just spinal cord injuries.
If you would like to help with the program or donate money to help the program grow, you can contact the Habersham YMCA staff at 6400 Habersham Street, 912-354-6223 and inquire about future fund raisers and how you might be of assistance.