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Sep 20, 2022

Rock Valley, movie motivation, family, get veteran angler Bark back on the water

This fishing story is a whopper.

It involves a longtime fisherman, a surgeon, a gifted physical therapist from Rock Valley Physical Therapy, the fisherman’s granddaughter, the fisherman’s wife, and a boatload of movie imagination.

Oh, and a cabin on a gorgeous Canadian lake and a gaggle of soon-to-be-pan-fried Walleye.

To get those to the aforementioned Walleye, Steve Bark, a Camanche, Iowa, construction company owner, needed help.

He needed successful hip arthroplasty (hip replacement) the last week in July, approximately one month before he and his wife, Toni, were set to travel to Ontario, Canada’s Onaman Lake (Bauer’s Onaman Lake Cabins). It’s there they would spend a week catching what he hoped would be a plethora of fish, Walleye in particular.

Bark also needed the motivational assistance of Greenley Grell, his ultra-athletic and competitive granddaughter. And he needed Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Jason Tampir, PT, MPT, a friend, who Bark put his trust in to prepare him physically for the rigors of a week in the Canadian woods and water post surgery.

“Right hip and it was July 25th,’’ the personable and outgoing Bark said of his surgery. “I needed some help to get ready for the trip and I needed a great therapist after surgery. I turned to Jason – who I know – and my granddaughter. I was told ahead of time just how good Jason is at what he does. Man, and he was. He made it so I could go, could move about and get in and out of the boat – which I was a little nervous about – to fish. Therapy has been great for day-to-day life as well.’’

But grandfather and granddaughter took things a step beyond, going back in time for some motivational assistance.

Under Tampir’s guidance, Bark, playing the part of fighter Rocky Balboa, and Grell, playing Rocky’s longtime trainer, Mickey, made a pair of humorous videos. 

One features Bark – in week 1 of therapy – walking with the aid of a walker, then reaching down to grab his fishing pole, all done with his granddaughter shouting words of encouragement Mickey used from the Rocky trilogy.

Another shows Bark in week 3 of therapy – walking a prescribed number of steps – with two sets of squats mixed in –  dressed like Balboa in training – holding a mounted Northern Pike overhead as per a Rocky I workout  sequence.

“It was funny, it was uplifting and there was some motivation to it,’’ Bark said of the videos. “My granddaughter was great. I thought a Rocky theme would kind of break things up, but we both used it as motivation.’’

Bark said the real work was done during his time with Tampir amid the friendly confines of Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Camanche, Iowa-based location. Rock Valley is one of the largest therapist-owned and therapist led private PT practices in the nation. It features 61 clinics covering Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. A physician’s referral is not needed to receive PT care.

“I don’t make the trip if it’s not for Jason,’’ Bark said. “I’m not doing a lot of things if not for him. He’s a friend and I trusted everything he had me do to get better after surgery. I had heard how good he was at his job, but I experienced it first hand. He explained things to me and every exercise we have done has been beneficial. I followed his lead.’’

Ever modest and one of life’s 24-karat gems, Tampir spoke volumes of the work Bark put in to be sound enough physically to tackle the rigors a week in the great outdoors.

“He was diligent in his efforts,’’ Tampir said of Bark. “It was also great to work with a fellow fisherman. We have common interests and common friends. Working with Steve was nothing but enjoyable and he should be lauded for his determination to get back to normal activities. His dedication to not just getting better for the trip, but for his overall health, is tremendous.’’

About that youngster bringing to light the gruff, old-school trainer from the first three Rocky films?

“She was tough, demanding, and had all the lines from the movie down even though Rocky is not from her era,’’ Bark said of Grell. “It was a great time doing the videos and I was so lucky to have Jason – and Rock Valley – there to make it work.’’

And the annual trip up North?

“No issues,’’ Bark said regarding his new hip, overall pain and mobility. “I moved really well, got in and out of the boat with no issue and caught about 25 walleye. It was a great trip for my wife and I. To make it, though, I had a great deal of help.’’

Mission accomplished. Goal reached.

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller