By Tawny Maya McCray | U-T
CARLSBAD – Before heading in to his 2 p.m. therapy session for a spinal cord injury, Sadru Dada enjoyed a couple of slices of freshly made margherita pizza and anchovies from a food truck parked in front of the building.
Project Walk, a spinal cord injury recovery center that opened in Carlsbad in 1999, started Food Truck Wednesdays in February. Each Wednesday a different truck sets up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and offers a tasty lunch, including burgers and seafood. This week it hosted Red Oven Pizza, wood-fired pizza made using an Italian made Mugnaini mobile oven.
Lunch costs about $10 and part of the proceeds benefit the center.
“Whatever helps Project Walk we want to do,” Dada said from his wheelchair. “They know what they’re doing, and it’s a unique place. They’re trying to make me walk.”
Project Walk does not offer traditional rehabilitation, instead it concentrates on exercise to get the client out of a wheelchair to work their entire bodies.
“We’re looking at trying to do any type of reconnection, getting the body to remember the walking patterns and breaking down each of the movements,” said Gigi Betancourt, client services manager at the center. “Whether it be on the table, in our track system, or any of our elliptical machines.”
Dada, who lives in Dubai, suffered his injury seven years ago when he was struck by a car as he was walking down a street. Four weeks ago he made the more than 30-hour trip to Carlsbad with his wife, Firoza. He’s hoping to take his first steps before his sessions wrap up at the end of July and he heads to New Jersey to visit his two sons and two grandchildren.
Food Truck Wednesdays are part of a recent effort made to draw more attention to the center, which upgraded to a new location seven months ago. Project Walk occupies part of the business center at 5850 El Camino Real that used to be The Boxing Club and Raphael’s Party Rentals. The 24,000 square-feet of space is 9,000 square feet bigger than its previous location on Loker Avenue.
The program currently has 80 clients, with one to five new ones starting every week. Programs are tailored to a client’s needs and what the person can afford. Insurance doesn’t cover the cost. The typical program is four days a week, two to three hours a day. Programs average four weeks to six months.
Clients are paired one on one with certified specialists, who have a background in kinesiology or sports science. Currently 27 certified specialists work at the center.
Project Walk is headquartered in Carlsbad and has helped certify 12 facilities nationwide and internationally. Its goal is to have one in every major metropolitan area.
If the center is looking to gain attention with the food trucks it seems to be working.
Bill Schove, who works about a mile away from Project Walk, stopped by the truck Wednesday for the second week in a row. He said he’d likely be back again next week.
“I like the idea of a gourmet food truck. Last week I had mahi-mahi; I never eat like that,” he said. “And the proceeds go to a good cause.”