Two Brothers, One Dream

By Abe Loomis | Fall 2015

In his college years, Matt Calendrillo ’04, G’05, was captain of the men’s soccer team at Springfield. When the pressure was on, and he was carrying the ball down the wing at a full sprint, “There was this look he’d get in his eye,” his brother Anthony says.

It was a look of determination and joy, and Anthony says he sees that same look when Matt works with patients at Live Every Day, the Connecticut physical therapy, orthotic bracing, and prosthetic company the two founded together in 2007.

“Matt is the most dedicated, hardworking person I’ve ever worked with,” Anthony says. “I continue to be impressed by my brother every single day. You see him with a patient and he is laser-focused.”

That focus springs from Matt’s belief in what he calls “seeing the whole person.”

When he’s with a patient, he says, “It’s more than just a person’s shoulder pain in front of you. It’s the real limitations that that shoulder pain leads to in their day-to-day lives.”

Matt’s connection with Springfield College has only grown since he earned his Master of Science in physical therapy (PT) in 2005. After further post-graduate work in orthotics and prosthetics at the University of Connecticut, Calendrillo became an adjunct professor of physical therapy at Springfield. Now, many of his colleagues at Live Every Day—including physical therapists Amy Veres ’98, G’99; Sara Bronner Grenier ’09, DPT’11; Megan Frazier G’07; and Katie Lauder ’08, G’09—are proud Springfield graduates. More than a few completed their clinical fieldwork at Live Every Day.

“Springfield students are motivated, they are widely educated, and they have similar passion for seeing the whole person,” Matt says. “I can’t speak highly enough about the College and the PT department. It’s no surprise that most of the people that have ended up on our staff have been to Springfield College. It’s a wonderful connection.”

One of those connections, Veres, met Calendrillo in the mid-2000s when both were teaching at Springfield. She visited Live Every Day in 2010, when one of her students was placed there.

“One of my roles in the physical therapy department is to supervise students in their clinical education experiences,” she says. “I did a site visit and sat down with both of them to talk about the process. I had heard about the wonderful things that he was doing with our students, and I was intrigued by the practice. They had excellent patient care, and they seemed to have a lot of fun.”

Late in 2014, she learned that Live Every Day was looking to hire a physical therapist, and a few months later she visited again.

“I saw an environment where therapeutic care was delivered on a one-on-one basis,” she says. “There is often some anxiety or nervousness around an appointment. Patients wonder, ‘What are they going to say? What are they going to have me do?’ Live Every Day is warm and welcoming and I think that makes it less intimidating.”

“Springfield students are motivated, they are widely educated, and they have similar passion for seeing the whole person.”

One reason for that is the unique design of Live Every Day’s flagship office in Simsbury, which the Calendrillos opened in 2012. Although the outside structure was built to the codes of the neighborhood, the inside was essentially an empty shell that they were able to design with their practice in mind. Warm light fills the comfortable, two-level space; physical therapy bands, balls, and machines are carefully arrayed; and a colorful bulletin board with plaques and photographs introducing each member of the Live Every Day team greets visitors as they walk through the door.

“We’ve all been in places that lack forethought,” Anthony says. “The white walls, the Formica counters, the chipped paint. But when you’re surrounded by thoughtfully done things, there is a certain energy in the air, and it sets the bar for what to expect in everything that is done here.”

Customizing their work for each patient is part of that standard, and the first conversations are always about getting to know those patients and their specific challenges.

“The question we always pose is, ‘what are your goals?’ Because I might have plenty of things I’d like to help them with, but it only matters if the patient thinks, ‘yeah, this is something I want to be able to do,” Matt says.

Sometimes, the answers are surprising. One patient who came to the practice had lost an arm below the elbow years earlier. Nevertheless, his job in public works required him to spend a lot of time using tools, and when he first arrived at Live Every Day, Matt says, “all he wanted was for the end of his arm to be a wrench. I told him I thought we could do a little better than that.”

The challenge was to create an arm that was rugged enough for the work, but also versatile—more than just a wrench. In collaboration with the patient, Matt created a couple of options. During the day, the patient used a work arm with a locking fitting for almost any tool: wrenches, socket wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, and others. When he wasn’t at work, the patient donned a second arm with a prosthetic hand that looked real and could be used for other tasks.

“A big [goal] for him was that he wanted to be able to cut a steak,” Matt says. “He said ‘I have to slide it to my girlfriend to cut it up in small pieces.’ He didn’t want to have to ask for help with that. The day he came in and said ‘I ate a steak last night. And I cut it myself,’ was awesome. Absolutely awesome.”

The Live Every Day concept took years to develop, finally blossoming on a hike in the Adirondacks when, in a free-flowing conversation, the two brothers realized they had similar dreams of entrepreneurial service—and that their skills were perfectly complementary.

“I have no clinical background,” Anthony says. “Matt has no accounting training. We split the work there and meet on everything in the middle: staffing, marketing, long-term vision. And then there’s the trust piece. We have this ability, the two of us, to speak in a language unto ourselves.”

His brother, Matt, agrees: “We can finish each other’s sentences, have the best intentions for each other, and continue to grow as men together. I couldn’t ask for a better person to share this dream with.”

Stewardship in the community is an important part of their vision, and the Live Every Day team can often be seen buzzing around Connecticut in their trademark cream-colored 1971 Volkswagen bus, heading to community events. They have partnered with a local physician to launch and support a running-race fundraiser for a local school, they participate in Humanics in Action Day at Springfield College, and Matt spends time every week working with patients in Hartford hospitals who otherwise wouldn’t have access to care.

Matt says that when he graduated from high school, “I knew I wanted to be in healthcare, and I knew I wanted to help people. Physical therapy seemed to allow lots of different time with lots of different kinds of people.”

It hasn’t always been exactly the way he had imagined it, but that has turned out to be just fine.

“What we see in the media is pretty glamorous,” he says. “In prosthetics, for instance, it’s young people who are sprinting around a track. There are these healthy individuals who are able to do some really high-level things. But the field isn’t really like that. Most people are losing limbs to things like diabetes or complications associated with wounds and infections.”

He finds inspiration in maintaining a relationship with someone over a long period of time and helping them get to their highest level.

“I say it often: when I chose to enter this field, I got lucky,” Matt says.