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Bozeman nonprofit develops gait trainer to help disabled children worldwide

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Posted at 10:34 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 12:34:30-04

ROC Wheels, tucked away in Four Corners, is dedicated to giving the gift of mobility to children around the world. Now, mobility is possible out of the seat of a wheelchair.

“We are always looking for ways to help kids. We had an opportunity—someone talked about using a gait trainer,” said ROC Wheels Executive Director Dean Hampton.

Hampton recollected the moment when a child in Uganda received a gait trainer.

“They put a child into it and he just beamed; he was now able to move around and it transformed his life, even how the village looked at him. With the gait trainer, his status in that community was elevated,” he said.

“When a child is properly positioned and we get to intervene as early as possible and developed those trunk muscles, when they are properly supported, then the next step is naturally to put them in an even more upright position,” Kimberly Hartman said.

Hartman is the Distribution and Youth Program Manager for ROC Wheels and goes on to explain how the non-profit is projecting to deliver 300 wheelchairs around the world.

The ability to sit up has been vital for children’s skeletal and digestive systems, but ROC Wheels did not stop there, according to Hartman.

Martin Haas, shop manager for ROCWheels, designed, manufactured, and produced the first iteration of the gait trainer, along with Montana State University interns like Christen Barringer.

Haas detailed how he and the team had to configure different needs, ages, and weights to ensure that the community could gain maximum use of the gait trainer.

“Instead of building a trainer for each child, we had these levers and knobs on it so it could grow with them and be used by others,” Haas said.

Barringer is an engineering student at MSU and has been interning with ROC Wheels since the beginning of the summer. First-hand experience plays a role in her motivation, as her older sister is wheelchair bound.

“What ROC Wheels does is really personal to me, it’s really fulfilling for me to be here,” Barringer said.

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