Illustration contributed by Rachel Hopkins
Two Quinnipiac University physical therapy graduate students were determined to help a man with an incomplete spinal injury, Claudio Cabrera, hike Sleeping Giant State Park through their capstone project.
Vouching for independence for everyone, Rachel Hopkins and Juliana Noce have started a program called “Hiking Without Boundaries” to fundraise for wheelchairs to be able to help people go up the mountain.
“(We are) super excited and happy to give back to the community,” Hopkins said .They partnered with Gaylord Hospital to make their capstone project a success. The hospital is supplying them with a GRIT brand wheelchair, which is built like a mountain bike with levers on either side that the hiker can push down to propel themselves forward with their arms.
The only strength required is some ability with their arms and core strength, according to Hopkins and Noce. They explained that even if the hiker’s arms are not strong enough, a volunteer will accompany them up the mountain. If needed, someone can help by pushing from the back of the wheelchair, but independence is still a possibility.
“It’s so open to, you know, anyone, whether it’s CP, whether it’s spinal cord, whether it’s multiple sclerosis, whether it’s Parkinson’s,” Hopkins said. “It’s really open to so many different … diagnoses.”
Cabrera came up with the idea after being involved in a motor accident that disabled him from hiking the Sleeping Giant. Noce and Hopkins answered his call to help fundraising for wheelchairs as both of them love outdoor activities and have experience with adaptive sports, including managing last year’s Quinnipiac’s Wheels in Motion, a wheelchair basketball game.
Both Hopkins and Noce have been working to set up a trial run for Oct. 23, in which Cabrera, will try out the chair on the tower trail.
“We are more than welcome to have anyone come and join us,” Noce said. “It would just have to be in the social distance protocol (of Quinnipiac).”
As the program is only in its beginning stages, the main focus for this school year is to fundraise for more wheelchairs so it can be sustainable and accessible to the Hamden population.
Noce hopes that next year’s graduating class will train volunteers and have more chairs in order to continue the program.
As of now, Hopkins and Noce have already raised the majority of the funds for the first chair, but are looking for another $1,000 before they get the chair by the end of the month.
To donate, visit their website, or send a check addressed to Gaylord Hospital with the memo “Sports Association/Hiking Without Boundaries.”