Ernest and Anneke Robison rose to the challenge when they opened Ability Found.
The remarkable non-profit organization provides assistive equipment to adults and children with physical and cognitive disabilities.
“It was founded in 1993, when Ernest and Anneke were raising their son. He had multiple disabilities and over the course of caring for him they found out how difficult it was to get equipment to help him participate in activities,” says Karena Rogers, Development Staff and Grant Writer for Ability Found. “Dr. Robison is a bio medical engineer and began building his own equipment for his son Matthew.”
Tragically, Matthew passed away in 1999, but his parents still work tirelessly to fill a great need in the community. “Ernie and his partner Mike Workman build custom pieces or modify existing pieces using all sorts of parts,“ Rogers says.
For example, many of the strollers that insurance companies provide to families are too bulky to use without a specialized van, and Ability Found created strollers that snap apart and can fit in the trunk of a car.
Even with so much need, Ability Found is a one-of-a-kind organization. “We are the only nonprofit in the intermountain west that provides equipment free of charge.”
In June 2011, one little girl, Emily (pictured), was able to walk around her house for the first time in her four-year-old life. It was made possible by a modified walker that Ability Found calls The Kangaroo. “Emily got to go down the street and finally play with the other children in the neighborhood,” Rogers says.
Another recipient of Ability Found's help is Donna McCormick. She was living in New Jersey but made a major life change when her home state stopped offering the test medication she is taking for multiple sclerosis. Fortunately, Utah still carries the medication. McCormick quit her job as a schoolteacher and moved here.
Donna McCormick, physical therapist for Ability Found Mike Workman, and Donna's dog Pepper
“She had no insurance, no vehicle to support her," Rogers says. "She contacted us and we got her a scooter that would get her around.” Ability Found also made some modifications around her house so she has an easier time performing day-to-day tasks.
“You just don’t realize how many people just languish at home because they don’t have the proper equipment. Even the smallest donations allow us to buy pieces of equipment that make a huge difference in people's lives,” Rogers says. “Last year we had a 40 percent increase for requests through our warehouse and we met every single one of those.”