Reeve Foundation Story of Impact: RAMPS

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on August 11, 2017 # Mobility, Quality of Life

In 2015, Brian Evans’ neighbor called RAMPS for help. Evans had recently returned home after a motorcycle accident left him living with paraplegia. His young family was struggling to adjust to their new life.

Ramp Access Made Possible by Students, or RAMPS, is a non-profit dedicated to helping elderly or disabled, financially qualified individuals by paying for and assembling modular wheelchair ramps. The organization was created by three Richmond, Virginia, area high school students in 2005 as a school challenge to contribute to their community through charitable projects.

“The ramps increase access to regular medical care, from doctor’s appointments to dialysis,” said Susan Revere, RAMPS executive director. “Recipients reconnect with their friends and communities and gain access to social services programs. They can sit outside in the sunshine, and go to the grocery store or the mailbox.”

Over the years, more than 1,000 students from 27 high schools and colleges have assembled more than 340 wheelchair ramps for those who could not safely move in and out of their homes. Clients range in age from 2 to 97 years old.

Revere explains that the high school students have a three-part equity stake in each project. Financial equity to raise part of the funding needed to build the ramp, sweat equity for the ramp construction and emotional equity when they see the client use the ramp for the first time.

“After just a couple hours of hard work and a little problem solving, we changed someone's life significantly,” said Shreya, one of the student volunteers. “It feels amazing to help someone just leave their house with ease. Every day I step out of my house and it’s as simple as that, but for these people it takes a lot of effort - and I love how with just a few helping hands, we can fix that.”

In 2014, a student from one of the seven local high school RAMPS clubs suggested that the organization reach out to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for support. RAMPS has now received two Quality of Life grants.

“The average cost of a ramp we build is $3000, and represents an investment for us, and for our community,” said Revere, who stays in touch with RAMPS clients so each hardened steel ramp can be tracked and recycled once a person moves or passes away. Last year, they recycled $28,000 worth of ramp materials. “Each $1,000 we receive touches the lives of the students underwritten by the funds, the clients we serve initially, and up to three additional clients after.”

According to the U.S. Census, there are currently more than 4,000 low-income elderly or disabled individuals in the Greater Richmond Area. Devin Mason is another client who has benefited from a ramp. After sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2016, Mason left the hospital and moved in with his aunt and uncle so they could care for his needs.

“The family became gravely concerned as Devin became severely depressed,” said Revere. “The day our students came to build the ramp was the first time he came out of the house on his own since the injury. Now with the help of his new ramp, he is attending support meetings, getting outside, and speaking to other young people with similar injuries.”

Getting Mason out of the house and back into the world has given him a purpose and connected him with new friends, much to the relief of his aunt and uncle. When asked about his experience with the RAMPS build team, Mason’s uncle said, “Their contribution really helps transform lives.”

But Revere is also quick to point out that the Reeve Foundation has offered much more than financial support.

“The Reeve Foundation website is an unbelievable resource for our clients. I can’t think of a more informative and well-structured site. It is a one-stop-shop,” said Revere. “Both Brian’s and Devin’s families were very concerned about autonomic dysreflexia. Thanks to the extensive and important resources available on the Reeve Foundation website, we were able to print a copy of the wallet card for each family. We encourage each family, as new caregivers to individuals living with paralysis, to visit the site as well.”

Revere continues, “We appreciate and are grateful to the Reeve Foundation for empowering us to share these resources with our clients as we reconnect our clients with the world outside their front door.”