Not many people would be able to fight through what Seton Hall alumnus Peter Crimi has overcome in his life.
Crimi, now 31 and recently married, was born nine and a half weeks premature and was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy. Crimi has had 10 surgeries and the doctors only gave Crimi’s parents a 30 percent chance of him surviving his first 72 hours. Even if he did make it, the doctors said that he was not going to be able to walk or talk.
Despite a bleak prognosis that ended with doctors telling Crimi’s parents to find a home for him to live in if he survived and a rough childhood where Crimi openly admits that he was angry growing up, he did not let that get in the way of what he wanted to do with his life.
Crimi currently works with teenagers with disabilities doing community integration and mentoring, a job that he enjoys a great deal.
“When I hang out with kids, even if they’re adults, it’s just like two dudes hanging out,” Crimi said of his job.
Along with his work with teenagers, Crimi has also adopted CrossFit as part of his life to help him with his mobility. He first got into CrossFit while doing some research on Mike Murphy, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who was killed during Operation Red Wings, and one of the main characters in the movie “Lone Survivor.”
“I was talking to my friend about Mike Murphy and she was like ‘yeah, I know who Mike Murphy is,’” Crimi said. “She said, ‘my buddy and his friends just opened a CrossFit gym and if you do CrossFit, everyone knows Mike Murphy.’”
At first, Crimi was concerned about his safety when it came to doing CrossFit since he needed adaptive crutches to walk. A conversation with the people who ran what is now called “Heroes Journey Fitness” in Parsippany, N.J. reassured him that he would be safe while working out.
“My friend told me if you want to stop using the crutches and you want to lose some weight, go see my friend because this place is different and I promise they’re going to keep you safe,” Crimi said.
From that point on, Crimi has jumped into CrossFit and it has been four years since he has been working out at Heroes Journey. He no longer uses the adaptive crutches and has lost 30 pounds, but most importantly, he has found something much more special than that.
“I found a community, I found a family,” Crimi said. “The one thing about CrossFit is that you always feel a lot of support and there is this community of people where the person who gets cheered for the most is the last person and that meant so much to me.”
Lauren McFadden, an associate professor of elementary and special education at Seton Hall, remembers meeting Crimi as an undergraduate student. She recalls Crimi’s drive to attain his dream of working with special needs children.
“Peter was driven to teach special needs students,” McFadden said. “I love that he followed his heart.”
Crimi has since been back to campus, speaking to graduate students in the special education program.
“His message has been one focused on positivity, taking advantage of each new day and never giving up,” McFadden said.
Crimi hasn’t gotten to where he is today without a little help along the way. He has had some amazing people in his life to guide him, people he thinks are the main reason why he is where he is today.
“It sounds hallmark, but you have to have people that push you,” Crimi said. “Even though I’m a strong, confident, independent man, I still have cerebral palsy and sometimes I’ll say I’m pretty tired and they push me to keep going.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.