Therapeutic Writing Sparks Friendship Between PT Tech and Quadriplegic, Hike Across USA

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by Tiffiny Carlson, executive director of SPINALpedia

It’s not every day an older man with quadriplegia becomes good friends with a younger man without physical limitations, but that’s what happened between Zachary Foor and Greg Mans. After meeting at a spinal cord injury recovery gym – Zachary the PT therapy tech and Greg the patient – discovered they had a lot in common, but their love of creative writing is what cemented their friendship.

And now, after a deep dive into writing after they took a writing class together, Zachary is on a hike across the USA to raise awareness of SCI survivors and the healing that comes from writing. And at the end of the hike, Zachary and Greg will host a free virtual 8-week writing course for people with SCI and their loved ones. Read on to learn more about Zachary and Greg’s unique friendship.

An Unlikely Friendship

Spinal cord injuries weren’t on Zachary’s radar until he was offered a job as a therapy technician by his neighbor; a physical therapist at The Recovery Project, a neuro-specialized physical therapy clinic in Livonia, Michigan, who knew he needed a fresh start. “At the time I got the job, I was recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. I was in AA and about 6 months sober. Originally I took the job because I was work to get back on my feet and re-enter society. I played a lot of sports growing up, basketball and track in particular, so PT was interesting to me from an athletics perspective.”

As for Greg, he was a patient at The Recovery Center due to breaking his neck in 2021. “While helping with a sailing club on Kona, Hawaii, I was caught under a truck and sustained a C3 injury,” says Greg. After his injury, he returned to Michigan for physical therapy and it was while doing therapy at The Recovery Project when he met Zachary.

After working together in the gym, they soon discovered they had a number of things in common. “We (found) we both really enjoyed being outside and being active,” says Greg. “I think in particular, exploring life through travel, nature and people. Adventure maybe as well I guess. And we both really enjoy writing.”

Zachary felt the same. “Our shared love of writing, the outdoors and adventure made for great conversation.” “Greg is both open and a huge dreamer. The fact he maintained these qualities in spite of what he went through spoke to me in a way very few other things could at that time. You could say Greg saved me and probably helped me even more than I did him in our time working together as patient/tech.”

A Hike Across the USA

It was through this friendship that Zachary finally found a reason to do something he always wanted to do – hike across the USA. “Greg convinced me to take a writing class with him one summer hosted by his friend and author Peter Markus. Greg had gotten a lot out of these classes, and I found myself feeling the same way. They did something for him psychologically, spiritually even, that was very healing,” says Zachary.

Zachary says Greg was a supporter of his dream of hiking across the country from the start. “We talked about it a lot. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time,” says Zachary, “and this writing class we took spawned the idea for the meaning behind the walk. We figured, maybe we could emulate Greg’s experience of healing for others who are in a similar situation (through the hike).”

At the end of Zachary’s hike, their friend and author Peter Markus will be hosting a virtual 8-week writing class. Donations from anyone who supports their cause are welcome and Zach says all of the money raised will go towards the class; any left may go to Greg’s personal care. “The class will be free for those in the paralysis demographic who would like to attend, in addition to their caregivers, to heal from the trauma that accompanies being paralyzed,” adds Zachary.

“There are many ways to be mobile, and writing is an art form those in paralysis demographic have access to that can empower them to move through the past, present, and future. People like Greg have stories to tell that the world needs to hear.”

As a result, Zachary has called his hike Certain Steps, and he started his journey on March 24th from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. If you’ve seen Forrest Gump, he is definitely is giving that vibe, as it is a slow and steady walk through the center of the country until he reaches California. Zachary anticipates it will take 10-11 months. “And there will be 10 additional months of wintering in Colorado in the middle of my hike (you can’t cross the Rockies at a certain time of year for safety reasons).”

Zachary encourages people to check in on his hike as often as possible, as he is doing IG Lives regularly. He also hopes people will donate to their cause and help highlight’s Greg’s recovery. Since Greg’s injury in 2020, he’s learned to live with no movement from the shoulders down.

“I was able to break the vent a couple months into the injury which is terrific,” he says, “but I’m still paralyzed from the shoulders down, which makes for self-care at this time not possible for me. I still need a lot of help from others. That’s the hardest part still.” But Greg adds, “There’s a lot to be thankful before indeed and I’m slowly learning to adapt and grow again. I’m not sure yet what’s possible or exactly where I’m heading but I’m still in the game still got time at least today.”

A hike that has incredible meaning with a deep back story, Zachary wants to make sure that anyone who hears about Certain Steps and his hike knows that it’s not about him, it’s about Greg and everyone else living with a spinal cord injury.

“This is not the story of a man walking across the country. This is the story of Greg Mans, a man embracing meaningful movement in all its diverse forms and methods to enrich humanity and, ultimately, animate all of us who hope to take certain steps to live in the most fulfilled, the most real, sense. To this my walk is a living tribute.”

If you’re interested in receiving one of the writing scholarships at the end of the Zachary’s hike, Greg says to either get in touch with him or Zachary. You can also visit to encourage Zachary along his walk AND to contribute financially to the scholarships for the upcoming writing program.

See where Zachary is right now
Follow Zachary on IG


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