By Cameron Poague
Special to the Reporter
There’s an expression that says you should enjoy the small things in life.
Going outside and enjoying a walk on a sunny day, for example. Or getting to work or school and back without assistance or inconvenience. For too many, these tasks are burdensome and dangerous. For a few, getting safely to and from their homes has become downright impossible.
Wheelchair-bound individuals and families across the Puget Sound region must think about safe access on a daily basis, often forgoing the things many take for granted.
One of those families is Andrew Mhyre’s of Kenmore. His 8-year-old daughter Katelyn, who has epilepsy and a rare mitochondrial disease, has been dealing with reduced muscle tone following a recent stroke.
For the past 24 years, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBA) has been providing our neighbors in need with free wheelchair access ramps through its Rampathon event.
It’s because of families like the Mhryes that Rampathon exists.
Each year on one day in May, MBA members and community volunteers form teams and disperse themselves throughout King and Snohomish counties to build ramps for individuals and families who struggle to get themselves or their loved ones safely in and out of their homes.
During this year’s Rampathon event, event sponsor Dunn Lumber donated wood and other supplies for 43 ramps, including three in Kenmore and Bothell.
Because of the free ramp built by Home Run Solutions, Mhyre can better care for Katelyn.
“(This ramp) is really important right now,” Mhyre said. “We’re simply looking forward to going outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of a day.”
Volunteers for Rampathon, like Home Run Solutions, know they’re getting paid nothing (except for pizza) for their time and skills yet these builder companies again and again to provide the freedom to move about for those who need it the most.
In Bothell, a team led by Bath Plus built a ramp for guests who attend community enrichment programs curated by Fibershed of the Greater Northwest. Fibershed offers sustainable clothing and accessory options as provided by local farmers and artisans.
Karmel Ackerman of Fibershed is a fan of Rampathon.
“It’s amazing (the Master Builders Association) has such a dedicated group of members,” she said. “To give someone access to such a life-long improvement is incredible. And (to provide ramp access) at a place like Holly Farm (where Fibershed is located), it opens the gate to a new experience, one many would not otherwise be able to have.”
Rampathon organizer Michell Filleau-Maas of MBA spends months ensuring every story is a happy one.
“Every year, I’m so humbled by the dedication of our member and community volunteers, along with the stories of triumph our ramp recipients have to tell,” she said. “My reward is seeing the infectious smiles of everyone involved. It’s hard not to smile when you know someone’s life has changed for the better.”
A ramp can provide the catalyst to do wondrous things for those who need them. What they do is up to them — but that’s the point. The volunteers of Rampathon aren’t the focus of this story, nor do they want to be. It’s about those who can now do the things they couldn’t before, and all the stories they will now be able to tell because of one special day in May.