By Kate Merrill

CANTON (CBS) – Dan Cummings never dreamed that his life’s work would be inside a Canton facility surrounded by struggle, sweat and promise.

Cummings is the backbone behind Journey Forward, a non-profit organization where hopes and dreams are made possible with lots of pain and effort.

“I guess it took me breaking my neck and moving out to California to make this happen,” said Cummings.

Cummings became a paraplegic after a diving incident in 2000. He broke his neck after diving into the shallow water of a lake. He was told he would never walk again.

journey forward5 Canton Facility Tackles Paralysis With Intensive Training

Dan Cummings, rehabilitating after diving incident in 2000. (WBZ-TV)

He found a similar physical therapy facility in California, where training patients with spinal cord injuries was unlike anything he had seen in Boston.

“I saw quadriplegics, paraplegics, you know on treadmills, on total gyms and their trainers are doing things with them that my therapist wouldn’t dream of doing with me,” said Cummings.

The program is more than physical therapy, it requires intense training to teach the body how to move again.

After four years of living out west, Dan walked out with just a walker and headed home to Boston but that was the beginning.

journeyforward1 Canton Facility Tackles Paralysis With Intensive Training

Staff members of Journey Forward assist patients with rehabilitation. (WBZ-TV)

“That left me with new goal, you know. I couldn’t understand coming from Boston, Massachusetts, the capital of the medical field. Why wasn’t there a place like that around here? So I wanted to come home and bring that place home with me, you know so people didn’t have to move 3000 miles away,” said Cummings.

In 2008, he raised enough money to start the non-profit. With just nine clients and two specialists, Journey Forward was born.

Now, nine years later, the program serves 87 clients from all over the world, has a new 12,000 square foot facility and a purpose for Dan’s life he never would give back.

denna11 Canton Facility Tackles Paralysis With Intensive Training

Bobby Carpenter and Denna Laing on training run in Florida (WBZ-TV)

“I’ll tell you right now if I could go back to that day, June 24, 2000 and change a thing, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. I honestly wouldn’t. I truly believe this is my mission, this is my calling,” said Cummings.

Denna Laing, a member of the program, became a paraplegic fifteen months ago, yet she is participating in this year’s Boston Marathon.

She received a new custom-made running chair, gifted by team Hoyt and Vibram, who are working together to provide running chairs to teams in need.

Carpenter and Laing will run to support Journey Forward, where Denna is working to regain her strength.

journeyforward4 Canton Facility Tackles Paralysis With Intensive Training

Dan Cummings, President of Journey Forward, speaking on the startup of his program. (WBZ-TV)

Dan says the program has helped seven paralyzed clients learn how to walk again.

He understands everyone will not be able to walk again but he know the program is giving people a more independent life.

He hopes to open more centers in the future

If you would like to donate, visit Journey Forward’s fundraising page.


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