Dan, Todd, and Dave at SPEAR
As Joplin, Missouri continues to recover both physically and mentally from the tornado that killed over 150 people a year ago, two SPEAR patients are using their SPEAR-guided physical fitness recovery to help the small Midwestern town with its own recovery.
In an unexpected turn of events, three NYC athletes who met in 2002 as teammates on a semipro Westchester baseball team have unknowingly been working together towards one adventurous recovery event: a 7-state, 20-day, 1,500-mile fundraising bike ride from New York City to Joplin, Missouri.
Back in the baseball days, Dan Rootenberg, SPEAR Physical Therapy co-founder, would drive the trio from Manhattan to play the game that binds many men together with similar passions. Although hailing from different parts of the country, Todd from Joplin, MO; Dave from Boston and Dan a Brooklyn-born New Yorker, the teammates formed a close connection. Every game the three would pile into Dan’s SUV packed to capacity with bats, gloves, baseball spikes, and hilarious, bond-building stories.
They always had a great time together driving up to the games often with their teammate Karl. A funny group, they made each other laugh both with and at each other. “Often times the highlight of the 10 hour days, which included doubleheaders against top competition in the metro area, were the car rides,” says Dan.
“There was this gradual yet intense bond that was obviously building; in hindsight it’s as if you knew we would all be helping each other in a big way in the future,” Todd remembers.
Fast forward to their post baseball days, and Dave and Todd coincidentally and respectively tore their ACL’s playing basketball and football. In the past, these devastating knee injuries would be career-enders. But with today’s progress in medicine and rehab, and after months of grueling work, both Todd and Dave climbed their way back to peak physical form. Dan, the friend that drove the crew to their baseball games, this time navigated them through their rehab.
“The SPEAR family understood my drive and intensity as a competitive athlete; that it wasn’t about being able to simply walk and do day to day things but that for me it was about coming back stronger and better than I was before–and we achieved that,” Dave says.
“As a personal trainer, I’m always preaching to my clients about ‘no excuses’ finding a way to get out and make things happen against all odds. No matter how physically grueling 80 miles per day with 50lbs of equipment loaded on our bikes may be, it pales in comparison to what the people of Joplin went through last year. They persevered and endured and we will do the same.”
Todd says that “athletics have always been such an integral part of my life. I had grown up constantly playing multiple sports, so the fear of not returning to the basketball court, football field or bicycle path was literally one of the most emotional times in my life. To be able to confidently take on an amazing athletic adventure greater than any I had ever accomplished before the injury, makes me so grateful that I feel I need to do something great with my good fortune.”
Years later after Joplin was ravaged by one of the largest, most damaging tornadoes in U.S. history, Todd moved back to help fulfill a calling he had to give back to his town. He helped co-found the Joplin Expats, and decide on a fundraiser that is sure to challenge his athletic abilities, patience, and mental toughness.
But he couldn’t do it alone. Now Todd and Dave are showing the ultimate recovery and are riding in the Cycle for Joplin. They will be biking 1,500 miles on their reconstructed , strong and healthy knees. Dan will be keeping close tabs on them and teaching them taping techniques and flexibility exercises to reduce strain on their knees and low backs. SPEAR Physical Therapy has also pledged to donate their healing guidance, post event, in case any injuries occur that will require some rehab or recovery.
Follow the ride as they blog from the road, and make your contributions here: www.cycleforjoplin.com