Last October, Penn Air contacted V-LINC to see if we had any requests for projects that their new interns (engineering students) could take on with help from staff engineers. We did have a project in mind! One of the No Limits Team's coaches contacted V-LINC not long before about creating adaptive lacrosse sticks for players who use a wheelchair and want to be able to throw the ball more independently. A celebratory event was held last Saturday after months of work by Penn Air to realize the dreams of these young sports enthusiasts. The president and CEO and employees of Penn Air, V-LINC staff and volunteers, and the whole No Limits Team gathered at a Bayhawks game at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. The Deputy Director of the Department of Disabilities, William Frank, met us there and at halftime presented Governor's Citations to V-LINC, Penn Air and Coach Marty who has shepherded the No Limits Team for 16 years!
Last weekend engineers of all types and ages came to V-LINC along with students to volunteer their time helping children with disabilities. After the bikes and trikes were assembled, families brought their children to tryout their bike and then volunteer physical therapists helped with final fittings to suit each child.
V-LINC's Volunteer Services Manager had pre-ordered many parts and bikes, small and large and our group had every conceivable part to make changes as needed: seat belts, high backs, pedal with straps, a variety of seat types, and on, and on.... Each bike or trike was custom fit to the the child.
Monica got a fabulous Mint Green bike that will be the envy of all the kids who see her on it! In fact, half of the volunteers wanted it! She was a little shy to bet onto the bike, but it is very secure with fat side wheels. Monica has down syndrome and in spite of her shyness and some fear about the bike, she was very excited. She was helped onto the bike and got used to the idea of pedaling; then, she took off. Like so many youth before her!
There was pizza, of course, and children riding bikes in the halls, parents smiling, and excited children and youth.
V-LINC plans to continue to do about two bike clinics each year. Eight bikes were completed and six went home that day. Two were for a City school that needed more adaptive bike on site.
THANKS TO ALL THE VOLUNTEERS FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING WORK!
A FEW MORE PHOTOS:
Two physical therapists with Monica Volunteers of all stripes at work assembling bikes!
Monica trying out her new bike! UMBC engineering student with physical therapist
And, we can't forget MAX! Here he is with his mom. He is excited about his new bike, but it will still be a challenge for him due to the stroke that made one side weaker and harder to control than the other.
V-LINC recently received grants from the Herbert Bearman Foundation and The Dresher Foundation to re-design an assistive device, originally created for V-LINC by a UMBC team of mechanical engineering students. The device was custom made for Marsha, a lively lady who became quadriplegic 25 years ago as a result of a car accident. She approached V-LINC for help to be more independent. She could not use a computer, or any keyboard, turn the pages of book, or use simple tools.
V-LINC will identify a UMBC graduate student to work under the guidance of Dr. Neil Rothman, UMBC's Graduate Program Director of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Rothman oversaw the original work by an undergraduate engineering class on the device. The improved Hand Tool will be improved to make it more universal and it will be tested by patients with quadriplegia referred from Dr. Cristina Sadowski, Director of the Kennedy Krieger International Center for Spinal Cord Injuries and Dr. Kenneth Silver, Medical Director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Good Samaritan Hospital.
V-LINC is grateful for the support of these foundations and for the cooperation of everyone who will support the project to help more people with quadripligia gain a higher degree of independence. Work will begin this summer and we will keep you posted through our newsletter and Facebook posts.
V-LINC has lost one of its more energetic and dedicated volunteers, Dr. Andrew Conn, better known as Andy. Andy worked through a difficult and painful illness and left us finally on Friday, November 6, without losing more than two weeks of work at his fulltime V-LINC volunteer position. No one knew how ill Andy was and the courage it took to continue. He expected a great deal and he gave even more.
John Staehlin started working with Dr. Conn providing one VME project to the JHU Whiting School of Engineering's Senior Capstone Class each year. That was about 25 years ago! Andy Conn was the person responsible for creating and teaching that class for many years. When Andy left JHU, he declared that volunteering for V-LINC was his new full-time occupation. And he meant it.
For those of you who knew Andy, we share your sorrow. For those that never met Andy, we know you'll still appreciate his story of compassion and courage. I think it would be fair to say that Andy never saw a person with a disability, especially a child, that he didn't want to help.
We are sad to lose this skillful and compassionate man who contributed solutions to so many people with disabilities. We hope his family is comforted by knowing of all the lasting good he has done for many people with disabilities, especially all the special needs children who now have a bicycle because of Andy and his crew.
We could go on and on about all of Andy’s work, but a few pictures will say so much more perhaps.
He tackled everything from floating physical therapy chairs, to camera assists for camera lovers who have suffered strokes (with no use of their right clicking finger now) to all those custom bikes for children with special needs.
What I Wish for My Child is an annual program that offers families an opportunity to win a customized solution for their child with a disability! V-LINC engineers and engineering students design and fabricate these unique solutions.
Terrence’s Adaptive Lacrosse Stick (15-021W) - Terrence is a 14-year old wheelchair lacrosse player with cerebral palsy, seizures, and a history of hydrocephalus; but that does not stop him from being a team player. He plays for a team at the Northeast Regional Recreational Center in Parkville, MD and loves the game. Terrence communicates by gesturing and is fed by a G-tube. His coach sent in a wish for Terrence to have a better functioning adaptive lacrosse stick that will have a catapult appearance and usage. (Baltimore City resident- Idlewood neighborhood – 21239) - This project will be done by UMBC.
Nikita’s Dressing Device (15-028B-W) – Nikita, also known as “Nik”, is a rising 8th grade honor roll student. He attends Parkville Middle School. He was born in Russia with no arms and his right leg is 5.5” shorter than his left. All of his daily functions are done by his feet. As he moves into his teenage years, he is especially in need of more opportunities for independence at school and travelling. His wish is to be able to have a dressing device so that he can put on his school polo shirt without assistance. (Resident of Rosedale, MD) – This project has not been assigned yet.
Jenna’s Adaptive Float Pak (15-029W) – Jenna and her family love to swim. They have an above ground swimming pool in their backyard. However, Jenna has a challenge that limits her ability to swim for any length of time. She has Autism and a genetic disease called Methylmalonic Acidemia, which causes many complications including kidney failure and inflammation of the pancreas. It requires her to use a feeding pump 23 hours a day to stay hydrated and receive nutrients. For one hour a day, her mom is able to disconnect the tube. Jenna’s mom wishes for V-LINC to create a custom designed waterproof device that is compatible with her feeding tube that will not allow water to get inside of the pump. It needs to be floatable to prevent the alarm from sounding. Currently, her mom is using triple plastic bags as a makeshift solution and it limits the amount of swimming Jenna can do. (Baltimore City Resident – Canton - 21224) – This project will be done by UMBC.
Megan’s Adaptive Chair (15-030W) – Six-year old Megan has a very rare chromosome disorder – only 30 in the world have the condition, only in the USA). She is non-verbal and non-ambulatory with low muscle tone. When it’s time to eat a meal, Megan is required to sit in a special high chair that she has now outgrown and has been hard to find in her size and requirements. Megan’s family reached out to V-LINC to design a “cool-looking” high chair solution that will allow Megan to be safe, well positioned due to her low muscle tone, and to be able to eat with the family. She has a younger brother and stays with her grandparents afterschool. (Resident of Baltimore – Gardenville neighborhood - 21206) – This project will be done by CCBC- Essex.
Spencer’s Trailer Bike (15-039W) – Twelve-year old Spencer is a friendly young tween. He enjoys bike riding in his trailer bike with his family, but has outgrown the one he has. Finding another trailer bike that clamps onto his mom’s bike as well as fits his size and condition is a challenge, so the family turned to V-LINC for assistance. Spencer has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic. He has a twin brother and an older sister. (Resident of Ellicott City) – This project will be done by CCBC Catonsville.
Five year-old Assante has Achondroplasia (Dwarfism) so riding a bike is a struggle. His legs are not strong enough or long enough to pedal the usual way. V-LINC’s Designing Our Future through Technology program completed his request for a small bike he can power with his hands & arms through one of our school partners, UMBC.
Watch as Assante rides his custom made a bike for the first time! The bike was made by an engineering student team to fit his exact proportions. He and his family are delighted!
Allison's mom wanted her daughter, who has a a progressive genetic disorder that impacts the nerves that control her muscles, to ride a bike with her family. They all love bike riding, but Allison can't ride a bike on her own. V-LINC partner UMBC Mechanical Engineering, assign a student team to the project. They adapted a mom-sized 26" tandem bike and custom fit the back of the bike added a high back seat with a safety harness and handlebars for Allison. They included a kickstand so mom can strap her in without balancing the bike too. Allison can pedal when she wants or just go for a ride!
Here is the letter that Allison's mom sent to Angela at V-LINC:
We thank you all very much for allowing this priceless experience for her, while she is still able , to enjoy it. Allison’s disease is searchable through CureSMA.org, if information is needed.