For many years, Bob Sonenclar and his wife, Terri, talked about waking up early on the last Sunday morning in September and driving from their Westchester home to Manhattan to participate in the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk. Terri was an avid runner, while Bob was more casual; hitting the gym, and logging three or four miles a couple times a week. But, for one reason or another, it never happened.
In November of 2014, life changed dramatically for the Sonenclar family. While undergoing what was to be a routine hernia operation, Bob suffered a stroke. In an instant, this healthy, athletic man, who prided himself on keeping himself physically fit to ward off the effects of aging, was paralyzed on the right side of his body.
For over two decades, Bob was a freelance copywriter providing clientele with brochures, reports, marketing collateral, press releases, web content, and other services aimed at meeting business objectives. In addition, he served as editorial director for The Edelman Group, a company specializing in brand development, marketing research, advertising, and strategic marketing campaigns that was founded, and is owned and operated by Terri.
Creativity was Bob’s passion. A terrific perk of working in a freelance capacity was the opportunity to watch his children grow up. Bob and Terri are the proud parents of son, Russell, and daughter, Carly Rose, a singer/actress who finished in second place on the X Factor in 2012.
Since that fateful November day, Bob, who was 59 at the time of his stroke, has endured rehabilitation that can best be described as unimaginably frustrating. He’s had some minor improvement, but still the effort to carry out the smallest of tasks is significant. Each and every day is a struggle. Bob had to relearn to do many of the basic skills that we all take for granted. This included being retaught how to walk.
All that said, the opportunity to retrace Stephen Siller’s steps still intrigued Bob and Terri. So, on Sunday, September 25, 2016, Bob and Terri headed to New York City to participate in the 15th Annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk.
The experience could not have been better for the Sonenclars. Despite being one of the last to start, and, quite possibly, the last to finish, Bob waxed poetic about the day. “It was one of the highlights of my life,” he said. “I never realized the Battery Tunnel was that long! Walking out of the tunnel with my wife and having all the firemen and police officers cheering for me was kind of ironic. They’re the heroes. I was trying to express the gratitude I had for them. We love the cause. It was just very emotional and inspirational.”
Including the stroll to the starting line, Bob walked over five miles, by far the greatest distance he has walked since his stroke. “It was a Herculean effort for him to do this,” Terri said. “He barely made it. He nearly collapsed and went down by the World Financial Center, but he was absolutely determined to finish. It’s an overwhelming experience for someone who is able-bodied, so for someone in his condition it’s even more inspiring. I was overcome with emotion seeing him work so hard and get such an outpouring of support.”
The love didn’t stop there. When Bob reached the finish line, he was exhausted and extremely sore. Knowing he’d never be able to get to the massage area, Terri walked over to explain the situation to someone who could be of assistance. In an instant, a massage therapist was treating Bob with incredible care as he sat on the ground.
Bob’s outlook is remarkable. He lives each day by the “turning lemons into lemonade” metaphor. “Everybody has challenges, and many people have it far worse than I do,” he said. “It is what it is. Life is a struggle. Things don’t always work out as we planned. Thank God, my health, otherwise, is pretty sound. I’m lucky in that regard. If someone is inspired by my story, and it helps them out even just a little bit, well that lifts my spirits.
Bob and Terri plan on participating for years to come, and, of course, Bob’s dream of running the course remains intact.