Providing Independence Through Technology
V-LINC Volunteers were recognized in May for their many achievements.
Dr. Pakula was on hand to accept V-LINC's Rose Award on behalf of the Loius H. Gross Foundation. The Foundation has had significant impact on V-LINC's ability to expand its Inclusive Summer Day Camp and on many children with disabilities served by V-LINC, and LINC, over the years.
Below: Dr. Lawrence Pakula and VME Founder John Staehlin at Recognition Dinner
President Dean Drake recognizes Carol Wheatley, our Volunteer of the Year
Valerie Brammer with daughter Hannah and A-Team volunteers Andy Conn and Ron Newman
Antoinette (and mom) with the JHU Engineering Team who worked on her Dining Device
V-LINC Board Members Dr. Kenneth Silver, Ken Johnson and President Dean Drake
Yes, Board Member and Volunteer Erick Vinas Figueroa is still playing the guitar for us!
Chuck you are our Favorite Unsung Hero!
So many fantastic people volunteer for V-LINC - here are some with Angela Tyler (R) V-LINC's Volunteer Manager (have you heard the one about managing engineers? - something about herding cats?
New UMBC volunteer Joe Deangelis who working on improvements to the Sonar Device for Joel Zimba (shown here with Cat)
Carol Wheatley, V-LINC Executive Director Theo Pinette, President Dean Drake
Arthrogryposis is a rare disorder characterized by multiple joint contractures, which can include muscle weakness and fibrosis. Antoinette has lived with this since birth, yet she manages to pursue her interests, such as controlling a computer with her head and reading books. Of course, she has to rely on others for some other needs.
Her 50-year-old mother currently carries her from floor-to-floor in their home because it is a rental and they cannot make modifications. Antoinette initially requested a better way to get upstairs to her bedroom, but decided to change her request to address what she sees as a bigger problem.
While at home, Antoinette lies on her side and eats off a plate on the bed. When dining in public, someone has to feed her, which would be embarrassing for any 20-year-old.Despite these obstacles, Antoinette remains strong and hopes V-LINC will be able to help her. She would like an engineer to design a way for her to feed herself at the family dinner table, a place of conversation and sharing.
If V-LINC’s Project Review and Acceptance Committee (PRAC) committee approves this request, we will then begin the search for a volunteer who is ready to take on a tough project. This will not be an easy challenge!
We are always looking for creative volunteers and other inventive minds who want to help make life better for others. Please contact V-LINC or fill out a volunteer application if you or someone you know is the right person for this job.
Hannah is an intelligent 12-year-old child with severe osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) type III, a condition that causes very fragile bones. She is very small and is not expected to grow significantly. Her mother, Valerie, tells V-LINC that Hannah has had more than 110 bone fractures in her life already, and both arms and her right leg are currently in casts. She cannot even walk without causing a fracture.
Valerie wanted a way for Hannah to transfer in and out of bed independently. Hannah can scoot across the floor and crawl onto surfaces up to 10 inches from the floor, so Valerie suggested a low bed with the possibility of a recline for comfort. Several members of our Client Service Team (CST) contacted Hannah's mom to learn more about Hannah and report their findings back to the rest of the committee. The CST had a difficult time deciding whether or not V-LINC's volunteers might provide a solution without harming Hannah. Difficult decisions such as this are ones the CST is faced with all the time. Our hearts are grabbed.
V-LINC volunteers and Hannah's mom put their heads together and found a way to make Hannah's wish for a small, Hannah-size couch was granted, along with another project to create a ramp so Hannah can crawl onto her sofa by herself. Hannah has heart and does not let her fragility keep her from being a teenager and full of life.
Hannah is able to sit in her own Hannah-size sofa now. She can crawl up a soft ramp to sit and then she tilt the sofa to rest comfortably. A wheel chair is not a comfortabe place to be all day long, so this is a very welcome addition in her life.
Taryn, who is 28, has mild-to-moderate mental retardation, is speech and hearing impaired, and has vestibular impairment, which causes frequent falls. In spite of so many limitations, she is able to work and loves her job. She contacted V-LINC with a request for adaptive device to make work a little bit easier. Taryn works in a day program at Gallagher Services as an assistant to the horticultural therapist. In her position, she has to transport the necessary supplies – plants, pots, soil, etc. – using her rollator or a cart donated by a local market. Unfortunately, neither piece of equipment is ideal: the rollator is too short for her, and the cart lacks a braking system.
The shopping cart is the ideal size for the job, however. V-LINC's Client Service Team volunteers believe its engineering volunteers will be able to fit it with hand brakes and a hinged flip up work surface so can be Taryn safer while at work.
Graydon is a young child with chromosome 18 syndrome. Due to this rare condition, he cannot talk, has very limited mobility, and is sensitive to the touch. His family has a difficult time finding toys he can play with, but they had a brief success with a Fisher-Price Jumperoo. Unfortunately, he quickly outgrew it, leaving the 4-year-old without much to play with.
Having nowhere else to turn, Graydon’s mother, Nichole, contacted V-LINC during its What I Wish for My Child 2011 event to find a solution. “I have looked far and wide for a similar toy for older children and have not been successful in finding one,” she said. “It breaks my heart that his favorite, and only, toy is gone.”
Each semester, V-LINC assigns projects to the high school and college engineering courses it has partnerships with. Not only does that provide the students with valuable experience working for a real client, but they also often split into teams who come up with different prototypes the client can choose between.
During their Spring 2012 semester, student volunteers at CCBC Essex decided to see what they could design for Graydon to allow him to relive the joys of his old toy as safely and comfortably as possible. It must have been his lucky day because Graydon received not one, but two customized jumpers!
One is a redesign of the frame and seat of the original Fisher Price Jumperoo, which can be collapsed for easy transportation.
The other is suspended from a hook on the family’s dining room ceiling.
It wasn’t long after Graydon took his new jumpers home that V-LINC received a card from his family:
Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with your wonderful staff and the students and professor at CCBC. Our family could not have been happier with the results of this project. We are grateful to have Graydon back in a toy that he loves so much. It was so heartbreaking when he got too big to continue using the old one. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the smile on his face now when he gets in and jumps around. Thank you again for this once in a lifetime gift.
Hanna is a 16-year-old who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy; blindness; and cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that causes an abnormal buildup of mucus in the lungs and pancreas. Her family loves to travel and hike together, but most rental cars are often too small to accommodate her wheelchair. Her wheelchair, a Convaid Cruiser 16, could fold to decrease the width, but its length remained unchanged at 41 inches (about 3’ 5”). Hanna’s family needed it to be 36 inches (3’) long at most.
While trimming a few inches off the top might sound like an obvious solution at first, the request actually required a much more technical approach. The finished chair would not only have to meet the family’s several design requirements, but also retain the original model’s compliance with WC-19 crash test standards; altering the structure of the device would certainly compromise that.
Carl Snyder, Vincent Rolin, Alex Villa, and Juan Tobón, mechanical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University, chose to help Hanna for their senior design project. As Team MOVE, they significantly reduced the length of the wheelchair by altering the attachment points and implementing several hinges. The students also preserved all of the safety specifications set by the manufacturer.
“I am over-the-moon excited about the modified chair,” Heather, Hanna’s mom, wrote. “Thank you so much, V-LINC.”
The chair fits comfortably in the trunk of the family car, so they can now rent just about any vehicle to transport it while on vacation.
V-LINC celebrated 50 years of combined service on May 6, 2012. It was a huge success, and a great time was had by all. Seeing how VME and LINC have touched the lives of many clients, volunteers, and families over the years, and hearing everyone's stories was truly magical. We also recognized people for their outstanding service. A special thank you goes out to VME Founder John Staehlin and LINC Founders Mary and David Salkever!
Click here to download a celebration booklet of select photos.
Click here to see an album of all the event's photos.
February is the time for HEARTS and LOVE and V-LINC loves to work with families who have children with disabilities. Not only do we work with them during summer camp, but the “What I Wish for My Child” program provides families the chance to work with an engineer or class of engineering students to co-design a product or adaptation that will make their children more independent! There are many past winners whose children can now do things they never thought they could, from riding a bicycle, to sitting at the dining table with their family, to dressing with little or no assistance. What would a child you know like to do that he or she can't?
Families don't need to know the answers, just the questions; our engineers have enough creative ideas for you and your family. Not to brag, but V-LINC engineers, craftspeople, and medical professionals have developed some fantastic solutions to motivate children to exercise (when they pedal a bike their favorite song might play, for instance), to allow them to safely play with others (on a special secure bicycle, perhaps) or simply to enjoy themselves (a portable, secure swing maybe). Recently a group of students working under the supervision of a V-LINC volunteer engineer, made a safe place for a young boy who could not tolerate noises that might not bother others. He might panic and injure himself at the sound of a neighborhood dog. Now he has a safe haven at home with reduced sound and light. He is so thrilled that he sent the student volunteers a thank you card and his mother has not seen him this happy in a long time.
Please visit the What I Wish for My Child to learn more or submit a request. Requests will be accepted until April 30, 2012.
BLINK System - Created in the 1980’s by V-LINC (VME).
Now available for any platform (download)
Thanks to Volunteer Telly Stroumbis.