Footsteps of WNY, Inc. was founded in 2011 by Marty Gregoire. Marty is the youngest of 16 children and was born in Buffalo, NY where he still resides today. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegia, a form of Cerebral Palsy, which affects his legs.
Growing up, Marty always knew he had Cerebral Palsy but never considered himself disabled. He just knew he had to compete harder with his siblings or get left behind.
By age 23, Gregoire’s legs were getting sore and his muscles were tiring when he participated in athletics. So, he began to use massage, stretching and visits to the chiropractor to maintain his active lifestyle. However, like many aging disabled adults with Cerebral Palsy, Marty held fear of what the future had in store.
Then around the Christmas of 2003, Gregoire’s legs were particularly sore and fatigued, and his frustration peaked. At this peak, he happened to find a news story on CNN.com about Jake Perez, a CNN news writer who suffered with Cerebral Palsy. According to the article, Perez was set to have selective dorsal rhizotomy at the Center for Cerebral Palsy Spasticity in St. Louis. (This is a revolutionary spinal procedure to help relieve some muscle spasticity attributed to Cerebral Palsy, and this hospital is one of the few places that perform the SDR procedure on adults.)
Personally relating to Perez’s condition, Gregoire contacted the Center in St. Louis about having the same procedure. Dr. TS Park, who would perform the procedure, quickly accepted him as a candidate, and in July 2004, Marty had the surgery.
Since this procedure, Marty has become mainstay in the Cerebral Palsy community, speaking to and reassuring not only the parents of children with Cerebral Palsy, but also those individuals with Cerebral Palsy themselves. “It’s an honor for me to answer their questions,” says Gregoire. “I tell everyone: ‘You define Cerebral Palsy for others, don’t let it define you.’”
While speaking, Marty often heard of the common struggles and worries that so many families face in caring for someone with Cerebral Palsy. And, these common worries and concerns resonated so deeply with him that he decided to take his advocacy to the next level. It was then that he founded Footsteps of WNY, Inc.