101 Mobility North Chicago Helps BraveHearts Riding Center Give Veterans a Lift

In November, 2016, 101 Mobility® North Chicago received a call from Mr. McKevitt at the BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center. Mr. McKevitt requested a quote to have a ceiling lift installed at his center – something that 101 Mobility® is extremely familiar with. A ceiling lift is a form of medical equipment that employs a gear box attached to an overhead railing. The gear box attaches to a sling that holds the patient, enabling the caregiver to easily transfer the individual between a variety of positions and locations.

BraveHearts: Background

BraveHearts was started by Dr. and Mrs. Gunnar. In August 1993, Marge Gunnar learned that she had ovarian

woman and horse

Marge & Max (Photo Courtesy of BraveheartsRiding.org)

cancer. She endured long and difficult months of chemotherapy. Although she received love, courage, and strength from her family and friends, she also formed a deep and soulful connection with her Lipizzan stallion, Neopolitano IV Farica (Max). One day, Marge was feeling particularly depressed so she headed to the barn. As she walked in, she saw Max. She went up and hugged him and he wrapped his neck around her and she felt that connection between the two of them even more powerfully.

In 1993, Marge wanted to help others feel the connection that she felt with Max. She began to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center where she saw the life changing effects therapeutic riding had on individuals of all ages. After two years of volunteering, she knew it was time to start moving forward. This is when she started the project of BraveHearts. Dr. Gunnar, co-founder and previous Chair of the Board, is a Korean War Veteran. He was the driving force behind starting and developing a veteran program at BraveHearts.

BraveHearts: What They Do

The BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and a Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Premier Accredited Center. BraveHearts is considered the leading PATH organization in the nation for innovative programming. BraveHearts has developed, presented and implemented curriculum at the regional and national level to help serve more individuals in need and to strengthen the industry’s education on serving individuals with various diagnoses using horses. BraveHearts offers many services for individuals in need including therapeutic riding, physical, occupational and speech therapy using hippotherapy as a treatment strategy, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, carriage driving, foundation horsemanship, special events such as horse shows, Special Olympics and retreats.

veterans enjoying horse back riding

Veterans enjoying therapeutic horseback riding (Photo courtesy of BraveHeartsRiding.org)

In 2013, they launched Operation Mustang, a program in which they adopt wild mustangs and have our veterans train them. This program is beneficial for both human and horse and they both learn to trust. The program gives the veteran the vocational skill of training a horse and gives them an opportunity to grow and progress in their horsemanship. Therapeutic riding is a recreational activity instructed by a certified PATH Intl. instructor with the goal to learn or improve horsemanship skills. Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention plan. Horses provide multidimensional movement, making them an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength, control, and balance. BraveHearts is recognized as the largest PATH Intl. horse program in the country for military veterans, serving all veterans at no cost to the veteran.

BraveHearts & 101 Mobility®

101 Mobility® scheduled a site evaluation in order to determine where the lift would be installed. During the visit, Nick Lopez, owner of 101 Mobility® North Chicago, learned that the organization was receiving the Humancare brand ceiling lift as a donation from the wife of a veteran who had recently passed away. The veteran had received the ceiling lift only the year before, and it had been purchased for him by the local Veteran’s Administration. As a company that frequently assists the local VA in providing veterans with such products, Lopez remembered that he had only installed one ceiling lift by that brand for a veteran the previous year. As the two continued to speak with one another, they came to the realization that the ceiling lift that was being donated was the very lift that Lopez’s team had installed the previous year.

man installing track for lift

101 Mobility® Chicago’s Product Specialist, Michael Bryson, installs the track for the lift

Eager to help out and armed with first hand knowledge of the lift itself, Lopez decided that his company, 101 Mobility® North Chicago, would donate the installation of the lift as well as the additional parts and equipment necessary to make it fit in the BraveHearts building. The lift would be used in the stable along with a sling to help participants who need help getting on horses. The lift will help our participants get from their chairs to horseback. This will allow for a safer and more efficient way assisting participants on and off the horse. This lift will help to increase the security and comfort during transfers. It will also help promote patient independence and mobility. Not only will the lift help our participants, it will also help our staff and volunteers. Additionally it will be a smoother mount for our therapy horses. This is the first lift of its kind in the BraveHearts facility and provides an opportunity to expand their therapeutic services to more and more veterans.

man tries sling for horses for horse riders

101 Mobility® Chicago’s Product Specialist, Steve Kurylo, sits in the sling that will be used by riders to get on and off their horses

101 Mobility® North Chicago installed the lift at the BraveHearts facility on January 3, 2017.

“We found this organization and thought it was just a great service that they provide for veterans. We were really impressed with the organization, and wanted to do whatever we could to help them and the veterans they serve”, quotes Lopez.

According to Mr. McKevitt, “As a 501c3 nonprofit organization we rely on donations such as this to enhance our services. We are extremely grateful and honored to receive this donation.

More About BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center

BraveHearts serves children, adults and military veterans with various diagnoses. Some common populations served at BraveHearts are people with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Autism and military sexual trauma. In 2016, BraveHearts provided 18,999 sessions to 1,038 individuals in need using equine assisted services. Equine assisted services help to promote confidence and self-esteem as well as physical, cognitive and social benefits. Learn more about BraveHearts and the programs they offer here: http://www.braveheartsriding.org/