Vision loss does not prevent the massage therapist from helping people



Cheryl D’Itri, owner of It’s Your Body’s Symphony worked with interns. So when she got a call from Rogelio Maldonado Jr. — a massage therapy student at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts — she was open to talking about a potential internship.

Cheryl had also dated Bancroft and contacted Greg Hurd, who works as a director of career development, to find out more about Rogelio – who goes by the name JR.

It was thanks to Greg that Cheryl learned that JR was visually impaired. Cheryl said she was shocked at first, saying she hadn’t worked with someone who had vision loss.

JR was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York and moved to Rhode Island with his family during his teenage years. He discovered that he had a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa which affects the back of the eye and over time eyesight begins to deteriorate. During his senior year at Hope High School, J.R. noticed that his vision was getting worse and worse; at 34, he currently has some visual light perception left.

After high school, JR went on to study at Lincoln Tech, but didn’t feel like he was the right fit. With the encouragement of his then girlfriend (and now his wife), he enrolled in a 13-month massage therapy program at Bancroft which eventually led him to Cheryl’s business in Cranston.

JR, who now lives on Federal Hill in Providence, noted that he doesn’t lead conversations with employers about visual impairment. However, before meeting with an employer, he mentions his condition so that the individual is not surprised.

“Everyone received it and accepted it with open arms,” ​​Cheryl said, once JR came on stage in August 2021.

JR was interning with Cheryl three to four days a week and practicing what he had learned on her. Her specialty is deep tissue massage therapy which helps resolve any physical ailments, such as a tight lower back or a past injury. JR said he wanted to bring people back to their best health.

“I was impressed with JR’s work and how quickly he adapted to his environment,” Cheryl said.

After his internship, JR passed the state board exam with flying colors and is now registered to practice massage therapy in Rhode Island. JR noted that he has studied over 200 muscles, ligaments and tendons in the body.

“I’m really happy to give back to the community,” JR said. “People are going through pain and anxiety…and I want to help on all levels.”

JR now works at It’s Your Body’s Symphony and his next goal is to build up a clientele in order to have a busy schedule. Cheryl is advertising JR’s spring special — which is a 90-minute hot stone massage for $90 that’s now running through May 30 — but the grant opportunities will allow her to create a marketing platform so that it can reach more customers; this way the business can sell itself to the town of Cranston and beyond. Cheryl is already familiar with Cranston’s grant programs after applying for a personal protective equipment (PPE) grant during Covid where she received up to $1,000 in coverage for PPE supplies. Through the city’s Department of Economic Development, Cranston will assist JR with the Small Business Development Center and CommerceRI to help create a business plan and secure a small business consultant who specializes in marketing so that JR can grow his business and build a digital marketing platform so he fills his appointment schedule.

JR now has his own massage therapy room and although it is smaller JR said it is beneficial for him as he knows where everything is in the room. With peaceful music and dim lighting, it is a soothing and welcoming space for those receiving massages. Cheryl is still decorating the room and plans to add a vinyl mural for decorations on the wall.

Additionally, research is being done to help restore sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa, JR said he’s ok with seeing no more.

“I’m happy where I am now in life,” JR said, noting his beautiful family and four-month-old daughter named Violet.

JR said he was ready for any challenge and was confident in his skills. He noted that if he needed to consult anyone, he would go to Cheryl – the guru.

Cheryl has been in business for 26 years and started in Johnston. Due to the pandemic, she moved to Cranston and has been there for just over a year. With Mason, his therapy dog, and soothing music and incense throughout the building, walkers experience a state of Zen; five massage therapists work at It’s Your Body’s Symphony, including JR. She said some of her clients have been with her since the very beginning of her business.

It’s Your Body’s Symphony is located at 14 Hayward St., Cranston, and offers an assortment of services including massage therapy (such as deep tissue, Swedish, stone/hot stone therapy, massage oil CBD and manual therapy), reflexology, facials and body treatments (basic facial, back, European herbal facial and more) and hair removal (back, eyebrows, upper lip, sideburns, lower lip and chin). For more information, visit or call 401-464-6100. The company is available for on-site corporate work, events, and chair massages.


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