York City man’s dream of driving comes true with specialized truck

By GREG GROSS

With the press of a button on the key fob, the driver’s side and rear doors of Chris Sauerbaum’s pearly white GMC extended-cab pickup truck popped open and began to move outward.

About a minute later, the door was in position — about four feet from the truck body — and the wheelchair lift was on the ground. Sauerbaum, 33, of York City, maneuvered himself into position for the ride into the driver’s compartment.

Another minute or so later, Sauerbaum, who has a physical disability resulting from chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy, was in position behind the steering wheel, joysticks in hand and ready to roll.

Chris Sauerbaum of York City demonstrates the door lift on his custom GMC pickup truck at Cousler Park Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Sauerbaum, who suffers

Chris Sauerbaum of York City demonstrates the door lift on his custom GMC pickup truck at Cousler Park Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Sauerbaum, who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, has no legs and had the truck outfitted so he could operate it. Bill Kalina – bkalina@yorkdispatch.com

The truck, especially when the doors open, is a head-turner.

“You might as well be driving a Lamborghini,” Sauerbaum said.

But driving anything is what makes him happy. It’s something he’s wanted to do for more than a decade.

Driver: The journey to getting Sauerbaum behind the wheel of his own car started 11 years ago. The process has cost thousands of dollars and borne numerous setbacks.

He originally bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser with hopes of converting it to work with his disabilities. But it couldn’t be outfitted with the needed joystick controls.

Finally in 2013, Sauerbaum and wife Heather Sloat started an appeal for donations to raise money for a down payment on the pickup truck.

They raised the needed $10,000, including a $2,500 donation from Oletowne Jewelers, 2157 White St. in West Manchester Township, and made the down payment on the GMC Sierra pickup a few months ago.

The truck was then sent off to undergo a $91,000 conversion, which was covered by the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the family of four finally took delivery of it about three weeks ago.

Chris Sauerbaum of York City demonstrates the capabilities of his custom GMC pickup truck at Cousler Park Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Sauerbaum, who suffers

Chris Sauerbaum of York City demonstrates the capabilities of his custom GMC pickup truck at Cousler Park Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Sauerbaum, who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, has no legs and had the truck outfitted so he could operate it. Bill Kalina – bkalina@yorkdispatch.com

“Think of it as a big (remote controlled) car. An 8,000 pound R/C car,” Sauerbaum said of the added electronics that allow him to operate the truck.

The pickup features two joysticks in the driver’s compartment. One allows him to feed the engine gas and to brake, and the other controls steering.

It took Sauerbaum a week and a half of training to get ready for the road.

Easier life: Driving not only gives Sauerbaum the freedom of the road but also frees up Sloat’s day.

In the past, she’d have to drive him to work, racking up 80 miles on the odometer each day, she said.

Now that Sauerbaum has his truck, he and Sloat want to help others in similar situations get behind the wheel.

They are working to gain 501(c)(3) status for Drive for Independence, a nonprofit organization they are starting to help people with disabilities navigate the process of getting a converted car that meets their needs.

“It’s just one piece of the puzzle to get people to work,” Sloat said.

The truck also met with approval during a recent car show in Mountville, Lancaster County. It took home first place in the street truck/SUV class at the Turn Up the Pink Car Show, Sloat said.

Sauerbaum and Sloat’s two 6-year-old boys, Tucker and Harley Sauerbaum, were anxiously awaiting their ride in the truck. But first, they needed new car seats.

Harley wasn’t always so keen on the truck.

Sloat and Sauerbaum showed the boys a video of Sauerbaum testing out a similar truck. As the doors slid open and Sauerbaum prepared to get in, Harley got a horrified look on his face and started crying.

“Harley said, ‘Why is that Transformer eating Daddy?'” Sloat said.

For more information about Drive for Independence, visit http://www.driveforindependence.wordpress.com.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

 

York Dispatch Article

Upshift Summer Bash 2015 Press Release

*For Immediate Release*

Bring you cars! Bring your family! And don’t forget to come hungry! We are thrilled to announce our 2nd annual Drive For Independence Upshift Summer Bash. This year’s event will be held at Leg Up Farm, 4880 N Sherman Street Ext, Mt Wolf, PA 17347, on Saturday, August 1 from 3pm-9pm. It is a car show, food truck and vendor event. There will be plenty of beautiful cars, food vendors to tempt your taste buds, plenty of vendors to pique your interest, and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express DJs to keep the party going. The Upshift Summer Bash is a  fundraiser for Drive For Independence, a new organization in York PA to help adults with high level disabilities get wheelchair accessible vehicles to get to work. We are working towards the costs of becoming a 501(c)3 organization.

Our sponsors and vendors help us to make the Upshift Summer Bash possible. Our platinum Sponsor is Apple Nissan. With their help we are bringing an awesome activity to Upshift Summer Bash. New this year we will have RC2U bringing their mobile RC race set up to the show. There will be tickets available at $3.00 per race, 2 races for $5.00 or wristbands for $10.00 to race all night. All proceeds from the ticket sales come to Drive for Independence. It will be great fun for the young and young at heart!
We also have several Gold (trophy) and Silver Sponsors helping to make this year’s event a success.  Ida Automotive and Preston Tucker LLC are 2 of our gold sponsors this year. They are currently in the process of building what was the Tucker Torpedo concept car. Sean and Mike Tucker (Preston Tucker’s great grandsons) and Rob Ida who specializes in custom car builds will be on hand. Our other gold sponsors are Ride- Away, Mobility SVM, who will hold the first owners group meeting in conjunction with our event, and Aadvantage Insurance. One trophy is being dedicated in Memory of Tyler Shumate, who lost his life earlier this year in a car accident. Silver sponsors include Amsoil by Mike Marx , Saba for Life by Kala Sechrist, and Royal Manchester Golf Links.
Hungry? We will have Spectrum Farm to Truck to fill your bellies and Snow Stables Shaved Ice to cool you down. We are continuing to add food choices so check out the Facebook event or WordPress for updates. There will also be a bake sale that will benefit Drive for Independence. We also have vendors for all your shopping needs! Favorite direct sales companies, such as Perfectly Posh, and home crafters will be on hand to satisfy your shopping fun.

We would love to fill our show field with 150+ Cars, trucks and motorcycles. Pre-register your vehicle by visiting: https://squareup.com/market/christopher-sauerbaum/upshift-summer-bash-registration. Use code USB2015 at check out for $5.00 discount. You can also pre-register by going to the link below and printing out the mail-in registration. Pre-registration is only $10.00 while the day of the show registration is $15.00.  We will have 1st-3rd, best motorcycle, and best truck custom trophies designed by Chris Sauerbaum for the show field that will be judged by your fellow car show participants. There will also be a People’s Choice trophy voted on by the general public. The first 50 registered cars will receive a dash plaque and we will have 150 reusable goody bags to be given away. Chris is definitely showcasing his graphic design abilities with this show. We will also have a silent auction with items up for bid such as a round of golf for 4 (a $200 value) from Royal Manchester Golf Links, an Amsoil oil gift certificate, a family fun pack including a bowling gift card and movie passes and many more! We will also have activities for the kids including the large barrier-free playground, color your own car and face painting!

We will continue to grow the Upshift Summer bash bigger as Drive For Independence grows. We are taking everything we learned from fund raising for Christopher Sauerbaum’s Wheelchair accessible truck and helping others in a similar situation achieve accessible transportation for work. For more information please see https://driveforindependence.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/announcing-2015-upshift-summer-bash/ or our Drive for Independence Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/driveforindependence. To make a tax-deductible donation please see http://www.philanthropicendeavors.org/ and mark Drive for Independence in the Paypal notes section. We can be reached at driveforindependence@gmail.com or 717-991-5921.

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Upshift2015_Flyer

Printable PDF Upshift2015_Flyer

Upshift Sponsorship Letter

Logo_WEB

We are excited to announce our sponsorship opportunities! If you are interested in being a sponsor please contact us with your email address and we will send you the letter below.
We now have fiscal sponsorship so your sponsor donation is tax deductible.

Heather Sloat
Drive For Independence
Upshift Summer Bash 2015
372 W King St
York PA 17401

3/ /2015
Dear  ,

Drive for Independence is an organization dedicated to helping individuals with high level disabilities obtain wheelchair accessible vehicles needed to drive themselves to work and achieve their dreams of independence. We have already helped one individual achieve his dream. Christopher Sauerbaum along with his wife and many other dedicated individuals have raised the funds for a down payment on his vehicle which will soon be converted for his specific needs. After meeting his goal they decided to immediately work on paying it forward and helping others meet this same goal of being able to drive themselves to work and lead an overall more independent life.

Our annual car show is one of our largest fundraisers. Upshift Summer Bash 2015 will be held on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at Leg Up Farm and will showcase a variety of vehicles including cars, trucks and motorcycles with everything from classics to tuners. To make this year’s event an even larger success than last year we are seeking the support of business and private sponsors. There are several possible ways to support this event including Sponsorship, donation to the raffle, and door prizes.

We are also accepting donations to the raffle to be held during the event. The items will be on display throughout the event for the public to bid on. Each item will include a card with information about the item including the value and who it was donated by. Corporate sponsorship is not necessary to make a donation to the raffle. All donations are greatly appreciated.
Gold and Silver Sponsorship Levels and in Memoriam Trophy Sponsorships are limited and will go on a first come basis. We encourage all interested sponsors to return the sponsorship form as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2015 to ensure inclusion of your logo on promotional materials.
As an Upshift Summer Bash 2015 sponsor you will receive recognition in a variety of ways:
Gold Level $100
⦁ A vendor spot at the event
⦁ Logo or business information in the program
⦁ Option to include fliers, promotional material, or samples in the Give away bag
⦁ Logo on Reusable shopping bag handed out to first 150 entrants
⦁ Logo on banners and fliers
⦁ Sponsorship of a trophy

Silver Level $75
⦁ A vendor spot at the event
⦁ Logo or business information in the program
⦁ Option to include fliers, promotional material, or samples in the Give away bag
⦁ Logo on Reusable bag handed out to first 150 entrants
⦁ Logo on banners and fliers

Bronze Level $50.00
⦁ Vendor space at the event
⦁ Logo or business information in the program
⦁ Option to include fliers, promotional material, or samples in the Give away bag
We thank you for your consideration in supporting our Upshift Summer Bash 2015 and ultimately our mission with Drive for Independence in helping individuals with high level disabilities reach their goal of being able to drive themselves to work and achieve a new level of independence.
We look forward to seeing you join us at the Upshift Summer Bash 2015 being held at Leg Up Farm, located at 4880 N Sherman St Ext, Mt Wolf PA 17347.
Thank you for your continuing support,

Heather Sloat
Drive for Independence
Business Sponsorship Information
Business Name________________________________________________________________
Address_________________________________________________________________
Phone________________________ Website________________________________________________
Email____________________________________________
Sponsorship Level
□Gold $100
□Silver $75
□Bronze $50
□ Yes, I’d like to donate an item to be used for the Silent Auction/Door Prizes.
Item_________________________________________________________________________________
Value___________________________

In Memoriam Trophy Sponsorships $75
In Loving Memory of____________________________________________________________________
By________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Contact person________________________________________________________________________
Address______________________________________________________________________________
Phone________________________________________________________________________________
Logo must be in .JPEG, .PSD, or .EPS format and at least 150dpi (300dpi preferred).
Please e-mail your artwork to: driveforindependence@gmail.com. Sponsorship form and checks made payable to “Philanthropic Endeavors” with a memo line of “Drive for Independence” may be mailed to address below. Any questions please contact me via email at driveforindependence@gmail.com.
Heather Sloat, Drive for Independence, 372 W King Street, York PA 17401

Another Hurdle Overcome

The last week and a half we were in Johnstown. It was quite a different experience to be kid free for that long since the boys were born. We also had to adjust to a different schedule for that time but we managed. Getting up at 6 in the morning instead of heading to bead at that time was a little tough but we managed.

Chris went out driving about 4-5 hours everyday for the most part. He drove some crazy roads most of the time that were snow covered. He was learning to drive on very sensitive equipment so this is a pretty good indicator he can definitely handle the equipment he needs! Let alone it wasn’t set up specifically for him. He had to make do with what was available. Here’s a map to give a idea of what Chris was tackling everyday.

The full joystick was a little too finicky for him so they decided on gas/brake lever and steering on the joystick. The T handle on the gas/brake set-up wasn’t working well for him so Chris suggested a vertical handle instead. EMC doesn’t make a vertical handle surprisingly so they had to rig a makeshift stalk for him to use. The joystick was the same thing and has a pretty tiny ball and he had a little issue with that as well so they made another makeshift stalk for it. Once they got everything set up for him he did very well.IMG_0046

Tuesday Feb 17th he took his driver’s test to get the additional driving equipment added to his license. He had his license there are just additional requirements for driving via joystick. He is now able to get his truck equipped with EMC joystick steering!

We are now waiting for the prescription to go to OVR. Once they have the prescription we will get the go ahead to buy his truck. After we get the truck we will have to choose 3 companies to bid on the work. Once the bid process is over the truck will be dropped of with the bid winning installer. It will first head to Indiana for Mobility SVM to do the floor and lift conversion. It will then most likely head to EMC for wiring up in Maine. Finally it will then come back to the company who won the bid (we’re hoping we can get Ride-Away in Norristown) to finish the installing of EMC equipment, EZ-Lock, and all the finishing touches and we’ll take final delivery.

At final delivery Chris will have up to 5 days of additional training on his new truck with the rehabilitation specialist to make sure the truck is set up and working well for him. We still have a bit more of this process to get through but we are headed in the right direction! We’ve been warned it could be a year until we take final delivery. It shouldn’t take that long but we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the very best that it is only at most 6 months!

It’s just a giant r/c car!

Here’s a video from the parent company Bolduc Technology Group (military contractor) that make the AEVIT system that will be installed in my truck. I’ll drive with a joystick instead of remotely but you get the idea. EMC-Digi is the one that handles the mobility end of their products.

What’s Next? OVR red tape hoopfest!

Plenty of people are curious as to where we go next with getting Chris’s truck. Here is a basic run down of what’s to come.

This week we turned in the OVR agreement of what is to happen in the process and turned paper work into the doctor to be filled out so Chris can be re-evaluated (first hoop of red tape) for what hand controls he needs. We are now waiting for OVR to contact us to set up that evaluation. Once that evaluation is completed we have 3 months to purchase a vehicle as that is the length of time the evaluation is good for before you have go around again. OVR then does a bidding process (second hoop of red tape) that we have to go through to determine which company we will work with for the full conversion.

The next step would be purchasing the truck. We’ll pick out/order the truck Chris wants and then it will be time for conversion. The truck will first be sent to Mobility SVM in Indiana to do the floor/lift to enable Chris’s chair to get in and out of the truck. It will then come back to PA.

Once back in PA the joystick hand controls (most likely an EMC joystick) will be put in. This is mainly the part that requires the bidding process since there are a few companies in PA that do hand control installs. We’re hoping to work with Ride-Away in Norristown. We’ve seen a good bit of their work and have been pleased with it.

After all the work is complete Chris will have to be evaluated on the vehicle again to make sure it is fitted well for him and he can drive it safely (third hoop of red tape). We then sign the contract stating he’s not eligible for another vehicle conversion for 10 years. That is one of the major reasons we chose a truck. The durability of a truck cannot be matched by a minivan and we like to get out there and use our vehicle quite a bit!

When all is said and done the truck will have probably $50,000 worth of equipment added to it! Easily making the vehicle worth around $100,000 even before Chris gets his hands on it!

Yep it will be worth more than our house!

We may still have 4-6 months before the truck is ready for Chris but we can’t wait to share the good news when Chris is driving himself!