Project Walk closes in Carlsbad, leaving some clients with missing money

The organization helped people with paralysis
Posted: 11:20 PM, Nov 21, 2017
Updated: 2017-11-22 22:28:55Z

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - An organization meant to help people with paralysis shut its doors, leaving some clients wondering where their money went.

Project Walk in Carlsbad closed earlier this summer.

Daniel “DJ” Lombardo was one of its clients. 

Lombardo loves the outdoors, but said motocross runs in his family. It was at the track on Easter last year when his life changed.

“[I] had a pretty horrific crash, going pretty fast. The bike came and hit me in the back,” Lombardo said. “

After several weeks in the hospital, Lombardo returned home to Temecula with a different life.

“[It] paralyzed me from the chest down…. Paraplegic,” Lombardo said.

Lombardo started going to Project Walk in Carlsbad.

On its website, the organization is described as “the pioneer in activity-based recovery.” It has been treating people living with paralysis for nearly twenty years.

Lombardo went to the facility two to three times a week.

“I’d go and do all my standing and stretching and working out for a good while there… I loved it. It was great,” Lombardo said.

10News has featured Project Walk before. This season’s Dancing with the Stars contestant, Victoria Arlen, visited the Carlsbad location in 2013 during a physical therapy session.

In 2013, she told reporter Melissa Mecija she was “trying to get [her] legs to do the work.”

“They haven’t been too reliable in the last seven and a half years,” Arlen said.

This summer, the Carlsbad location closed. Like many other people, Lombardo learned about it on Facebook just days before it officially shut down.

“Honestly, I was kind of mad,” Lombardo said. “I moved down there and I was going to continue physical therapy there and just out of nowhere they closed.”

In addition, the money Lombardo used to pay for treatment was raised through GoFundMe. He said he still has about $6,000 in the account with Project Walk.

“I would have never thought they would had just leave and take money like that,” Lombardo said.

On Project Walk’s Facebook page, a post from August 4th promised refunds to “anyone who has money owed for their programs.”

Brian and Leah Malkinson operated Project Walk in Carlsbad. The organization has several franchises across the country. The filing with the Secretary of State showed the Malkinsons owned Project Walk under the corporate name, SCI Business Solutions Inc.

Brian Malkinson is listed as the Chief Executive Officer. Leah, his wife, is listed as Director of Business Administration.

Former employees at Project Walk in Los Angeles said the Malkinsons also operated that location. It also closed this summer.

Many of the former trainers, who were caught off guard by the closure of both the Los Angeles and Carlsbad locations, have started their own recovery centers to help clients who had nowhere else to go.

Team 10 has been unable to reach either Brian or Leah Malkinson, despite several attempts through phone and email.

The Malkinsons filed a civil lawsuit in July, where they blamed the previous owners of Project Walk for withholding crucial financial information during the business sale. They are suing for “fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.”

The Malkinsons’ lawyer did not return Team 10’s calls.

Lombardo believes the closure of the Carlsbad location could have been handled differently. When asked if the clients should have been told about the closure in person, he said yes.

“I think that would have been a lot more ethical,” Lombardo said.

Despite what happened with Project Walk, Lombardo is not letting that stop him from his rehabilitation. He uses a standing machine at home to try and gain strength.

“[It] feels good. Feels like my blood’s flowing,” Lombardo said.

He also drives using a specialized truck. Recently, for his birthday, he rode a jet ski. Even though doctors gave him a two percent chance at full recovery, Lombardo’s ultimate goal is to walk.

“Why sit around and be sad when there’s plenty to be thankful and grateful for?” Lombardo said.