Ingenious Walker Puts Kids on Their Feet Hayden Thomson, 14, clapped his hands and giggled with joy when placed in his Hart Walker. Blind since birth and afflicted with cerebral palsy, he relishes his walking aid because it makes him upright, gives him mobility and increases his independence. “The Hart Walker has been wonderful,” says Peggy Foote, his grandmother and caretaker. “It has built his body up. It has made him fitter and healthier. The more we can get him up on his feet, the easier he is to handle and to transfer [to bed and the toilet].” Hayden lives in Paraparaumu, New Zealand. Lions clubs on the Kapati Coast helped his family purchase the device after he outgrew his first Hart Walker, which he used since he was five. Lions in Multiple District 202 in New Zealand have helped many children lead happier, more independent lives by providing Hart Walkers. Their project was honored as the best district project at the International Heroes Awards at the international convention in July in Minneapolis. With 1,000 working components, the Hart Walker is a sophisticated walking aid that allows children with moderate to severe disabilities to stand and experience hands-free walking. From a family of inventors, David Hart of Keighley, England, invented the device in 1989 after he met a boy with cerebral palsy. The walkers cost about US$7,000. Given his age and size, Hayden was the first child in the Wellington area to receive a sturdier version of the Hart Walker. “It’s so nice to have the new heavy-duty walker for Hayden now that he has grown so much taller and heavier,” says Jennie Andrew, a physiotherapist from Auckland. “Back when I got started, we had to say to people whose children had got too big for their walkers, ‘Sorry, it’s not safe enough of them anymore and we cannot offer you anything else.’” Other walkers are available but the advantage of the Hart Walker is that it is orthotic, meaning it’s attached to the legs of the child in a way that simulates a normal walking pattern, says Sue Bailey, a physiotherapist who works with the device in New Zealand and Australia. The Hart Walker promotes a good alignment of body parts.“These children have a lot of orthopedic problems. If you can help those … this walking device is really a miracle machine,” she says. Part of the miracle is that children using the Hart Walker can use their hands to play Wii or sweep the floor–or even fend off an annoying sibling. They still can be kids. No Grinches in Germany O Christmas tree, how lovely are your sales. A club in Germany can attest to that. The Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen club plants blue spruces on a tree farm owned by a former Lion and then sells nearly 200 trees on a Saturday in December in front of city hall. Club members put in a busy weekend. They cut the trees on Friday and transport them to town. On Saturday they unload the trees, assemble the stands, make the punch and stamp their feet to keep warm. The club also sells Nordmann firs from two commercial tree farms. For a small fee, Lions deliver. “Balconies, stairs and hard-to-find addresses are no obstacle,” according to the club. Last year the club netted more than US$3,000. Part of the proceeds were spent on an outing for the elderly. In 2008 all but one tree–a real Charlie Brown special– were sold. That was turned into mulch, meaning the only thing Lions took home was the Christmas spirit. Feat of Disabled is‘Beyond Belief’ The Lataguri area in northern Bangladesh is no place for amateur hikers. The dense forests crawl with king cobras and scorpions. Elephants and rhinos trample through the plains. Leeches attack exposed skin. To prove that disability is no barrier to achievement, 16 disabled men trekked, climbed and rappelled through the jungle area last year. Four of the men were missing upper limbs, four were missing lower limbs, four were visually impaired and four had speech or hearing impairments. Pushing their comrades in wheelchairs and working together, the four teams of four strove for “equal respect” and to “showcase human endurance and grit,” according to the film made of the unusual journey. Beyond Belief II (the first Beyond Belief was made in 2007) was a venture of Lions of District 322-B1 and the Sukriti Foundation in India. The film was shown or entered in film festivals in Chicago, San Francisco, Barcelona and Brussels. In 2008, the project won the Best Public Relations award from Lions Clubs International. The 16 men undertook training before their journey. But no amount of training could provide the fundamental courage and desire it took to complete the journey. “Their united goal was to conquer every adversity with savage strength and unyielding determination,” according to LION Magazine in India.
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