By Mike McGill, VGM Marketing
Summertime on Hill Court in Cedar Falls Iowa is like that in most residential neighborhoods throughout the nation. The sound of children laughing and the creaks from swing sets echoes from home to home as backyard activities consume the day.
For nine-year-old Natalie Olsen, it took the generosity of many to realize her dream of having the ability to access her backyard independently for the first time.
As part of Heartland Conference, VGM Group, Inc. sponsored the inaugural Access Day USA. On behalf of conference attendees, VGM employee-owners donated and installed new ramps in the front and back of the Olsen home, as well as grab bars in the bathroom and swivel hinges throughout the home. All of these home modifications that give Natalie independence and safe access outside the home.
Left: Natalie watches from the family room as Access Day USA volunteers prepare to install the front wheelchair ramp.
At the age of two, Natalie was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy – a genetic neuromuscular disease characterized by muscle atrophy and weakness. The new equipment will provide safe and independent access to her home and to the backyard where she loves to swing and play with her younger brothers, Isaiah and Andrew.
Written on a chalkboard in the Olsen’s kitchen is Proverbs 31:25 - She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future. It is a message that Natalie embodies even more with the new accessibility equipment.
“The ramps will give Natalie choice and dignity of choosing,” said Annie Olsen, Natalie’s mother. “They provide options, and now she’ll be able to get in and out of the house safer and easier.”
Upon completion of the installation a dedication ceremony was held. In attendance were elected officials, family, friends and neighbors, as well as the volunteers and representatives of the sponsoring companies, EZ-ACCESS, VGM and Evergreen Life Access.
Thanks to Access Day USA, there’s a lot more laughter and squeaking coming from the backyard of a very special place on Hill Court.
“Thank you for choosing our family for Access Day,” said Dan Olsen. “We are so thankful for all of the planning that has gone on to make this happen. It was a special moment for Annie and me to see Natalie fly out to the backyard with her brothers for the very first time.”
For more information and to learn how to organize your own Access Day USA for a member of your community, please visit the website and like the Facebook page.
Left: Access Day USA beneficiary Natalie Olsen takes a test ride down the new ramp providing her access to the backyard and her swing set.