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Conference Connection Lifts Spirits

Posted on in Education and Events

VGM’s annual Heartland Conference concluded on June 21. Although the nearly 1,000 guests who attended have long been back to their respective communities, the impact the conference has on VGM’s hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, and surrounding communities carried over just a few weeks later. 

On Tuesday, July 3, Hannah Smith, who was one of six children who received specialized equipment during Heartland, was treated to an additional gift of a new vertical platform lift.

The lift, donated by Algona, Washington-based EZ-ACCESS, a supplier partner of VGM and Heartland attendee, will provide Hannah with safe access to her home.

“Hannah will finally be able to enter our home while using her wheelchair independently,” said Jenni Smith, Hannah’s mother. “Previously, an adult needed to push her wheelchair up our very steep, makeshift ramp. As she gets older, I envision her coming home off the school bus and being able to enter her own home without the help from others.”


9-year-old Hannah Smith cuts the ribbon to her new vertical platform lift donated by EZ-ACCESS. Pictured with Hannah are (L-R) her parents, Aaron and Jenni, sister Hayden, Jim Greatorex of VGM Live at Home, and Tim Combs of Americans for Independent Living.  

VGM helped coordinate EZ-ACCESS’ donation. Installation was completed by Americans for Independent Living out of Waterloo, assisted by VGM member Nucara, which delivered the lift to the Smiths’ home in Evansdale, Iowa..

“VGM and its partners and members always look to step in for someone who might need just a little help,” said Jim Greatorex, vice president of VGM Live at Home, a VGM division dedicated to helping businesses that transform homes for safe living. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with EZ-ACCESS. They are a family-owned company with a history of giving back, so when they saw young Hannah at our conference, they made this generous offer to the Smiths."

For Hannah, who is nine years old and living with spinal muscular atrophy, the new lift provides additional independence. With a price tag of approximately $6,500 installed, the gift is something that has provided additional independence for Hannah and her family.

“As a parent with a child that has a progressive disability, you can never fully prepare yourself for all the support and special needs they may have,” said Jenni. “It seems like when her environment needs to be adjusted due to progressed weakness, it effects numerous aspects of her day-to-day living: bathing, walking, playing with friends, and even sitting up in bed. It is difficult at times as a parent to be able to provide all the adaptations she needs, especially financially. I am so thankful for VGM, Americans for Independent Living, and EZ-ACCESS for helping our daughter live a more independent life. It truly means so much to us.”