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

Helping a man named Matthew

Helping a man named Matthew (letter)
Letter to the Editor

On Sunday, July 28, I stopped by the Metro Bank in the afternoon, just before they closed. As I was sitting in the drive-through lane, I had time to notice there were some people having a car wash fundraiser. Now, they didn’t seem to be doing any business, probably because when you know it’s going to rain, you figure, why bother.

When I turned in off of Carlisle Road, I noticed a young woman holding up a sign in the entrance to the bank that simply was hand lettered, “FUND RAISER CAR WASH — $5 donation.”

It didn’t say what it was for, so I didn’t pay much attention.

Maybe you’re like me, you like to know where the money is going, so I appreciate it when I can tell if it’s a school group or the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or someone hoping to raise money for a good cause. And I never get the car wash, but occasionally I will simply give them a few dollars to encourage them. Most of them have relatives and neighbors that come out to support the group, so it’s not a total waste of time.

But this group had no one.

I noticed there was a young man in a wheelchair among the people in the group. I thought perhaps he was family or friends of the group, there for support.

The Lord spoke to my heart and said go get your car washed, don’t just give a few dollars. People are proud and like to feel valued, so I pulled in, handed them my $5 and said I would like a car wash.

Well, let me tell you, that car wash was the best one — I’ve paid a lot more for anywhere else. I had five or six people, including a little boy about 6 years old, hosing, scrubbing and drying with more energy than I have most days.

When they finished, I put my window down and asked the man outside my window what the fundraiser was for. He looked over at the young man in the wheelchair who had no legs and said, “Matthew, she wants to know what the fundraiser is for.”

Matthew looked me in the eye and said, “I’m trying to raise money so we can get a wheelchair-accessible van.”

I thanked them for the great car wash, wished him success with his efforts, and said to the group in general, “I guess it’s hard to have a car wash fundraiser when all they’re calling for is rain.” To which the young woman replied with a sad smile, “That’s just our luck”.

I don’t know about you, but that touched my heart. I don’t know how he lost both his legs. I just know I am fortunate enough to walk, talk and work, so I have a lot to be grateful for. Maybe you are, too — maybe you can help Matthew.

JEANIE RICHCREEK
WEST MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP

York Daily Record Article

Upcoming Fundraisers and How You Can Get Involved

We are working on more Fundraisers! Our next one is right around the corner on Sunday July 28th. We could still use some help with the car wash so if you can spare a couple hours let us know.

The next two we’re looking to do go hand in hand and this is where you can get involved. We are looking for your Garden Fresh Recipes to do a Gardening with a Purpose cookbook! Recipes can be sent to our gmail account driveforindependence@gmail.com.

We are looking to have  the cookbook put together for a vendor show in November sometime. We’re looking right now at November 9th or 10th or the following weekend November 16th or  17th. Once we have a location established we will come up with our fees. If you are interested just keep those dates in mind and we will give more information as it becomes available. Chris’ birthday is November 9 so we are looking a fundraiser for his birthday.

This is what we have working for now! We’ll keep everyone updated.

Inside Look: Mobility Consultant Training at Ride-Away

Inside Look: Mobility Consultant Training at Ride-Away.

By: Jesse Lore, Director of Training, Ride-Away

“What are you doing? There’s no way that’s going to fit,” said Barry L., a Mobility Consultant in the Gray, Maine Ride-Away Location.  I steadily rolled up the widest power wheelchair we had in Londonderry, NH to the 2 wheel drive Mobility SVM Wheelchair Accessible Truck.

Jeff, the Regional Sales Manager for Mobility SVM, replied, “Let’s give it a shot,” as he rolled the extra wide Storm Wheelchair up to the platform lift. April was Truck Month at Ride-Away and Jeff visited each of our 11 East Coast Locations to train our Mobility Consultants on the inner workings of Mobility SVM Trucks.

The consensus among many of our seasoned sales people was that our customers LOVE the idea of riding from their wheelchair in a pickup truck, but some have difficulty fitting their chairs in them.  Our training session was an opportunity to address that concern head-on. “Wow!” was the collective reply from the class as the wide mobility device rode clear up into the cab and, with a couple adjustments, fit rather nicely behind the wheel.

There are differences when it comes to different models of Mobility SVM’s trucks. This was an excellent opportunity for our Mobility Consultants to really learn these differences. In this instance, the wheelchair was able to fit in a 2-wheel drive truck because the transfer case does not protrude onto the wheelchair platform, giving drivers an extra couple inches of space. The class was impressed and was excited to know that these trucks are compatible with a wide range of customers and mobility devices.

What makes an excellent Mobility Consultant is knowledge: knowledge of the products, the disabilities we work with, and the funding and financing options we have available. These are just some of the many topics that are covered in our ongoing professional development opportunities.

Each month we provide a number of webinars, designed to help our Mobility Consultants increase their knowledge base. Since these are held on an online platform, it allows members from different locations to not only learn but do so while connecting with their fellow employees.

In May alone, we conducted sessions on Vehicle Appraisals, the AVV Guide, the VA, and Mobility Products and Design (MPD) equipment. June includes training sessions on our Customer Management System, Securement Systems, Medicaid and Tricare, and more! It is because of all this that we have some of the most qualified and professional Mobility Consultants in the industry.

If you’re interested in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, then let us get you connected to a Certified Mobility Consultant today.  Contact us through our website by filling out our contact form, or give us a call at 877-659-9414 to be routed directly to the store closest to you.

Gardening With Purpose

“What’s gardening have to do with your truck fundraising?”, you may ask. Well, I’m about to tell you.

Gardening became a passion of ours about 3 Years ago when our twins were about a year and a half old. We met a now good friend of ours, Steve Young. He helped us to set up an organic container garden for our back yard in the city and for the last 2 years we have had great success with it.

We were introduced to Miller Plant Farms plants by Heather Klinefelter owner of Growing Up Green. We loved the quality of plants and the great harvest we got from their plants. We found out that Miller Plant Farm is nearby and decided we would contact them in helping us with a plant fundraiser. Miller Plant farm agreed to work with us and we held our first fundraiser for Drive For Independence in March and April. We brought in $230.00 from our plant sale but since we had to buy flats of 24 of each type of plant we sold we had a ton of plants left over.

So, what happened to the left overs?, you may ask. First we donated close to 80 plants to a new community garden in our neighborhood, Hope Street Garden and Learning Lab Initiative. Even after that donation we had close to 150 plants left. Well, they  are all now planted in our back yard and we have quite the variety! We have several types of tomatoes including heirlooms. There’s Patio, Big Beef, Five Star Grape, and Romas and the heirlooms are Mr. Stripey, Mortgage Lifter, and Cherokee Purple. We also had lots of peppers left so we have  Lafayette (yellow bell), King Arthur (red bell), and Jalapeno planted. We had 2 kinds of herbs left. The Basil is being planted between the Roma tomatoes and the left over Cilantro has been planted in its own smart pot.
We now have a huge urban backyard garden and will be selling the excess produce to vendors at Penn and Market Farmers’ Market as well as Central Market to support our truck fund! We are so excited to be able to support the buy fresh, buy local movement while working towards our goal of Chris’s truck.

We strive to make our lives as natural as possible and one way we do it is by gardening. We  will love being able to help out our community while reaching our goals. Our first harvest of hot peppers came this morning and we were able to supply one of our favorite eateries at Central Market The Busy Bee with our goods. They were also one of the biggest orders in our plant sale. With local vendor support our goal seems a little less daunting.

I hope this sums up what gardening has to do with getting Chris his truck. I can’t wait to see what the summer growing months have in store for us!

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Abilities Expo Recap and testing out a Mobility SVM truck

Back on Saturday May 4th. We had the opportunity to travel to the New York Metro Abilities Expo in Edison, NJ.  We enjoyed talking with many vendors and seeing all the options for wheelchairs  and vehicles alike.

One of the highlights was Chris speaking with Frog Legs, a manufacturer of wheelchair suspension casters, that help smooth out a wheelchair’s ride. Chris reminisced with Mark, the owner of Frog Legs, about the first set of Frog Legs he got. Mark even got to see those Frog Legs still in action as we used Chris’s manual chair that day. Chris has some of the original Frog Legs so the pair were joking about how his Frog Legs are older than Mark’s 13 year old son. Right now Frog Legs is working on a custom set of forks for Chris’s Permobile M300. Nobody else has them for that specific wheelchair and it took Chris many phone calls ad research to get them done. They are currently being worked on and hopefully be on his powerchair soon!

Our main goal at the show, however, was to speak with Mobility SVM and Ride-Away.  It just so happens that their booths were side by side at the expo. That made it very convenient to speak with both companies. We first spotted the Mobility SVM booth so we stopped there first. There were a few people ahead of us testing it out so we patiently waited our turn. When it was Chris’s turn to try it out I couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed. It was the first time in nine years I got to see him sitting on the driver’s side of a vehicle. The last time that happened was when Freedom Motors had brought their PT Cruiser driver for him to test out when we were attempting to have the state convert his PT Cruiser.  It was amazing to see him in the vehicle. Jim Groves, the executive VP of sales and marketing at Mobility SVM, helped to get Chris in for his test fit. This link is the video we took of Chris testing out the truck. Chris testing out the Motility SVM truck

We also got to to talk with John B. from Ride-Away Norristown. He was extremely helpful and encouraging. He took the time to discuss Chris’s needs and we look forward to working with him when we are ready to purchase and convert a truck for Chris.

Overall it was a great day and I learned a lot!  I’m so excited to be moving ahead with Chris’s dream of driving! It’s been a long journey and we still have a ways to go but we’re finally making progress and that is definitely better than sitting still!